The self-imposed exile of guitarist Marty Friedman to Japan after his 2001 departure from MEGADETH lasted so long and took on such mythical proportions that it's hard to believe that it has already been four years since he re-engaged with the American heavy metal scene after the release of his 2014 effort, "Inferno". Friedman still maintains his home base in Japan, but the relative success of that record combined with the warm reception that was received by his 2017 follow-up, "Wall of Sound", has resulted in fans worldwide receiving more opportunities to see the vaunted shredder perform live. One such night earlier this year in Mexico City is documented on his new live release, "One Bad M.F. Live!!"
The years following Friedman's departure from MEGADETH saw him embrace his love of Japanese J-pop music by moving to that nation and introducing a glossier melodic sheen to his already masterful display of guitar histrionics. His recent work has seen him tastefully integrate heavier groove-metal elements of the modern scene into his already existing blueprint. The set list contained on "One Bad M.F. Live!!" sees the output of the last few years resting comfortably side-by-side with the material that made him a crossover sensation in his adopted homeland. Moodier tracks that show off more technicality such as "Inferno" and "Self Pollution" flow seamlessly with pop-rock power ballads such as "Devil Take Tomorrow".
Set opener "Street Demon" sets the tone for "One Bad M.F. Live!!" The song is a high-energy ripper from Friedman's 2006 album, "Loudspeaker". There is plenty of dazzling guitar work from the man himself on this track, but very early on, this opening track reveals the true secret weapons that make Friedman's live performances so engaging. The heavy metal playing field is loaded with overly flashy guitarists that have to make sure that they are the center of attention at all times. Friedman is the antithesis of the "hey, look at me!" attitude, as in the live setting he shines the spotlight on backing musicians who prove to be on his level.
Bassist Kiyoshi and drummer Chargeeee have been members of Friedman's touring lineup for several years. Friedman's confidence in allowing them to show off their own abilities are highlights of every live set, as each musician is, individually, an absolute powerhouse with their own compelling stage presence. Though "One Bad M.F. Live!!" currently exists as an audio-only product, the rhythm section of Friedman's band still jumps out to the listener. Kiyoshi's galloping bass rumbles mightily from the start, whether it's the stomping rhythms of "Street Demon" or the mile-a-minute jam-out that begins the "Mutation Medley". Chargeeee bounces around behind the drum kit like a hyper-caffeinated super ball, with charisma that is on the level of MÖTLEY CRÜE's Tommy Lee and a dozen times more power and speed. Friedman's faith in Chargeeee's drumming abilities is evident when he allows them to be on full display with an extended crowd-pleasing solo during "Dragon Mistress". Friedman is also generous with sharing the guitar spotlight, as second guitarist Jordan Ziff gets opportunities to prove his worth, most notably on "Whiteworm".
At this time, there is no visual documentation of the live performance contained on "One Bad M.F. Live!!" But as an audio-only release, the energy and joy that MARTY FRIEDMAN takes in performing live and surrounding himself with equally strong musicians still makes this a highly recommended purchase even for those whose fandom dates back to his days in CACOPHONY.