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The Friedman Experience. - 85%

hells_unicorn, July 26th, 2008

Although more noted for his contribution to the 1990s era of Megadeth, guitar virtuoso and composer Marty Friedman traces his roots back to the pre-thrash metal days where the lines between hard rock and heavy metal were quite blurred. And much as his efforts as a solo musician pre-date his collaboration with the afore mentioned thrash metal pioneers, the culmination of those works superimposed on the live medium provide something more along the lines of melodic catchiness and accessible groove beats attributed to Paul Gilbert and Steve Vai than anything pertaining to the hyper fast riffs and aggression of Thrash.

Out of any better known artist in this style of instrumental, guitar oriented rock; Friedman’s style tends the most towards the improvised, free flowing style typical of Hard Rock guitarists from the 70s. While the song structures are quite predictable and the stylistic devices of the surrounding music is relatively strict, the melodies and flashy lead breaks have this through-composed tendency to them, as if they were written specifically for the ad lib friendly environment of the live venue. The resulting contrast between soloist and background makes for an engaging listen that is consistent through every individual composition be it soft and atmospheric landscapes like “Tibet” or agitated, metallic grinders with the occasional melodic section like “Elixir”.

Although there are fits of technical and aesthetic brilliance all over here, the most interesting aspect of the release and its only real downside is the varied studio repertoire that was selected. There is a large level of evolution from the early material in congress on here and the most recent, post-Megadeth music that takes the lion’s share of the live set. Much of the “Dragon’s Kiss” material, which happened to be what inspired Dave Mustaine to pull him into the Megadeth fold, mostly stays within the AOR format, with free flowing yet extremely methodical themes that borderline on all out fanfares. By contrast, the newer material incorporates much of the heavier, groove riff oriented style more in line with modern power metal acts like Firewind and Messiah’s Kiss, with perhaps even greater elaboration and a looser feel. The unfortunate negative in the song selection is that Friedman’s two middle era albums are not represented at all; a habit which unfortunately plagues many veterans of Metal such as Dio and Helloween.

For anyone who is not familiar with the solo work of this famed axe wielding extraordinaire, this live album is the best place to start. It presents a good, though incomplete representation of the catalog that would treat any fan of Instrumental Guitar Rock, from the mellow connoisseur of Jeff Beck to the speed happy Malmsteen entourage quite well. The ultimate test of any guitarist is the ability to present his leads in an uninhibited manner peculiar to the live realm and Marty Friedman proves more than capable of doing this without the need of a vocal line, save a heavy, sharp edged reinterpretation of an Elvis Presly classic in “Hound Dog”.

Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on July 26, 2008.