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The Album Title Says It All - 89%

LifeCypher, January 21st, 2010

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.