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Though his work in Cacophony was widely acclaimed by metalheads everywhere and his contributions to Megadeth even more so, Marty Friedman chose to follow his muse outside of the realm of heavy music and into a sort of New Age sound. His popularity in Japan surely spawned a particular affinity for that country’s music and culture, as reflected by his songs on Scenes, his second solo effort.
Delicate acoustic tones are the dominant sound, complemented by lush synthesizers and, occasionally, the screaming electric guitar solo. The result is a very organic instrumental album that showcases elements of Friedman’s style that you wouldn’t hear in his heavy metal material. For example, one of his quirks when playing acoustic melodies is to intentionally sound a note flat, only to slowly bend it into tune before the listener even takes notice (he does this dozens of times). The material on Scenes is very expressive and compositionally thoughtful and Marty displays profound restraint for a guy whose explosive leadwork is one of the key features on an album like Speed Metal Symphony or Countdown to Extinction.
But is it for everyone? As I’ve alluded in my review title, probably not. I have a lot of respect for this record and regard Marty’s playing highly, but even I rarely listen to this. It’s just that kind of music that you really have to be in a particular mood to listen to. I continually swear off this album, telling myself that I have no interest in music of this sort. But so far, it has managed to keep me coming back, however infrequently that may be.
Certainly worth a listen for fans of Friedman, New Age, or instrumental guitar albums. Don’t go in expecting a speed-fest and you shouldn’t have too much of a hang-up.