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The Shrapnel Plane That Nearly Took Off - 85%

bayern, July 26th, 2017

This was supposed to be “a marriage” made in heaven with two of the finest Shrapnel performers teaming up for the production of some of the most impressive shredding speed metal ever… Marty Friedman had already displayed his talents during his spell with Hawaii a few years back while Jason Becker was still polishing his debut “Perpetual Burn” which was yet to hit the stores. Two members of the hard rockers Le Mans had also joined along for the ride, and the guys were ready to go as the competition was growing by the day with Yngwie Malmsteen having nearly reached the stratosphere by the mid-80’s, and Vinnie Moore and Tony MacAlpine following closely both with their solo careers and their side-projects (Vicious Rumours and M.A.R.S. respectively), not to mention the young budding Tony Fredianelli and his up-and-coming outfit Apocrypha.

And yet this collaboration was supposed to bring down all this rivalry; easily… Shrapnel put a lot of effort to propel it to loftier dimensions, but for some mysterious reason it just couldn’t quite take off despite the encouraging, cheering title of the album reviewed here. The tale-telling title of the debut was partially justified the guys duelling throughout for the creation of seven tracks some of which carried the speed metal idea all right, but left some aftertaste due to the not very flashy pyrotechnics. The axemen were by all means sparing themselves for the sophomore, and the latter proved the superior achievement although again from a pure speed metal point-of-view it did hold back. “X-Ray Eyes” is a hammering ten-ton thrasher which has anything but speed; still, it delivers on all counts with the ship-sinking rhythms and the steam-rolling riff-patterns. The singer Peter Marrino comes to play with his rough heavy, semi-clean timbre which doesn’t have a lot of emotion, and may cause a few laughs along the way due to the more strained high-registers the guy tries to hit at times, obviously lacking the range for such exploits. Not to worry as “ESP” follows a similar seismic pattern the delivery becoming even heavier with echoes of doom here and there, Friedman and Becker kind of subdued relying on the riff applications more.

“Stranger” is close to a total waste being a hard’n heavy rocker partly saved by the flashier guitar work, and the following all-instrumental title-track is quick to compensate for the preceding filler with a portion of impressive guitar pyrotechnics the guys finally acquitting themselves with style. A “Black Cat” sneaks in afterwards, another heavy creepy power/thrasher which epic build-ups tolerate several superb lead sections among other niceties from the Friedman/Becker duo. “Sword of the Warrior” is a revelation, a first-rate speed/thrash fest with blazing leads and hard-hitting riffs, a most compelling performance by everyone involved which goes on on “Floating World”, a really cool heavy ballad with Marrino doing a surprisingly good job with a more lyrical, more attached vocal bravado. “Images” is the other instrumental composition, also the closer, which continues with the band’s balladic infatuations with both Friedman and Becker leaving their hands and souls on that one producing some of the most spell-binding 4-min in instrumental metal history.

With a more aggressive, thrashier sound this effort was decidedly the superior one as obviously this partnership wasn’t intended as an exhibition of speed in the first place regardless of pompous album-titles and all the rest. Fans of the two guitar wizards may not be thoroughly satisfied as they seldom shine with all the genius’ glamour here subjecting their swagger for the greater good. Again, it’s debatable how much greater this good is provided that the Apocrypha efforts fared better overall, and the careers of other Shrapnel-supported outfits like Leatherwolf, Racer X, Wild Dogs, Vicious Rumours, etc. took off without too much prompting from song/album-titles and all. I guess the expectations for this particular project were too high from the start hence the lukewarm feedback, but cynical criticism aside both opuses are not bad at all with the one here delivering the goods to the desired destination, albeit without the exuberance that has become synonymous with the performers from the Shrapnel catalogue.

Both artists embarked on relatively successful solo careers after the Cacophony demise with Friedman covering himself with fortune and glory after joining Megadeth for a string of strong efforts. Becker’s fate was much less fortunate, though; after a few stunts with Dave Lee Roth the man was befallen by the horrible ALS disease which has paralyzed him almost completely thus severely hammering his creative endeavours. Shitty, unfair, plain awful life… a meaningless cacophony out of which one can still weed out a few sensible speed/thrashy guitar strokes unleashed by young wayward musicians once upon a time...

Would you like some sleaze with your shred? - 72%

hells_unicorn, September 23rd, 2011

Cacophony, a shred based speed metal band featuring not one, but two dominant lead guitar impresarios, hit the ground running with a technically ambitious, albeit very cliche and slavish to its musical surroundings work in "Speed Metal Symphony" in 1987 and decided it was best to get more music out while the getting was good. Not much more that a year later they came back with a full time bassist (Friedman handled the bass duties on the debut), 2 credited drummers (Dean Castronova being the one handling what is heard on the actual studio album) and a new album in "Go Off!" that literally lives up to its name, in many good and a number of not so good senses.

If an analogy to Yngwie's first 2 studio albums fit the character that was this band's debut, a similar one can be made between this one and the mad Swede's 2 commercial ventures in "Odyssey" and "Eclipse". While this album doesn't have the cheesy, Journey inspired keyboard quirks and is actually a bit more riff oriented, there is a heightened level of sleaze and LA metal tendencies at work here, not the least of them being the semi-bluesy rocker "Black Cat", which sounds much more like an outtake from Saxon's transitional period between the early 80s darkness into mainstream rock radio, but with about 5 times as many guitar solos. The closing instrumental "Images" shows similar tendencies, but more in the way of a Dokken song where George Lynch sets the fret board on fire while Don Dokken takes 5.

But while the bulk of what is heard on here is a bit more slowed down and straight up heavy metal oriented in the songwriting department, the overall feel of this album comes off as processed and mechanical. Part of this is found in the overtly smooth character of the rhythm guitar and drum sound, though Marrino's vocals is where this shows the most, as he tends to sound like a pissed off version of Kip Winger when not throwing in the occasional Halford shriek. But 2 exceptions to the general feel of this album emerge, the most auspicious of the two being "Sword Of The Warrior" which ups the speed and heaviness factor to the point of sounding like mid-80s Manowar with a Metal Church twist. But almost equal attention should be given to the freakishly technical shred fest of a title track in "Go Off!", which definitely points not only towards what Nitro would a year later, but also what Dragonforce would be doing about 15 years later.

The greatest enemy that this album has, much like its predecessor, is the overt 80s character of the style. While technically extravagant and mostly also a solid collection of catchy songs, this is so buried in sleaze cliches and stereotypes that it will mostly find enthusiasts amongst old guard types who live for similar material put out by Accept ("Metal Heart") and Dokken ("Back For The Attack"), and perhaps a fair share of Malmsteen's cult following. In spite of its almost robotic character, this album will probably be the bane of anyone who favors what currently calls itself modern metal.

great but not as good as the 1st one. - 87%

overkill67, September 3rd, 2004

Once again Marty Friedman and Jason Becker took about 50 albums worth of guitar riffs and solos and fused them together to make one monstrous guitar driven album. Much like the album before this one, the guitaring is amazing and the structuring of the solos is like something from another world. This is about as technical as technical gets when it comes to guitar playing. This album however, unlike the bands debut is a little less focused in terms of a consistent style of music, there are a few hints of mainstream, shall I say "glam" influcence on this album, with songs like Stranger and ESP which, musically are fabulous, but the lyrics are a bit cheesy as is Peter Marino's somewhat annoying vocals. The thrash/speed metal influence is still ringing strong in songs like Sword Of The Warrior and X-Ray Eyes...which aside from the instrumental pieces are by far the most memorable songs on this recording.
My advice to the listener that wishes to aquire this album is as such; Expect to be dazzled and mezmerized by the incredible musicianship that is prevalent throughout the entirety of this album...However, don't expect to be turned on by the vocals, and by point of fact be sure to keep an EXTREMELY open mind to this guys voice, otherwise your expectations of this album may not be met.

A decent, if unspectacular, follow-up. - 76%

Nightcrawler, October 17th, 2003

The follow-up to Cacophony's shredding masterpiece Speed Metal Symphony, Go Off!, (ya gotta love the !) would also be their last. And this one's also pretty damn solid, but at the same time a rather disappointing follow-up.
There band changed quite drastically between the two CD's. The first and least significant is the production, which is still pretty solid but not as heavy and effective as that of the debut. And the songwriting shows pretty much the same difference. This is much lighter, both in the music and general mood. There are quite a number of mellow, balladic pieces and interludes thrown in here and there, that usually work alright but occasionally are a bit boring, like the middle section of opening track X-Ray Eyes. And the keyboards on that part are also really dumb and cheesy.
The songwriting in general is pretty upbeat and fun, most notably on the first couple of songs. Some of them have a significant vibe of traditional metal, like Stranger and E.S.P. And it usually works quite well mixed with the mad shredding solos. But the solos in themselves again are quite weak compared to the debut. Shredding is pretty much all there is too it, without much variation and interesting riffs thrown in to keep your attention. So at times it kinda gets boring, despite Marty Friedman and Jason Becker's undeniable guitarplaying talent. The stuff is not bad, however, just way weaker than the near impeccable guitarwork on the instrumental masterpiece Concerto from Speed Metal Symphony. There are a few changes in the tempo and feeling in several of the long solo sections, but those at times don't work quite as well as they used to. The previously mentioned mellow part in X-Ray Eyes is just dumb, and the instrumental title track has a similarly dumb melodic section with even more annoying keyboards. But there is also some really great shit in here. The solo section in Black Cat starts out pretty crazy but then gets lighter, yet it still works very well. And the album's best track, Sword of the Warrior, has a completely awesome solo section with some monstrous riffs in the speed/thrash area to back it up.

So overall, it's not a bad album, just not as great as it's predecessor. X-Ray Eyes, E.S.P. and Stranger is pretty catchy stuff. The two instrumentals work pretty well too. The shredding title track kinda varies in quality but is overall solid, and the melodic closing track Images features some very interesting ideas, including some oriental-sounding guitarwork and brilliant emotional soloing. Black Cat has along with the great solo section some really catchy vocal work and this one dark and kinda epic riff on the pre-chorus part which totally slays. And of course Sword of the Warrior, which is really the only song on here that could compete to stuff from the first album in the heaviness factor.
Floating World is also very nice, with great variations between the heavy and melodic stuff, and some interesting clean vocal work by the usually gruff and intensely powerful vocalist Peter Marrino, who by the way gives another exceptional vocal performance on this album.

So yeah, this is definitely worth picking up. Except for Sword of the Warrior, there isn't really anything overwhelmingly great here, but at the same time none of the songs stand out as weak or sub-par. It's not as heavy nor as generally amazing as Speed Metal Symphony, but a solid release when all is said and done.