SAN ANTONIO - It's been over a decade since Marty Friedman unleashed his guitar assault on American audiences.
The former lead guitarist for Megadeth didn't know exactly what to expect when he released his new album "Inferno" in the States last year.
"You never know what to expect when you make an album," he said. "But the reaction has been amazing. More than I could have expected."
That reaction he speaks of has been phenomenal, as "Inferno" is Friedman's first charting solo album outside Japan ever. The album debuted at #4 on Billboard's "Heatseekers" chart, and #10 on the "Top Metal/Hard Rock Albums," while giving him some of the best reviews of his career. Many have called "Inferno" his masterpiece.
Rolling Stone described "Inferno" as an album "...rich with complex melodies, nuanced arrangements and 'adult chords,' much like the Japanese pop that he's now so familiar with, but the music is filtered through the instrumental metal of Friedman's past solo work."
Guitar World has praised, "In an era overrun with speed demons, Friedman made himself known with a style that combined Eastern-sounding melodies with straightforward metal aggression...he employed unusual phrasing, wide bends and vibrato, and an incredibly clean picking technique to impart a distinctive edge to runs and solos..."
"I'm really happy with the record," he said. "I've gotten a great reaction from people, which is gratifying since it was a long experience to make this record. It took 1 1/2 years of constant recording, throwing away stuff, recording, throwing away stuff, until I finally felt it was ready. It is great to play these songs live."
Marty Friedman continues the second leg of his North American tour Thursday when he performs at Fitzgerald's Bar & Live Music on 437 McCarty Road.
MOVING TO JAPAN
Not only has the musical landscape changed dramatically in the 10-plus years since his last solo record in America, but the former Megadeath lead guitarist left behind everything he knew in the States for the Land of the Rising Sun.
"I had such an attraction to the Japanese music scene," he said. "Everything was so fresh and new than what I was used to in America. It was a no-brainer for me to make the move."
Friedman stunned everyone by packing his bags and moving to Japan in 2003, where he has become a cultural celebrity as a host of television shows and a sought-after live and studio guitar player.
"The single most influential thing to have happened to me was my move to Japan," he said. "I've had the chance to work with lots of major artists over there as a producer, songwriter, guitarist. They normally want me to put my stamp somehow on their music.
"That has allowed me to grow immensely as a musician. I'm not just stuck in the same old rut. I'm busy 24/7 every single day in Japan. It's all good."
During a 2007 interview, Friedman explained his fascination with the Japanese music scene.
"In Japanese music, pretty much anything goes," he argued. "You can have the most extreme metal to the most tender ballads, and that can all come from the same artist. I love that about Japanese music."
When he arrived, Friedman, who already was fluent in Japanese after teaching himself the language, immersed himself in the growing J-pop scene, which led to him appearing in over 600 television shows, including "Hebimetal-San" which translates "Mr. Heavy Metal."
He has become a cultural icon.
ON MEGADETH AND MORE
Friedman says he doesn't really keep up with what's going on in America, as his days in Japan are completely filled with that vibrant music scene.
He said it was playing so many different genres of music that has led him to become a more well-rounded guitarist, and he believes it shows in his latest album.
"I'm more aware of the progression in my own guitar playing," he said. "I find myself listening to "Inferno" and I hear something that I want to change even now. As a guitar player, I think you always want to improve and get better.
"I'm more comfortable with my playing. I think it is more improvisational. My guitar playing is evolving and I'm more aware of it now than in the past."
Although many believe his split with Megadeth was acrimonious, Friedman has nothing but respect and fond memories of his tenure with the thrash-metal icons, where he played on such classics as "Rust in Peace," and "Countdown to Extinction."
"My years with Megadeath was a great period of my life," he said. "We were able to create a unique sound and it was a fantastic partnership. I wouldn't want to trade any of my time with Megadeath for anything. It helped me grow as a musician. It really taught me so much about showmanship and working well with others.
"What I liked most is that we were all together with one goal. We didn't compromise when it came to making music. And we put out some great albums during my time in the band."
When asked about the status of metal as a genre, Friedman is quick to point out he's not a fan of any genre, but that metal is a survivor. He points to Metallica's "Black" album as a turning point for a brand of music that he felt was having trouble finding their audience.
"In my opinion, (Metallica's "Black" album) is the single most important album in metal," he said. "The sound of metal could have been long gone, but that album helped metal find its place in the mainstream.
"Metal is not the easiest music to play, and its even more difficult to make sound good. Metallica was able to combine all that was good about metal without compromising who they were. There are some of the best metal songs on that album like "Enter Sandman," and it really opened the door for so many bands."
And where does he feel "Inferno" stands in the realm of today's music?
"I like that my album stands on its own," he said. "My music is more extreme. A little over the top. It has more guitar than metal and more metal than a guitar album. It's somewhere in between."
Marty Friedman continues the second leg of his North American tour Thursday when he performs at Fitzgerald's Bar & Live Music on 437 McCarty Road. CLICK HERE TO BUY TICKETS.