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The fine art of shredding up a hurricane while still managing to pass as a songwriter is a difficult one, most often associated with the likes of Joe Satriani, whose many instrumentals and few sung works are impressive enough to wow most 6-string enthusiasts yet infectious enough to be all but outright plagiarized and dumbed down further by the likes of arena rock whores Coldplay. Throughout the 80s a number of outfits from Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force to Michael Angelo Batio's now defunct 80s sleaze on speed project Nitro tried to bring a similar formula with a full time vocalist and a lot more notes, with varying degrees of success. Somewhere in the mix of all of this lay Cacophony, a somewhat more archaic blend of old NWOBHM/speed metal influences, highlighting not one, but two dominant shred personalities cutting heads from one number to the next.
It should be disclosed immediately that, though lead guitar extraordinaire Marty Friedman is known best for his contributions to Megadeth, this outfit is of an older persuasion musically, drawing much more from the pre-Metallica mindset of speed and fury more often associated with Judas Priest and early Metal Church. Vocalist Peter Marrino is somewhat of a weak link in the mix, coming off as a generic middle ground between Jeff Soto and David Wayne, matching a cliche gravely growl with the occasional air raid wail, but his work is sufficient for the style employed during the regular songs found on here. Many have often pointed out that the strong points on this album are found in the instrumental work on here, and from a standpoint of forward looking, stylistic intrigue and technical prowess, this is accurate. However, "Savage" and "Burn The Ground" are solid tunes that meld the Malmsteen meets Vai mayhem with a riff set heavily influenced by Diamond Head and Accept.
Nevertheless, the primary target audience of this literal onslaught of note flurries doesn't get a full dose of this band's capabilities until the 2 instrumentals kick in. Of the two, the self-titled celebration of virtuosity "Speed Metal Symphony" clearly sticks out for the relentless barrage of blinding leads clocking in at over 9 minutes, invoking just as much of the chaotic, anti-melodic tendencies of Vai's noisier style with the motive based, Baroque cliches of Malmsteen. "Concerto" is more of a straightforward nod to classical music with too much distortion and a speed metal backdrop, sounding almost like an overblown answer to Malmsteen's "Far Beyond The Sun" minus the symmetrical songwriting.
From a standpoint of history, this album points more directly to the current fixation that many have with Dragonforce, right up to the almost mechanical tendencies of the harmonized guitar duo segments, though Malmsteen and Stratovarius can claim equal credit in shaping the textural dimensions through keyboard usage and vocal input. But with regard to its contemporaries, "Speed Metal Symphony" comes off mostly as a two guitar version of Malmsteen's "Marching Out" minus about 35% of the songwriting capability, meshed with a bit of the same artist's shred driven debut when approaching the instrumental work found on here. It's not quite as unintentionally tongue-in-cheek as The Great Kat, but it is definitely an album that shows its age and will probably not be as accessible to those who don't really have much love for the archaic sounds of the 80s.
In 1987, Cacophony (aka Marty Friedman and Jason Becker) released Speed Metal Symphony, a staple in the world of underground music, and a bomb in the world of shred guitar.
The music on this album is excellent, and at times is jaw dropping. The guitar interplay between Freidman and Becker is superb, and cements their status as one of the greatest guitar duos of all time. Their leads are innovative, and they often break away from the popular guitar scales of the day and play exotic, unconvential sounding leads that both guitarists would become known for on their latter solo albums (i.e. "The Ninja"). Songs like "Concerto" display melodic leads and excellent composition skills, while others such as "Where My Fortune Lies" and "Speed Metal Symphony" are laced with speed and technicality from the very start to the very end. Classical influence is also present on many, if not all of the solos and rhythms. The only downside to having so much lead work on the album is the production; at certain points it sounds as though some of the leads have an excess of treble, and have a very thin sound.
The rhythms and riffs on the album are solid as well. That's not to say that they are ground breaking or overly original, but they always fit the direction of the songs, and transition smoothly from one to another. Riff heavy tracks like "Savage" rarely repeat themselves, and leave a lot of room for the vocals to flourish. The bass work on the album was also handled by Friedman, and surprisingly, it can actually be heard! It follows the guitars throughout the album, and is really nothing to be desired, but the fact that it can be heard is an accomplishment in itself.
Much like the bass, the drumming is fairly basic. There are some interesting fills on such tracks as "Desert Island" and "Concerto." For the most part the drums have a very big sound, in the respect that there is a lot of reverb on them, which makes for a nice, dense wall of sound. In tracks like "The Ninja" however, the drums have some time to shine with Freidman, using odd time signatures and beats to accent the foreign riffs and leads of the song. The drumming was never meant to be technical or flashy though, seeing as Cacophony is basically a guitar heavy band anyway.
The vocals on the album are a bit awkward. At some points they are spot on and great, and at others they sound like just another average vocalist in the 1980's. For example, on tracks like "Where My Fortune Lies" the vocals sound sharp of the music, and quite frankly, get annoying. On other tracks like "Savage" and "Burn the Ground" feature aggressive vocals that fit the mood of the respective songs perfectly. The lyrics on the album are so-so. For the most part they are fairly generic and fall into the same pattern as many other metal bands of the time period did.
"I'm on the hunt
I'm hunting for you
You're going to wish you never crossed me
When I'm through" ~ "Savage"
The production on the album leaves something to be desired. It is apparent that this album what recorded with a low budget, as that will become apparent upon the first listen. It's not horrible, but the reverb that is apparent on all of the instruments is a testament to either a lack of time or money. Could this have been done on purpose? Of course. But one can't help to think that such intelligent musicians as Becker and Friedman, even at such a young age, would have noticed how annoying it is at certain moments.
Fast and technical, that's what this album is. The guitar work is excellent, and the rhythm section (although bland at times) manages to add to the songs. It's a must for any fan of shred guitar, 80's metal, or any fan of the solo albums that would later be released by either guitarist.
”Cacophony is the demonstration of unpleasant phonaesthetics.” © Wikipedia
And that’s a damn right name for the band, since their so-called music on this album is nothing but cacophony. But we’ll get back to this later.
Let us begin with the good things of the album – the guitars are total insanity. You have here different types of techniques, the album should be used at musical theory for the young guitarists. Then, there is a good production. You can hear everything.
The problem is that here is the point where the good things of the album come to an end. Why? Because, as mentioned in the two reviews below, there is nothing but the guitars on this album that stand out. Wankery, only wankery and nothing but wankery. I have always seen music as harmony between instruments, vocals (if) and lyrics (if) as a whole one, where each one has its part. There is a very thin difference in genres like neo-classical/shred/prog/etc. between being a talented instrumentalist and making an absolute killer of an album, backed up by virtuosity, and being a talented instrumentalist and making an album, the goal of which is to emphasize your technical abilities, lacking music. This one falls into the second part. Even the cover art. There are four people credited on ”Speed Metal Symphony”, why do only two of them appear there? It seems to me that the guys thought that it would not sound good to have an album only with guitars, so Friedman played also bass and they hired some people to play drums and sing, just for the filler. Drums, bass and vocals are a total standart cliche, but I guess you've read this below.
There is a question, pending to be asked and answered: if I write a book, where I use 4623746 different new/underground words, unknown to the majority of the population, and you must read my book with a dictionary near you, does it mean that I am an amazing writer by default? Of course not. Being a newbie, for example, I buy myself a guitar. I practice hardly every day, and after 3-4 years I am able to play Speed Metal Symphony with my eyes closed. Does that mean that I am the ultimate musician on Earth? Of course not, again. Same thing is with Friedman/Becker. They are amazing guitarists on this album, but not amazing musicians.
Metal is art. The goal of art is to create a unified SOMETHING, which sends a message for those who see/hear art, for them to think on this message. Whether it is technically skillful or not, it is a secondary moment. The album can be catchy when heard for the first couple of times, but it becomes boring to death after that, because of its lack of that SOMETHING.
The highlights of this album, if they can be called such, are the two instrumental tracks, because SMS should have been an instrumental album. It would have sounded better without the useless (in this case) vocals. Or being released as a video lesson VHS for the beginners.
That up there is not the exact amount of guitar masturbation that occurs in the album, rather it is a rough figure slightly rounded up. Now being a guitarist, this is something of a 'sacred cow' what with the twin guitar maelstrom that is Friedman and Becker. However this review is written from the point-of-view of a non-guitarist, and with that in mind this album is very lacking.
To me there are two kinds of guitarists: One is the absolute shredder god that bedroom guitar onanists burst a load to every time they play the Phrygian mode at 350 bpm, but their songs are hardly captivating; The other kind of guitarist is not so jawdropping in terms of soloing, but writes excellent songs. Sadly Cacophony, or rather Friedman and Becker, falls into the former.
As a metal band, Cacophony fails quite miserably. None of the songs come to mind after the album finishes. But the solos will probably stay in your head for weeks, if only for the awe factor. The title track is actually quite good, running in excess of nine minutes this song is an actual symphony i.e. it flows like a classical song. The guitars aren't the only highlight either, the drums and bass here are admirably played and complex. The other instrumental, "The Concerto," is also quite good.
My main gripe with this album rests with the vocals. Imagine the most cliched metal lyrics played in the most cliched metal manner, then you'll have a rough idea of the vocals. It's not awful, but it's nothing to write home about either. The singer, whose name escapes me, sounds like a really bad Dickinson/Halford/Soto rip-off and at his best is not even a tenth of those singers. The band should stop writing 'songs' and continue writing instrumentals (they did, though Friedman was in Megadeth for quite some time.)
The production is not bad, not bad at all. Every instrument can be heard distinctly and the drums are not louder than everything else. The guitar tone is average for the 80s. Sometimes this album sounds like When Dream and Day Unite, but with a clearer distinction between the bass and guitars.
Is it worth your money? If you're a shredaholic or a guitarist, then yes and consequently bump the score to the high 80s. If not then don't bother, regrettably I payed Rp 223,440 (around US$22.00) for an album I don't often listen to.
When I found out that Marty Friedman and Jason Becker both had a band together in the past, I couldn't wait to listen to some of the material that this band produced. I mean, two guitar virtuosos in one band, playing neo-classical metal? Hell yeah! However, it seems that the album's greatest premise was also its undoing.
I want to start off here and say that *this is not a bad album at all*. Despite all the shortcomings I'm going to detail, this is definitely an album you should check out, with some great parts such as a great chorus on Savage and some parts of Speed Metal Symphony. However, quite a few things keep it from being the timeless heavy metal classic that it could have been and should have been.
First of all, there's no easy way of saying this - guitar masturbation dominates the album throughout. I mean, I love solos as much as the next guy (the one who isn't a "everything but black / grindcore sucks, you should listen to some *kvlt band that no one but that guy knows* and you'll see what I mean), perhaps even more, but in soloing there's a fine line between tasteful and tasteless, and this album really crosses that line - not too much, but enough for it to ruin some of the fun of listening to it. I mean, I didn't use a stopwatch or anything, but my feeling was that on the average song, the solo parts were far more than 50% of the song. If it's not that way but just felt that way, that just further strengthens my argument.
Second - and this, as I shall say below, is just the other side of the first disadvantage - nothing but the guitar stands out. The lyrics are terrible and cliched, which in my opinion matters quite a lot, but then again I like Accept so maybe you should disregard this part of the review. More than that, none of the other musicians got to show their capabilities. As composers, Friedman and Becker never take advantage of bass lines the way Yngwie Malmsteen does. That there are no interesting drum parts goes without saying. But worst of all, the band makes almost no use of a vocalist who, if to judge by his singing on some parts (the aforementioned Savage chorus and parts of Desert Island), is actually pretty damn good.
Again, this album isn't bad, but it could've been better. I'd expect an album with Becker and Friedman to be something I'd want to listen to once a day, not an album that I just have lying around and that I listen to every now and then just because I'm reminded of one part I like (It's a *really* good chorus). Egotism is never a good thing when it comes to a composer in a band, and this is why Yngwie Malmsteen, in my opinion, will remain the king of neo-classical metal, while Cacophony will probably just come up when you talk to a friend about Megadeth, you mention that Friedman had a band with Becker, and the friend goes "Oh, cool," and that's that.
Bear in mind that the rating of this is slanted by the fact that it is reviewed by a guitarist and this is an album made to display the prime of technical double lead, and that the reviewer will be mostly talking about guitars the whole time.
Before hearing this album, I was aware of Marty Friedman's stint in Megadeth, and the Jason Becker's prodigal 5th Caprice rendition, and hearing this album blew everything else away. This is what Nitro would have been like if Michaelangelo could write songs and not spend all day being ambidextrious and upside. Jason Becker was only like 16 or 17 on this album. Amazing.
The drums and bass in the album are your standard 80s metal rhythm section: Bass following the guitars with random fills, and drums playing a somewhat straight beat with certain sections and fills where seen fit. Not the main focus, but they don't throw anything off at all.
The vocals are lower range. Think a lower range version of Yngwie's first singer (I think it was Jeff Scott Soto, or something). Once again, not the main focus, but not horrible to the point of ruining the album or the main focus.
GUITARS = ABSOLUTE FUCKING MADNESS on this album. Friedman and Becker take full on advantage of their abilities and the characteristics of double lead guitar playing. We're talking the vast majority of leads, solos, and fills being harmonized is some sort of way, be it diatonic thirds, stacked fourths, diminished, and so on. And not just harmonized scales, but harmonized arpeggios, harmonized tapping, even the rhythm parts complement each other sometimes. And even the simple power chord sections are being played, they're still pretty catching and they leave you in anticipation for what's next.
Although every song on this album is virtually flawless, the first four happen to my favorites as compared to the others. My personal favorite is "The Ninja," with the clean opening. Also, be aware that a lot of this stuff is neo-classical inspired or it features the use of unorthodox eastern scales thanks to the mighty combination of Marty Friedman's and Jason Becker's gigantic musical toolboxes.
Recommended to all metal guitarists.
Wowzers...this album holds up pretty damn well for something released in 1987. This was released on the notorious Shrapnel Records imprint, so us old folks know what to expect from this. For those youngsters out there who aren't familiar with this label and its output: lots and lots and LOTS of stunning guitar work, most of it instrumental, was the hallmark of this (still-active) label. Most of it at the expense of actual songs, but this is an exception.
This album is mainly a vocal effort, unusual for Shrapnel Records at the time, with Peter Marrino's manly bellowing front and center, a pleasant change from the usual Halford wannabes of the time in the more mainstream circles. Well, OK, this is not *that* mainstream given the amazingly high level of musicianship--the guitar playing was cutting edge at the time and still is outstanding in these days of lameass wannabe riffers who worship at the alatar of Korn. But there are actual SONGS on display here with the guitar work cleverly worked into the framework of them, again an unusual thing for Shrapnel Records. Goofy lyrics, but hey, this was the 80s, so cut 'em some slack eh.
Musically, the title is a little misleading, or so I thought when I bought it years ago (on vinyl), not that speed metal at all, or at least the type of speed metal I was used to in those days (Slayer, etc). But there is still an abundance of solid, crunching riffs to go with the shred that are actually rather catchy.
Opener "Savage" is one of the heaviest tracks on the album, with well-written riffing surrounding Marrino's strong vocals (I didn't like him too much at the time I bought this, but after years of hearing tuneless death metal grunters and tuneless black metal shriekers it's a welcome change to hear a real singer trying to carry a tune and doing it as authoritatively as he does). Of course, as soon as the vocals drop out of the tune, the guitars take over, and I mean TAKE OVER. The whole middle part of the tune features some of the best guitar playing you will ever hear, on this album and elsewhere, starting with a slow melodic solo going into a creepy little atonal harmony bit, then right into an long, intense dual harmony solo that will have you gawking in amazement with its precision and melodic feel as well as occasional lapses into Oriental sounds. Even the rideout is excellent.
"Where My Fortune Lies" has a great slow chorus with emotional soloing beneath Marrino's vocals not overshadowing him that much at all--of course this comes in after the terrifying intro with its torrential legato runs like a volcano erupting and a speed metal verse. Atma Anur's drumming is always perfect for the tunes, he plays the right parts in the right places, and he is as solid as a rock. And Marty Friedman is a good bassist as well, right in the pocket and playing some nice tasteful parts, a perfect balance between mindless shredding and mindless plodding, with thick, solid tone too. The jarring whammy bar squalls after the second chorus lead into another amazing dual harmony solo that would make the likes of Yngwie wet his pants in terror--top THIS, Mr. "Bring The Fuckin' Fury!"--and leads into a sweet little atonal ending.
"The Ninja" starts with a quiet clean harmony part that sounds distinctly Oriental thanks to Marty's fascination with Asian music and is a sweet little tasty opener. It leads into the beginning of the song proper with tasteful clean soloing, and then of course the distortion roars back in to make a heavy, crunch riff that moves like a tank underneath majestic harmonies (these guys were all about the harmonies, like Racer X were back in those days). More strong vocals and another catchy chorus here too. Speeds up a little in the midsection, adding a level of excitement to the tune that would not have been there if it had stayed in the same slow tempo. Marty gets in a little shredding on the bass at the end as well.
"Concerto" is one of the two instrumentals on this album and is exactly what the title implies, a full-on neoclassical shredfest, but it has structure and flow unlike most shredders of the time had. Not much more to say about that. This reminds me quite a bit of Coroner's instrumental "Arc Light" from "Punishment for Decadence", actually.
"Burn The Ground" is actually about the only song I don't like here. It has a syncopated verse with an odd-meter feel to it and a nice shoutalong chorus, but it doesn't do it for me. The playing, of course, is excellent, but something about this tune just doesn't connect with me, hence the 95 rating.
"Desert Island" is one of the best tunes on this album, with yet another great scream-along chorus. It starts off with a menacing riff going into a more mainstream verse and that chorus! "DE-SERRRT IS-LAAAAND!!! Out in the sun!!!" Fabulous! I can relate to the lyrics, goofy though they are, about wanting to just get away from it all and live on an island. Does the guitar playing shred? Heh, you tell me.
"Speed Metal Symphony": The second instrumental, and just as good as the first, meaning while it ain't orthodox speed metal, it still holds its own with its usual staggering standard of guitar playing.
If you can't find this album, download it so you can get an idea of what truly good metal with both vocals and guitar playing on a relatively even keel is like. This is potent stuff, and maybe rediscovering it will inspire the next generation of guitar players to start learning how to command their instruments with the authority these guys did on this album. It is indeed tragic that Jason Becker, one of the guitarists on this landmark album, is virtually immobilized with Lou Gehrig's Disease and can no longer play. Get this for him, folks!!!
This album is what it is...a guitar orientated album. Marty Friedman and Jason Becker created one of the most groundbreaking landmark guitar albums that has yet to be surpassed. So you thought you had trouble playing Hangar 18 huh...try to play this shit! Complex, guitar riff mastery, with deviate scale patterns and fingerings that you'd have to hit your hand with an axe and disfigure yourself to be able to play. Since there are already a few other reviews to glorify this masterpiece work of art...I'm going to take the time to tell you whats wrong with it. The vocals....I just don't get it. All this musical prowess and then you hear this guy's voice...which sounds so fucking forced. Granted the vocals on this album are better than the singing he did on the follow up(Go Off!) A cleaner sounding more falsetto driven vocalist would have surely been more appropriate. But thats about it...everything else here is flawless...this is a monumental album and it will withstand the test of time against all the Satriani, Vai and Malmsteen releases that are yet to come!
Take Yngwie Malmsteen soloing, make it more varied. Then mix with some interesting and agressive riffs, along with a more different approach in songwriting, out comes this album. While the neoclassical shredding market became saturated with guitar players that reproduced the same old formula of watered down Malmsteen solos, this comes shining as one of the definitive works on the genre.
The riffs are grounded on speed metal (with some of them reminiscent to Accept's "Fast as a Shark", for a lack of better comparison) and in some occasions these step onto thrash territory, like, for example, that beast of a riff at the end of "Burn the Ground". As for the solos, you got barocque influence, along with some oriental scales thrown here and there, dissonant patterns (those are, however, among the least), etc. A lot of harmonies between the two guitar players, along with some old fashioned lead interchange. Most of it works, resulting in one hell of an album that, despite being so complex, it catches your attention from beginning to end.
As with every guitar shred album, this one has a couple of instrumentals: "Concerto" and "Speed Metal Symphony", the first being a catchy composition not far removed from Malmsteen and the second a track that relies on experimentation and throws some smoother, slow parts for good measure. All in all, recommended for both fans of neoclassical and speed metal alike. This will not dissapoint. Alexi Laiho wishes he could shred like this.
In Speed Metal Symphony, Marty Friedman and Jason Becker has made a completely fucking nuts piece of shredding speed metal.
The album is of course made around the guitarwork of these two axe wizards, and they certainly do deliver. They blast out countless of maddening speed metal centered riffwork, with riffs reminiscent of something from Battalions of Fear in Where My Fortune Lies, some monster thrash styled beasts in Burn The Ground and some midpaced, devastating headbanging material in Savage and The Ninja.
But the most fun part of the album is the insane soloing- on that part, the album is a complete shredfest! It's very varied, going through various speeds and moods, but always with a dead on sense of melody and coherency even during the most intense shredding assaults.
But the rest of the album ain't no slouch either. The bass is just right in the mix, and along with the catchy and aggressive drumwork builds a solid base for the album. And also the vicious, gruff vocals of Peter Marrino add a very likeable, rough edge to it all, which is only enhanced by the aggressive riffage.
The album consists of seven songs, that are all excellent in their own right.
The opening track Savage has some devastating riffwork, mindblowing soloing and most notably insanely catchy vocal lines- especially the chorus, which is just a blast to sing along to. "Savage! I'm the savage! Oh oh! In the night!"
The Ninja has that awesome intro, which alternates between some beautiful acoustic tunes and occasionally bringing in oriental influences and a guitar sound that well strengthens the feeling. The lead guitars that kick in later are also enchanting, and the most emotional moment on the album. After this awesome intro, the song turns into a raging, midpaced crusher that again turns melodic during the mindblowing solo. This is definitely the highlight of the album.
And the two instrumentals are also pretty fucking awesome. First off we have concerto, which draws certain influences of highly melodic and at times even neo-classical moments revolving around their traditional sound, making for a very melodic and memorable masterpiece.
The second instrumental, Speed Metal Symphony, is a total shredfest in all it's glory. The shredding only pauses for a melodic segment in the middle that lasts about a minute before the boys go berserk on their guitars again.
These two tracks are also among the definite highlights, and in fact are two of my top five instrumentals of all time.
Desert Island also deserves special mention, with yet another mindblowing solo section and an insanely catchy, melodic-but-rough chorus that totally sticks on your mind.
In conclusion, this is pretty much what needs to be said: If you like guitars, you'll fucking love Speed Metal Symphony. And if you don't like guitars, you suck.