Marty Friedman: 'I Love Death Metal, But the Lyrics Just Crack Me Up'

"The satanic stuff, I mean, really?" the guitarist adds.

Ultimate Guitar

Explaining what a great Babymetal fan he is, guitar extraordinaire Marty Friedman touched on the matter of death metal, expressing a love-hate stance towards the genre.

"I love aggressive music, death metal and stuff like that," he told Rolling Stone. "But the lyrics just crack me up: the satanic stuff, I mean, really? I can't get into it.

"I love the sound of the music so much that I'm willing to put up with [the lyrics], but why not have that same aggressive sound in something that's a little bit more realistic, you know?"

Marty elaborated further, "I love the sound of metal but I've been doing it since I was a teenager, and I [felt I needed] to do something more unique with that sound. The sound of metal is what I love about it, but the fact that you have to stay within a genre, and you have to be in this really narrow genre, really turned me off."

Focusing on Babymetal, the guitarist drew an interesting Meshuggah parallel, saying, "Babymetal, if you strip off that heavy metal guitar stuff, all you have is your basic fun, quirky, Japanese pop stuff. But the interpretation is super-metal.

"To me, it sounds like Meshuggah with Japanese pop on top of it. So for someone like me who's been playing metal forever, it's really fresh to hear. I mean, I can hear another Pantera song, and it's great, but we've heard it before a billion times."

We know there are death metal fans on UG as well, and Marty isn't the first to have such thoughts about the genre, so what would you like to say about the whole matter?

64 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I could be wrong, but I highly doubt most death metal bands take their lyrics seriously.
    Also, saying that death metal lyrics are just satanic is a really simplistic way of thinking. In Flames have some nice songs about astrology since their beginning for example.
    There's lyrics in death metal? Huh, couldn't tell.
    "Meshuggah with japanese pop on top of it" Really? The most intriguing part of Meshuggah is that something that would just sound like regular 'chucka chucka' palm muting to some is in fact layered with extreme flavor. The comparison makes me a little sick actually.... Why does everyone have to white knight babymetal? I mean it's lyrical content alone is enough for me to just want to put a bullet in my head. Here is a part of one of their songs translated: "Check-it-out chocolate. Can I have a bit of chocolate? But my weight worries me a bit these days." The biggest reason I found myself attracted to metal from the start was the lyrical content and this .. Babymetal group is just another weird Japanese experiment to cash in some phat dollars (or more like yen) nothing. More. I'm sorry it's just that I'm sick and tired about this being treated like something it's not. I don't think people realize how manufactured Japanese groups actually are. It may be unique but being unique doesn't automatically define you as a good "band".
    If you listen to metal for the lyrics I guess dungeons, dragons, knights, evil, destruction, death, and Satan are in no way comparable to a child begging for chocolate? And manufactured or not: if it sounds good it's good. Period. And that, my friend, remains a matter of taste. I quite like them.
    There are a lot of people here, who don't realize that though. Talent isn't the only thing that defines a good band.
    You could also make the argument that regular death metal is "manufactured" in the same manner. Why do lots of death metal bands release albums in similar styles and fail to expand their horizons? Why don't you hear a stripped down straight up blues song from a death metal band? It's because death metal groups need to adhere to a set of stupid standards, or else the dedicated "hardcore" fans won't think it's br00tal enough and they won't sell albums or tickets. If people enjoy Babymetal, so be it. There's real instruments in the music and it has people talking about heavy music. I'm all for that.
    Second Rate
    Umm..... it's called artistic focus, or a "musical direction." People form Death Metal bands because they want to play Death Metal, just as people form Blues bands because they want to play Blues. Of course, when you play Heavy Metal, having a musical direction is a bad thing. It somehow signals that you're underdeveloped as an artist and a musician. However if, you spend an entire career playing Prog Rock, Alternative, Jazz, Blues, Country, pretty much any other genre that's not Heavy Metal you are heralded as having stuck to your artistic guns or having maintained your "integrity." Next, "manufactured" in the musical sense means it was assembled by a producer or other monied interest in the music industry (e.g. boy bands, girl groups, a sizable chunk of bubblegum pop singers, The Sex Pistols) with the intention of making copious amounts of money. There's not much cash to be made as a purveyor of brutal, technical music with lyrics that sound like they're based on grade Z horror flicks. As for Babymetal, I couldn't give two shits about them. They will be forgotten by this time next year. I'd hate to break this to you, but it hasn't gotten people talking about heavy music. Every five minutes some new band springs up that has few vaguely "Metal" sounding riffs and the peanuts all talk about how great this is and how it's gonna have everyone listening to Heavy Metal. The concept of "gateway bands" is as laughable as the idea that Pantera were "saviors" of Heavy Metal.
    they dont just sing about chocolate, check out this song and tell me in WHAT WAY is it pop? or commercial? also the lyrics are pretty deep
    "Akumu no Rondo (Nightmare Rondo)" The waned moon has lit up the insanity rampant in the shade. The laughter resounds around. It bares its fangs and its eyes gleam. I can't escape from it. It flickers slowly appearing and disappearing in my mind. A nightmare rondo is being repeated. The awakening light is gone far away out of my sight. I can do nothing but run through the darkness. In the woods, in the fountain, I hide myself holding my breath, but it's still coming closer to me. A stagnant voice. An endless night. Ah... If I can no longer get out of here, won't you show me your figure? It flickers slowly appearing and disappearing in my mind. A nightmare rondo is being repeated. The awakening light is gone far away out of my sight. I can do nothing but fall into the darkness.
    Death metal lyrics are more about Philosophy nowadays and before it was more about Gore and death... I'd like to think he's talking more about Black Metal.
    Second Rate
    Both genres talk about Satan and other occultist imagery. The difference is that Death Metal lyrics are typically tongue in cheek, while Black Metal attempts to portray its occultism as serious. As philosophy goes, there are a handful (at best) of Death Metal (and Black Metal, believe it or not) bands that write lyrics based on philosophical themes. Death Metal's bread and butter continues to be cartoonishly over the top violence, mutilation, and occultist themes.
    Fear Factory sings about man vs machine technology and corrupt government; Between the Buried and Me sing about metaphysics, space and time travel; Type O Negative sung about druids, buttholes, and Halloween. Every band, metal or not, sings about unique things, not just satanic stuff
    Black Metal can also be about suicide (Xasthur, Leviathan, Lifelover), pagan or medieval lyrics (Burzum, Enslaved, Wolves In The Throne Room, Ulver, Satyricon), and existential type lyrics (Deafheaven, Liturgy, Agalloch).
    I guess Marty has never listened to "Chased through the woods by a rapist" by Waking The Cadaver. The lyrics consist mainly of "Shredded Wheat".
    Marty being active in Japan for many years now I'm pretty sure he has a stake in Babymetal, you know, like an "investment". Why else would he promote that band all the time?
    Flying Afros
    He's actually one of many producers/musicians who are involved with writing their stuff. That's part of the reason he's so big over there and is having such a great time.
    All I can think about is the making of Evisceration Plague videos from Cannibal Corpse and many other interviews with them. George Fisher has said he doesn't take the lyrics seriously, and sometimes he laughs hysterically thinking about them. I mean come on, Evisceration Plague... If you think about it, that's actually pretty funny.
    Well Japanese Pop music has some pretty weird lyrics as well. Hell lets look at Babymetal they have one song that is about wanting chocolate ok, but they also have a song about playing tag with a demon that eats souls which seems kinda satanic to me.
    Why are there so few people out there who understand that death metal lyrics are written to parallel the tonality of the music, just like all other music does? Country lyrics are not usually about questioning the existence of God, just like death metal songs are not usually about blue jeans & whiskey. Look at death metals's musical qualities, without the lyrics for just a minute- the music involves usually heavy, distorted guitars playing notes that involve a fair amount of dissonance and aggressive drumming... naturally, the lyrical subject matter should reflect the music being played, therefore, lyrics should cover aggressive topics- the things that distort the reality of life and cause dissonance in existence. For comparison, let's look at the musical qualities, again at country music. Country music is typically centralized around harmony & melody with a mellow, reserved style of percussion. So, it makes sense that country music's lyrical themes is going to include imagery that focuses on the mellower, harmonious parts of life. And you can do this with every kind of music- rock music tends to focus on the harder struggles of life, pop music is designed to inspire people to sing & dance and whatnot, so a good portion of pop music lyrics talk about having fun and dancing. There is no appeal for country singers to sing about the Roman empire, there's no appeal for pop stars to sing about living on farms, and there's no appeal for death metal vocalists to sing about shopping at the mall... because none of that makes any damn sense. Lyrics are supposed to match the music being made... so, Mr. Friedman, now you know why Dave Mustaine never sang songs about chocolate and bunnies and instead chose topics like warfare and getting high.
    Psh, says you. I personally have a whole album called shopping metal.... Yes this is sarcasm.
    I like the idea of J-Pop meets metal but with "Baby Metal" it's just horribly executed.
    I've said it before and I'll say it again, if you want Jpop meets metal, listen to Maximum The Hormone, it does everything babymetal does but better and more.
    What's wrong with Satanic lyrics? For me pop songs with pop stars singing about their love for god sound more evil than satanic black metal. Millions have been killed in the name of god. Compare that with all those killed in the name of Satan. It's ironic how Satan (as opponent of god) is portrayed as pure evil in our society, while god's followers have caused way more human misery than Satan's followers.
    "Pop songs with pop stars singing about their love for god" While I'm not the biggest pop fan, you definitely havent heard much if that's what you think pop music is! Should probably listen to some once in a while and you might know what you're talking about
    I didn't say that pop music is necessarily singing about god. But sometimes pop songs are about god. And if that is the case, i never hear people talking about the fact that millions have been killed in the name of god. Metal isn't necessarily singing about Satan. But sometimes Metal songs are about Satan. And if that is the case, i often hear people saying: "Ehhhwww they are singing about Satan!!1!!"
    Pop stars singing about God? That's not normal by any means. Out of curiousity are you an actual satantist or an athiest who views Satan as a symbol of freedom?
    I'm an atheist, and i'm just comparing god with Satan. They both are nothing more than a concept in my eyes. But when i look to our planet is see that the concept of god has caused more misery than the concept of Satan. And that is why i do like the concept of Satan more than the concept of god. If someone would put a gun to my head and force me to pray to a god, i would pray to Wodan (Germanic version of Odin). Unfortunately Christians almost destroyed everything that had something to do with the old European religions.
    If a gun were put to my head and was told to pray to a god, it would be Lemmy or Joe Peschi, cuz they get things done.
    A little known fact about Joe Pesci is that his rap song "Wise Guy" is actually about the divine wisdom bestowed upon him during the birth of our universe. He also gave us the gift of knowledge by informing humanity that "it's a lovely day in the neighbourhood for a drive-by". For these reasons, I agree wholeheartedly with your statement.
    tbh u only know religion as it is today and not in the very past When I look at the bible I see things not so much different as our current law, and I think it had not all that different of a purpose, to keep order under people and provide a feeling of social security. Perhaps millions of Christians of the old roman times have not stolen because of that one commandment, who would otherwise have. that's just an example, you don't know how the world would have been without the church. I'm not religious btw.
    I'm guessing it would be friendlier. "My God has a bigger dick than yours!" - George Carlin
    you think that no one ever thought that stealing or killing is wrong before christianity? those laws of christianity are just common sense and i'm quite sure that stealing and all was deemed wrong well before any religion told us to respect each other. religion doesn't create these ideas of what is right and wrong, they choose to promote those ideas that they like. and to move on, christ was big on equality and all, how's that working out in our christian societies? religion is just as usefull as it's followers are honest. morality is allways about the individual, regardless of the faith he has chosen to express his soul with.
    Well tbh almost all of the wars associated with Christianity weren't actually about Christianity, for example the crusades, plantations of Ireland and America, etc. These were just greedy powers looking for political and economical gain and they used "Spreading Christianity" as an excuse. The bible condemns this an if you want the verse I'll give you it. It's also worth mentioning that Atheism has a lot to answer for as well. Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong and pol pot all had atheistic philosophies and look what they did in the past century.
    A lot of musicians mention God in their lyrics, but that may not necessarily be from a religious point of view, as much as an expression. Pop is just writing what people wanna hear. Catchy, half-assed songs that drill their way into your head. As for "Satan's followers". Are you aware that the satanic bible isn't a guideline to devil-worshipping? But rather to be who you are and pretty much make your own path. (Excuse the cliché)
    "For me pop songs with pop stars singing about their love for god" That statement above is no longer true. A lot of pop stars are into Illuminati stuff nowadays to take the quick road to fame.
    great guitarist indeed but i think he's absolutely ignorant on the subject. less than 1% of death metal bands have satanic leitmotifs and these are really old bands like acheron, deicide, akercocke and thats it. i would say former morbid angel but that was vincent's speech only, not a bands real issue
    I'm sorry but comparing Babymetal is like Meshuggah is like putting a turd on a golden pedestal. They will never be as good as Meshuggah.
    Highly debatable. On my account they're both shite. Each to his own, mate.
    You don't have to like Meshuggah, they're certainly not the easiest band to get into and not for everyone, but if we're speaking entirely objectively here they really are a good band. Superb drumming, crazy rhythms, great progressive song structure, simple catchy riffs etc.
    If something sounds good it sounds good. It's all personal preference. Babymetal is just a bit of innocent fun amongst the thousands of cliche "evil" metal bands (which I also love). I happen to side with Marty on this one. Brilliant musician with 10000x the talent of anybody in these comments. People need to focus less on labels and enjoy music for what it is.
    So try listening to some Suicide Silence, Mudvayne, or old A7X? You cab make death metal without santanic lyrics, you know...
    "To me, it sounds like Meshuggah with Japanese pop on top of it" ... I don't see a musical comparison between Babymetal and Meshuggah... at all.
    I think it was Alex Webster who was basically saying you read crime books and watch horror and demonic movies, so this is just a way of getting those stories out through a different medium. Not all of it is ghosts and goblins, some of it is pretty messed up stuff. There is a huge variety of lyrical content in Death Metal. But as stated above I don't think many people care about the words they just wanna bang their heads and listen to the full package with the evil guitars and in your face brutal sound.
    for some reason most of the death metal bands I like have sci-fi based lyrics, no satanism at all
    100% agree With Mr Friedman!!! I love all kind of metal styles including Death Metal, but for God Sake!! some of the lyrics are so ... WTF!? even some Thrash Metal songs are ruined with their lyrics!! Some cool bands like Exodus or Slayer have some killer riffs and thrashing music, but their lyrics are pure trash!! No need to be Satanic or Gore for being actually a great aggressive band with great music and great lyrics. It's like some bands wants to say "Hey we are a Tough guys, bad and rude ones too we love satan and hate all! C'mon !! SOme lyrics ruin great songs indeed. The music of almost all the Metal Bands with the years on the road is improved and you can hear how they are better musicians and composers with the passing by of the years, but their lyrics keeps a lack of maturity and an inferior level than their music skills. that's some times why they gets boring to hear, like Slayer for example.
    The only death metal I enjoy is Dethklok really bwcause everyone knows they're not serious
    Japanese don't create new things too often, but they are so good copying and improving the already invented in a tiny cute way (eg: cars, guitars & electronics) and Messhuga has not been an exception!
    I don't think death or black metal lyrics should be taken so serious. Take a Cannabis Corpse, band made just for fun and to honored the orginal Cannibal Corpse. They make exaclty the same music like orginal CC but with the hilarious lyrics aboute smoking weed. It's all aboute fun, guys.
    What a lot of fans don't see are a lot of these musicians, in their lives off-stage. Totally different from what they're perceived onstage. Playing with their kids, having BBQ's with their families. You'd think it's all an act.