After many rumours, and some non-denial denials, Friedman, who played with Megadeth between 1990 and 1999, will join current lead guitarist Kiko Loureiro onstage at the Budokan on 27 February, a performance that will be available for livestream and on demand.
Dave Mustaine confirmed the news to Rolling Stone, describing the event as a being like a “gigantic birthday and Christmas present”.
Mustaine revealed that there had been meetings between various representatives in an attempt to put together a reunion of the band’s Rust In Peace era lineup, with Mustaine joined by Friedman on guitar, Nick Menza on drums and David Ellefson on bass guitar. But Nick Menza’s death in 2016 put paid to that. With Ellefson now persona non grata following his Megadeth ouster in 2021, this is as good as it is going to get.
“When Marty said, ‘Hey, I can play at this gig,’ I thought, ‘This is so magnificent,’” said Mustaine. “It’s gonna be so much fun to get Kiko and Marty together, because they’re both geniuses on guitar. So this is like a gigantic birthday and Christmas present for me.”
How the Mustaine/Loureiro/Friedman dynamic will work onstage remains to be seen but it augurs well for an electric guitar spectacular. On one hand you have Mustaine’s animalistic leads and military precision rhythm, then on the other Loureiro and Friedman offer something more exotic and unpredictable.
Many virtuoso lead guitar players have came and went since Friedman left the band, but Loureiro is the one whose style aligns with the flamboyant and unpredictable note choices of Friedman. Perhaps it’ll be a game of paper, scissors, stone to decide who takes leads. Either way Friedman is pumped at the prospect.
“It has been a really long time since I have been on a stage with Dave Mustaine, making music, and we have both taken severely different paths in our lives since then,” Friedman said in an Instagram video. “But that doesn’t change the fact that I am so extremely proud of the part that I have played in Megadeth’s history, Megadeth’s legacy, and I am also very, very proud of the achievements that the band has had in my absence.
“But right now, at this moment, I just feel immense joy and serious adrenaline to look forward to playing together at this very, very cool place.”
Friedman recorded five studio albums with Megadeth, making his debut on the seminal Rust In Peace, which for many thrash fans a high-water mark for the band. Tracks such as Holy Wars… The Punishment Due, Tornado Of Souls and Hangar 18 were the dictionary definition of state-of-the-art thrash metal, the genre’s technical apogee. Countdown To Extinction followed, as did success.
Mustaine might always have conducted business as though he were in Metallica’s shadow, looking to the Black Album’s transformative unit-shifting as evidence, but perhaps this obscured the fact that with Megadeth were a pretty big deal in their own right. The early ‘90s were good to them.
In Symphony Of Destruction, they had a hit, an evergreen anthem for the setlist. In tracks such as Architecture Of Aggression, Countdown To Extinction expanded upon the technicality of Rust In Peace, with Friedman’s lead guitar instantly recognisable as he gave Mustaine’s blue-chip grooves the hot sauce they deserved.
Youthanasia followed in 1994, placing a more commercial sheen on the Mustaine/Friedman axis of riffs, then Cryptic Writings in ’97, before Friedman’s final studio album, Risk, in ’99. It was during the recording of Risk when the relationship broke down. Megadeth’s sound had been on the wane.
There was the sense that this was a band caught between its animal instincts to write technically precise thrash jams spiked with Mustaine’s acerbic storytelling, and the search for a hit metal record. That tension, and a bust-up over a Friedman solo spot in the track Breadline that was replaced by Mustaine on a request from management, spelled the end.
Speaking to Guitar World in 2022, Mustaine said it was “definitely not okay” how it all went down. “I said [to management], ‘Well, you have three choices. Either you mute the solo completely, have Marty come back and redo it, or I do it.’And then I said, ‘If I do it, you’d better tell him.’ Well, I redid it and nobody told Marty.
“So we’re in there listening to the finished album and the solo comes on. It’s my solo, not Marty’s… I looked at him as tears ran down his face and I knew right away that nobody had told him. I knew that was probably going to be the end of Marty Friedman.”
Well, the end so far as Megadeth was concerned. By 2003, Friedman was living in Tokyo and getting busy making music, appearing on TV, and building a prolific career for himself. Just yesterday, he released the video for the Japan Heritage Official Theme Song, a track that celebrates Japanese history and culture that finds him collaborating with the Tokyo Philharmonic.
Friedman has collaborated with Megadeth’s Kiko Loureiro before, with the two virtuoso guitarists joining forces on Imminent Threat – a full-blown shredder from Loureiro’s 2020 solo album, Open Source. Loureiro’s fifth solo album, Open Source featured a number of collaborators, so why not Friedman, and a player who he has always been compared to?
"For the last five years, I've always been compared to Marty Friedman, and Marty Friedman is a great musician – not only a great guitar player but an amazing musician,” Loureiro said. “And I'm a big fan of his solo work and Cacophony and, of course, other Megadeth years, and I had a chance to meet him two times and have great conversations about music and about life with him. I'm so happy to have Marty Friedman. He did, of course, an amazing solo on one of my songs. So, thank you, Marty.”
Megadeth's first studio album since 2016, The Sick, the Dying... and the Dead!is out now via UMe. If you can't make the Budokan you can still watch Friedman's return to the Megadeth lineup on livestream. See Megadeth for tickets.