REVIEW: FELIX MARTIN – “Mechanical Nations”
In a new wave of virtuoso guitarists there are just a few that are really showing a return to the wizardry of the 70’s. Felix Martin is certainly one of those guitarists that puts a tremendous amount of work into his playing ethos by using a 14-string multi fret board guitar to play in more complex and multi disciplinary ways. The Venezuelan born musician released an impressive debut album 5 years ago and has just put out to the world his eagerly awaited follow up L.P ‘Mechanical Nations’. The album cover is a portrait of his signature guitar with the South American continent behind the instrument summing up nicely his weapon of choice with his family roots. Felix’s band is a classic power trio comprising of electric guitar, bass and drums; they are entirely instrumental and leap effortlessly between genres as diverse as Progressive rock, Jazz Fusion, World Music and Heavy Metal.
‘Mechanical Nations’ opening song “Flashback” starts with machine-driven guitar picking and is a heart pumping start to the album. “Carnett” is a tamer song but still has immaculate finger tapping combining technique and emotive playing. “Eight Moon Headdress” goes into a progressive direction with Felix playing at lightning speed throughout the whole song. “Nomadic Tree” has a low string groove where the bottom end strings are being plucked aggressively but yet the song still maintains a grace about it. “Da House Cat” has an ethereal dream like quality using fast pace playing that is a regular occurrence on this album. “Cosmo Basket” sounds more of the same but doesn’t fail to deliver Felix’s guitar virtuosity. “Bom” is an explosive track and takes you in an out of different guitar idioms as does “Bom Continues” but the second part has a very funky guitar tapping that has a Primus sound. “Cardboard Roofs” is almost a mid tempo ballad that doesn’t really add much to the album’s quality.
The song “Santos’ takes us back to the heart pumping mechanical guitar picking which seems to be Felix’s trait and what he is most comfortable in playing. “Barquisimetal” again reminds me of a Primus song with a tango rhythm making the song very hybrid sounding. “King Zartman” is just another filler of more of the same, In fact as the album evolves I get the impression that he’s not trying to give you something different and original with each song. “Four Handed Giant” plays around with a heavy progressive groove and blasting drum beats adding more metal influences to the album. “Canaima” returns to a more elegant style of playing demonstrating the fine balance Felix has between feeling and technique. The closing song “Bridge Clock Disparity” sums ‘Mechnical Nations’ as an album that has many stylistic changes even within individual tracks. Felix is consistent with the styles he chooses to play and the album doesn’t divert too much from the few genres that he is interested in experimenting with.
Overall ‘Mechanical Nations’ is impressive from a technical point of view but I felt a little disappointed but how many songs are just more of the same or rehashing another trick in the book of guitar master classes and clinics. He is certainly in the league of young and upcoming extraordinarily gifted players but with the likes of Animals as Leaders commanding the pack in instrumental progressive metal Felix needs to stand out a little more in order to appeal to a wider audience who might not be just interested in guitar heroism for the sake of it. Felix is most definitely a student of great music having attended the prestigious Berklee College of Music and citing Charlie Parker and Meshuggah as influences. ‘Mechanical Nations’ is certainly admirable music but I would have preferred the album to be stronger in its songwriting. On a day you are craving for some new music it’s very much worth listening to.