Marty Friedman Drama

Marty Friedman – Drama (Album Review)

Marty Friedman 2024

Internationally known American-born and Japan-based Guitarist Marty Friedman is set to release his new solo album Drama on May 17, 2024 via Frontiers Music s.r.l.. His first album since 2021, it marks an interesting transition from his intermittent Tokyo Jukebox series; where he covers Japanese music in his own inimitable style, since this is all original work, but it also has an interesting context and history that no doubt make their way into the album.

Firstly, Drama was recorded in Italy, which is a change of venue. Secondly, the guitarist, who is known for his work with Cacophony, Jason Becker, and Megadeth, seems to have set out to create ‘mini-symphonies’ with many of these new tracks. Most of them are over five minutes in length and a couple are even over six minutes long. Refreshingly, that is not a hollow claim… because these mainly instrumental songs really do cover a lot of territory.

There are hints that Drama may be a kind of spiritual successor to Friedman’s 1992 album Scenes, and it is true that the new album conjures up very specific atmospheric elements, track by track. So, if this is an area that Friedman has intentionally explored further on Drama, it is a fruitful avenue that really flexes his ability to think bigger when it comes to instrumental narratives.

All this stated, for Drama Friedman draws on a wide range of cultural traditions, and that dynamism is enhanced by his intentional use of both modern and vintage guitars. The songs that seem to pull in Mediterranean traditions are often the ones that also allow for multiple guitars, some of which are vintage. That use of both older sounds and newer creates a feeling of dialog that adds to the emotion of tracks like “Illumination,” “Mirage,”, and “Prayer,” for instance.

Looking deeper inside, “Illumination” is a single for the album, and one of the longest mini-symphonies. While its opening sounds moody and even psychedelic, easily conjuring the feeling of late afternoon on the Mediterranean, the reflective tone shifts steadily into the aspirational and melodic, suggesting a driving or guiding force interrupting the calm. Interwoven themes bring the song to a heady crescendo. Interestingly, the song also makes room for distinctly quieter moments, bringing a sense of remarkable clarity.

By contrast, “Mirage” brings in multiple guitars and a little of that Italian accent, but allows for lighter and darker shades to alternate throughout the piece. Whether this might be a daydream, a fantasy, or an alluring vision, the seductive qualities do not seem entirely trustworthy. The song introduces the possibility of contradiction and conflict, which makes for great Drama.

This is while “A Prayer,” as you might expect from the title, does seem a bit more spiritual in the sense that in its ascent and descent, there is an earnestness that is almost spare in places. Spanish guitar traditions are at least hinted at, but the vocal qualities of the guitar work are probably more important, almost mimicking the rising and falling of the human voice as it might be communicating a wish or need.

While there is quite a sense of variety on this 12-track album, “Deep End” is distinctive in showing both great heights and great depths in its narrative swing. Consequently, the sense of struggle, and subsequent notes of triumph are particularly emotive. An almost spare, restrained central guitar brings some sweetness to the sense of depth, and contributes, later, to a furious feeling of rising beyond a key turning point. Again, this fits well with the album’s title, Drama.

Overall, Marty Friedman’s Drama makes an excellent addition to what he has shared with the world so far, and is quite an exemplar for younger artists who are working in the far-from-common field of instrumental Rock music. Bringing in multiple instruments, traditions, and collaborators, Friedman shows a wider vision for his work and a continuing belief in the future of instrumental Rock. For that reason, Cryptic Rock gives Drama 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Marty Friedman - Drama
Marty Friedman – Drama / Frontiers Music s.r.l. (2024)

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