Sunday, January 27, 2013

Now Hear This: Marty Friedman


Most metal fans know Marty Friedman from his time in Megadeth, and that band definitely reached its creative peak when Marty was a member, but what many metal fans don't seem to know is that Marty had a storied career before he joined Megadeth.

Marty's first band formed in Washington D.C. in 1978, and they christened themselves Deuce.  According to Friedman (thanks Blabbermouth): "We were kind of punk, kind of rock and roll, but at the same time we loved tricky little guitar parts. All the band members were between 14 and 17, but we had a huge fan base in our area, mainly because we put on a show every night at our rehearsals. We never really rehearsed, we just made our 'practices' a 'concert' and a big party for everyone. We all learned a lot from that.  I quit Deuce because my father got transferred to Hawaii and I had to move."

Deuce recorded an album's worth of songs but their only official release was a 1981 independent single, that is until R.P.M. Records released a ten song CD compilation of early Deuce recordings in 1997.  Good luck finding a copy of that.  Here's an example of what Deuce sounded like with Friedman:

Deuce-Death Sentence

Like Marty said, he moved to Hawaii in 1983 or so and Deuce continued on without him, eventually changing their name to Tension and releasing the album Breaking Point in 1986. Meanwhile in Hawaii Friedman formed a band called Vixen. This was years before the "Edge of a Broken Heart" band, but Marty's Vixen also had a female vocalist.  Vixen recorded a series of demos and released a five song EP in 1983.  

In 2004 the Pyram-Axis label released a 13 song compilation of early Vixen recordings called The Works.  Here is an example of what Vixen sounded like:

Vixen-Living In Sin

Vixen eventually morphed into Aloha when singer Kim La Chance was replaced by Lisa Ruiz. Aloha recorded a four song demo and scored a coveted spot on Metal Blade's 1982 compilation Metal Massacre II, which, between you and me, is the best of the Metal Massacres.  Check it out:

Aloha-Heavy Metal Virgin

The band changed names and vocalists again, this time opting for a male singer named Gary St. Pierre.  Now called Hawaii, they signed to Mike Varney's legendary Shrapnel label and released an album called One Nation Underground in 1983. The record suffered from poor production and less than stellar vocals in my opinion but it is revered in metal circles as an early example of thrash.  Here's my favorite track:

Hawaii-Nitro Power

After One Nation Underground St. Pierre was out. He would resurface in finer form as the vocalist on Vicious Rumors' excellent 1985 Shrapnel debut Soldiers of the Night.

Vicious Rumors-Medusa

Enter Eddie Day, who had worked with Friedman previously in Deuce.  This is when the pieces fell into place for Friedman.  I love Eddie Day's voice and with Day at the helm Hawaii released a four song masterpiece of an EP called Loud Wild and Heavy in 1984.  In my opinion this is as good as mid-eighties heavy metal got, and that's saying a lot.  Give it a listen:

Hawaii-Bad Boys of Metal

Hawaii-Loud, Wild and Heavy

My favorite song on Loud Wild and Heavy, in fact my favorite song of any Friendman has contributed to, including the whole of Rust in Peace, is the third song, "Escape the Night." As far as I am concerned eighties metal did not get better than this song, and it also serves as an excellent example of what a difference production and vocals can make. Friedman had recorded the song with Vixen and it also appeared on the One Nation Underground album but neither early version can compare to the perfection of the song as it appears on the Loud Wild and Heavy EP with Eddie Day's awesome vocals. Hear for yourself:

Vixen-Escape the Night

One Nation Underground version
Eddie Day version

Like I said before, what a difference production and vocals can make!  

Hawaii released a really good full length album with Eddie Day called The Natives are Restless in 1985 and unfortunately that was that.  Friedman soon after began a collaboration with an 18 year-old guitar virtuoso named Jason Becker.  They billed themselves as Cacophony and released two albums, Speed Metal Symphony in 1987 and Go Off! in 1988.  Friedman also released an instrumental album in 1988 called Dragon's Kiss.  In 1989 Jason Becker landed the gig replacing Steve Vai in David Lee Roth's band.  He played on the overlooked A Little Ain't Enough album but during the recording process was tragically diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) and given 3-5 years to live.  Even so, Becker is still alive today, and though unable to move or even speak he has developed a system of communication with his father using his eyes and still composes music using a computer.  A documentary about Becker was released last year.  

Back to Friedman, he joined Megadeth in 1990 and recorded five albums with the band, including what I think most metal fans consider to be the band's best and one of the best metal albums of the nineties, Rust In Peace.  He left Megadeth in 2000 and in 2003 Friedman, who speaks fluent Japanese, moved to Japan and began to host a TV show called Rock Fujiyama.  He continues to release instrumental albums in Japan.


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