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I have to confess, I'm a big Marty Friedman fan, but when I bought this album a couple of years ago, it was on impulse. I feared I was an idiot to buy this and that the music wasn't going to be very good when the checkout girl said to me something to the likes of "Hey, is this J-pop? It's all got Japanese titles!". Turns out it wasn't. Actually, it was a very good buy. Why, you ask?. Well, here we go.
Let's get the obvious stuff out of the way first, the drums and the bass guitar. They don't stand out, which is okay because this is a Marty Friedman album. The guitars are going to be the central point of the record anyway, which is pulled off very well here, I must add. I can't really add more other than the fact that the drummer (a guy named Jeremy Colson, who has played with Steve Vai in the past) does have some chops as displayed in the opening song, but he keeps to the background mainly.
Now then, onto the guitars. They sound very much like they did on Loudspeaker. In fact, I think the same rigs may have been used. The leads are tasteful and outspoken, as we are used to from Marty.
Onto the songs, then. They were originally J-pop, but bear with me. They have been spiced up quite a bit and changed over to be much heavier and harder than the originals, so even though the checkout girl was technically right, the music displayed here cannot really be categorized as J-pop. Let me quote Marty himself on this album's notes: "If you are a rock fan, you can understand my disappointment to see the US music charts absolutely dominated by rap or American Idol types. In Japan the feeling of rock and metal morphs its way quite cleverly into the absolute most NON-rock contexts, and not only do the fans accept it, they seem to welcome and even prefer new and unique interpretations of rock and energetic music in general. [...] Just don't let the words "pop" and "charts" scare you." Having read this far, I'm hoping you agree with me (and Marty) that this is in no way as weak or lame as what we may be used to from the term 'pop'. Hell, give it a chance! You may enjoy it as much as I do.
The only song that is really close to the original is the opening song, Tsume Tsume Tsume. Incidentally, this is the heaviest song on the record. The much mellower Gift has a pretty electronic feel, as does Polyrhythm (which, incidentally, does exactly what it suggests and is quite an odd song). but not enough to be predominantly electronic. The melodies on this album are ever the most important thing. A great example of good working melody combined with some hard rocking guitar work is found on Amagi Goe, Kaeritakunatta Yo, and Yuki No Hana. Sekai Ni Hitotsu Dake No Hana was already on Loudspeaker, but it fits well on this album, too. Another song that will get deservedly mentioned here is the closing track, Ashita He No Sanka. It's much mellower than most of the album. The fact that it has no drums at all make the song really atmospheric and emotional, too. It reminded me of the work you'd expect on Scenes. This six-minute song builds up to a climax at around the five minute mark, which is one of the best build-ups I've heard from Marty recently.
The album often worshiped by those who know Marty Friedman is, of course, his first album. Now, is this Dragon's Kiss anno 2009? Definitely not! Is it better than Dragon's Kiss? That's hard to say. I'm inclined to say yes, it is. It has real songs on it instead of backing tracks to solos and the album flows really well. It's nothing like the relentless speed metal as showcased on that particular album, though. But the trade-off between melody and heaviness that was on parts of Dragon's Kiss is found here as well. A better comparison, perhaps, is with Loudspeaker, which I think was mostly great. The musical style is more or less comparable (not completely though), but the execution here is, in my opinion, just a bit better. It's more consistent, more melodic, and above all, it's really fun to listen to. It's still something I can listen to at any time and still, years after the first time I heard it, entertain me to a great deal. I can recommend this to anyone who likes melodic music with a hard edge to it.