Released: 2002, Independent
Through a nice set of coincidences I am reviewing this CD produced by Murray Fradsham, a local, 19 year old guitarist. I must admit that reviewing local independent material can be awkward because you don’t want to crush the hopes and dreams of young inspired talent (if the material sucks), especially if you will likely see them again in person! On the other hand, the role of a journalist is to provide a reasonably balanced assessment of the material. Ya gotta take the good with the bad.
STRINGS OF MASS DESTRUCTION on initial impression is a very impressive CD. Murray does everything on this--vocals, guitars, bass, drum machine, words, music, production packaging…everything! I always admire and encourage young people who want to explore true metal; unlike others their age who wallow in the vapid crap of mallcore that saturates the airwaves, whom I just want to punch in the head.
So here we have a guitar hero who is doing it all on his own, making real music for real people. Automatically, he gets high marks for not being a sheep and being bold enough to finance and create his art. However, when you do everything yourself you run the risk of lacking that vital second or third opinion. That is always the struggle of the artist: relax creative control and perhaps, in the process, damage the artistic integrity and purity of the original vision. Alternately, inexperience and lack of subjectivity can be a fatal flaw. It is hard to remove yourself from your own project, that’s why people hire a producer to yell at you! SOMD walks that very fine line and here’s why.
Vocals! One very positive point is that this CD has vocals. A good move for a new artist because independent, “solo”, instrumental CD’s are notoriously bad and rarely do well. Another plus is that with the additional of vocals Murray avoided the temptation to show-off for an hour. Vocals bring a needed dimension and structure to a song that otherwise could descend into mediocre, technical flash. So two points on the plus side.
Now the negative. No lyrics are included. OK, not the end of the world, but here is the kicker. The vocals are all electronically distorted! I absolutely hate that. It’s so disappointing. Rarely in the entire history of metal have electro-vox been successful. The human voice has so many amazing, subtle qualities and doesn’t need to be artificially, electronically manipulated. The sad thing is Murray has a naturally deep, resonant speaking voice and yet he wipes out his natural ability with this bland flavourless, techno vocal, that all blur into an indistinguishable mess, lacking in range, power or aggression. Suddenly the lack of printed lyrics becomes important because it is very difficult to understand what he is singing/saying. Used in small doses distorted vocals can be useful and effective but that is it! The vocals remind me of Jeff Waters on Annihilator’s REMAINS or closer yet, the track called, “The Box” on KING OF THE KILL. So disappointing.
Another negative, in two words: Drum Machine. Yuck. I would rather hear a bad human drummer than a good drum machine, any day. The production really could have benefited from that professional, third opinion. The bass is barely audible, which Murray readily admits to. The mix is weak, the vocals are too far up as are the drums, which lack bass and power and the guitars are too far back! I think that’s the first solo CD I’ve heard where the guitars are not way up front! Overall the production reminds me YJM’s WAR TO END ALL WARS, which was generally considered to be pretty bad.
OK, it sounds like I’m coming down on this CD pretty hard. Here’s the good stuff. MAN! Can this guy play the guitar! Murray works in a music store and practices all day and it shows. With four years experience under his belt he is way better than many established artists. A true talent. And it is not just all sweeps, arpeggios, scales and tricks--he has nailed a variety of styles down flat. The CD is not at all schizophrenic. Some solo artists like to say, “Here’s is my fast song. Here is my acoustic song. Here is my blues song.” Not Murray, the song writing is cohesive and linear without getting boring. He is certainly developing a signature style unlike anything I have heard before.
He draws his main influences from Dave Mustaine and by extension (subconsciously or not) Jeff Waters. The precise techno-riffing is great! Solos are dramatic and exciting but NOT melodramatic and pretentious. The whole CD is pretty damn heavy actually. I was expecting a bit more neo-classical speed metal ala Mr. Yngwie J. Malmsteen but nope it is head down, balls out kick ass metal. It is so heavy it reminds me of Tony Fredianelli’s solo CD, APOCRYPHOBIA from several years back. Pretty intense stuff.
Songs like “The Assault” are a bit more catchy, melodic and commercial (but not really) and “Serpent of Lies” is a darker, mid-tempo tune with a bit of crush and groove and a nice shreddy (is that a word?) solo and a very subtle acoustic interlude. Great tune. There is quite a bit of anger and intensity in the playing in songs like “Taste of Hate” or “Bloodline”.
Let’s summarize a long, wordy review. Vocals bad. Production weak. Playing amazing, songs very strong, high marks for effort and youthful enthusiasm combined with a sophisticated, mature style that leaves others in the dust. Overall excellent songs and high level of technical ability saved this disc from a critical slagging. Next time (if he keeps writing songs and playing like this) improved mix, normal vocals and a decent producer will put Murray in the big leagues. I would recommend picking this up if you are a guitar fan, Megadeth or Annihilator fan, or if you are just curious to have a cool CD by an artist who is on an upward trajectory. Who knows, maybe this debut will be worth lots when Murray is a guitar hero in an established band! You can order the CD from firstname.lastname@example.org