Marty Friedman’s latest solo album, Wall of Sound, certainly lives up to its name. Entirely instrumental with the exception of ‘Something to Fight’ featuring Shining’s Jorgan Munkeby on vocals, one of the most impressive aspects of the album is that every track is entirely individual, each one taking the listener on a unique journey. That being said, the opening track ‘Self Pollution’ does an excellent job of setting up the listener’s expectations for the album. It starts out hypnotic and heavy, leading into massive drums and frenzied guitar work that would easily fit into a 2000s Dream Theater epic. One can still detect the Megadeth edge in Friedman’s playing, but with a lot more Prog-influenced body. The track leads into a soulful, contemplative space before opening out again into powerful drama, and returning to heaviness with a trippy bass groove. The unrelenting pace is almost more worthy of a circle pit than headbanging, and the isolated solo piece right at the end of the track highlights Friedman as a virtuoso to be reckoned with.
‘Sorrow and Madness’ begins expansively, then leads into soulful violin courtesy of Jinxx of Black Veil Brides. The music is deep and dark, with echoes of what I would imagine Anne Rice pictured for the haunting music of the vampire Lestat. The guitar has a touch of Yngwie Malmsteen, and is more 80s than the previous track – precise, and backed with slow, heavy rhythm and bass guitar. The guitar and violin harmonies are reminiscent of Emilie Autumn, creating a sort of Victorian Metal effect, if you will. The track ends with a section to rival the heaviest of Dream Theater, with maddening keyboard suited to the name of the track.
‘Streetlight’ is a slower and more contemplative track, peaceful and even romantic. It feels as though the guitar still carries some violin influence here. By contrast, ‘Whiteworm’ is groovy and trippy, with a certain Steve Vai flavour before becoming chunkier and heavier. The track flows between disparate sounds, becoming distorted with an almost Meshuggah-like edge, before the sudden introduction of a flamenco sound. Rinse and repeat.
‘For a Friend’ is tranquil and wistful, while ‘Pussy Ghost’ (featuring Deafheaven’s Shiv Mehra) changes the mood entirely with its weird, disconcerting intro. Things quickly become intense and dramatic, dark and brooding. The track builds as though the “protagonist,” as it were, rises out of the darkness, yet seems only to bring the darkness with them, casting a gloom over the world. The guitar work cries in struggle and anguish, punctuated by the drums. There’s a lot going on emotionally, but this is the only track that gets a little repetitive, with the same themes played over a few too many times.
The synth in the background of ‘The Blackest Rose’ creates a feeling that could only be described as “80s Noir,” and we have shades of Malmsteen once again. ‘Something to Fight,’ meanwhile, is the only track with vocals. Munkeby – and indeed the rest of the track – carry off a very Devin Townsend Project vibe in this piece, dramatic, heavy, a little discordant and with big personality. This would be an absolutely pounding live track. There’s even the surprise introduction of a saxophone, which is weird but in itself fast and virtuosic.
Sombre, brooding cello introduces ‘The Solider,’ bringing to mind a desolate, mediaeval battleground. Acoustic guitars become prominent, before the militaristic beat takes over, then leads the listener back into a Celtic lilt filled with sadness and longing. This is contrasted by the much lighter mood of ‘Miracle,’ which in time becomes triumphant.
At almost seven minutes, ‘The Last Lament’ has plenty of room to breathe, with a slow, jazzy intro before the introduction of crunchy, ominous, almost symphonic heaviness. Precise fury vies with lumbering heaviness in this track, with a bit of bass showcase before Friedman becomes even more dominant. The track becomes dramatic and uplifting, but finally ends on a fuzzy, ominous note.
While Megadeth are my favourite band of the “Big Four,” in this instance I have to say if anything, Megadeth were holding Friedman back. Wall of Sound is an instrumental masterpiece that fans of Satriani, Malmsteen or Petrucci would do well not to miss out on. A truly diverse and accomplished album.
WALL OF SOUND IS AVAILABLE NOW ON PROSTHETIC RECORDS VIA BANDCAMP!