Marty Friedman / The Inspirational Depth Of Aptly Named Drama

I will admit that my knowledge of guitar legend Marty Friedman starts and ends with his time in Megadeth. His 2023 appearances alongside Dave Mustaine and band brought him back to my attention but really, I knew little apart from his stellar work on Rust In Peace, Countdown To Extinction through to Risk. 

Marty Friedman – Drama (Frontiers Music Srl)

Release Date: 17 May 2024

Words: Paul Hutchings

His career is something incredible in many ways. After Cacophony and then Megadeth, his establishment within Japan and his immersion in Japanese pop culture made him a household name. As an Ambassador of Japanese heritage, he is rightly revered. 

With 15 solo albums to his name, Marty Friedman is prolific in every sense of the word. But it’s the latest release, Drama, that we are considering, and coming at it with a clean slate, this proved to be a joy to explore.

Marty Friedman - Drama - This proved to be a joy to explore.
Marty Friedman – Drama – This proved to be a joy to explore.

Alongside Friedman are the musicians who help craft this beautiful release. Mika Maruki’s delicious and delicate piano, keys and synths add layers, Miho Chigyo’s jaw dropping violin adds depth, whilst the cello of Hiyori Okuda is a welcome addition. He’s backed by the bass of Wakazaemon and drummer Greg Bissonette who complete the ensemble. 

In addition, there are vocalists and several other musicians who all play their part. 

From what I read, there are echoes of his 1992 album Scenes in the atmospheric pieces that he delivers. Those expecting anything like Megadeth will be sorely disappointed, but this is not about his former paymasters. 

This is an album that sees Friedman play with the fluid, organic style that has become so distinctive over the past three decades. The opening duo, Illumination and Song For An Eternal Child, breeze along, whilst Triumph (official version) could be the soundtrack to an epic movie or TV series. 

Things get a bit heavier on Thrill City which kicks off with a solid riff which has elements of old school Annihilator before Friedman lets loose with some incredible dexterous playing. His movement and ability have never been in doubt, but here he is playing from inside, throwing out the emotion in a way that is mesmerising. 

Thrill City flips from rampant heaviness to semi-jazz in short, sharp bursts, and it’s here that glimpses of the old guitar god emerge.

Marty Friedman - Drama - A journey of discovery
Marty Friedman – Drama – A journey of discovery

As you ease your way through this release, it’s a journey of discovery. I’m not huge on solo guitar work. The albums tend to be an excuse for an ego trip. But what Friedman has done here is compile a selection of songs that flow easily from start to finish, gliding from track to track with minimum effort but maximum effect. 

There’s hard rock and Metal style and a melodic ballad called Dead Of Winter [see below], in which the first vocals appear. “The lyrics of Dead Of Winter as well as the story in the video, both sum up the way I would like people to feel about my music in general,” Friedman told us. “Something that will be there to uplift you when the times are hardest and give you a tangible jolt of positivity to last until life inevitably smooths out.”

Chris Brooks (Like A Storm) brings his rich delivery to Dead Of Winter, and whilst the focus eases away from the guitar work, you can at least enjoy the composition, which sees orchestral elements add to the overall size of the song.

The new music video for Dead Of Winter stars Skylar Erna, internet personality and daughter of Sully Erna from Godsmack. Skylar and Sully represent The Scars Foundation, a charity devoted to starting conversations about mental health to raise awareness about the issues facing so many people in our communities today.

With the rise of suicides, bullying, addiction, abuse, and so many other challenges, The Scars Foundation is dedicated to providing resources and tools to educate and empower people on a global level who struggle with these burdens.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. If somebody you know is going through a hard time and needs help, please visit HERE for resources.

Love Of Melody

I’ll admit that it’s possibly a little cheesy, overdramatic in places, and drenched in the ’80s formula. But what is evident throughout is the love of melody that Friedman imports into his music. Mirage transports you to a different place, and it’s one of several tracks where you can simply drift to another realm whilst allowing time to appreciate the quality of the playing. 

Across the 12 tracks, Friedman demonstrates his expansive style to great effect. You can immerse yourself in the beauty of his work on Tearful Confession, where moments of tear-raising fretwork contrast with explosive bursts. This style is evident throughout, with dynamic changes of tempo and direction ensuring nothing becomes stale or tired. 

In fact, it’s the soaring melodies that really work so impressively, and one can’t help but be caught in the sentiments that envelope you from start to finish. 

Crisp production allows the songs room to breathe, and even if you have this on as background when working, there are moments when you’ll find yourself catching your breath. 

It’s simply wonderfully performed, and the free flow of the songs allows total absorption. Put simply, it’s a showcase for one of the most admired guitarists to ever grace our stages. 

Thrilling, inspirational and uplifting Drama is aptly named. 

Sleeve Notes

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