Sound — 6
You may not have heard of Felix Martin, but you've clicked through the cover art to get here. You're probably starting to get the idea. Basically, the Venezuelan designed a double-necked, fourteen-string guitar which could fit onto a single body, and now he's playing it. As a Berklee graduate, his chops aren't bad and neither are his connections. On the attractively titled "The Scenic Album," he's joined by two other virtuosos; the first is Marco Minnemann, former Necrophagist and Steven Wilson sticksman and one of the most technically accomplished drummers in metal. Equally impressive, though less experienced, is bassist Nathan Navarro, who's using his YouTube account to wrench full-blooded, wobs-and-all dubstep out of a modified four-string. There is every chance that each of these three will be leading their discipline in the next few years. The album is so immaculately put together that it makes you wonder whether it's been executed by robots. Martin's two-handed tapping is harmonically, rhythmically and melodically versatile and notes go by in a flurry of interesting combinations. Opening suite "The Tango" is a modal shindig with carnival flair and plenty of room for soloing, where every subdivision of the beat is covered by one of the trio. Despite being a markedly heavy track, "Viroliano Tries Metal" is a little easier on the ear because there are audible spaces between notes. "Spam II" is arguably the strangest of the bunch, with double kick, dissonant Phrygian riffing and hardly any distortion to complete the package. Martin deserves credit for covering so much ground on a debut album, from soft rock to metal and through several permutations of prog. Sadly, many of these experiments are the superficial interpretations of genre that weaker virtuoso players indulge in. "Viroliano Tries Jazz," too, but all that entails is 60 seconds of swing rhythms, thrown into the normal mix of distortion and scale runs. He can resemble metal, jazz or prog but can't embody them just yet.
Lyrics — 7
Martin does well to avoid vocals, particularly on the metal tracks. All too many "shred" guitarists miss the point of being a soloist by letting somebody else sing over their work, but this album strikes the right balance between the man and the ensemble.
Overall Impression — 6
This album is stimulating in senses theoretical, technical and (to an extent) musical, but the greatest thrill you get is from knowing that people have put such a complex piece together from scratch. Sadly, that excitement is curbed by the fact that you can't see it happening; you want to understand the slap and pop on "The Tango" and how "Triangle Tune" is held together when it feels like it's about to go off the rails. When you're unsighted there's only so much to learn. "The Scenic Album" is as much science as art, and life is too short to be spending all your time in the lab.