The Scenic Album review by Felix Martin

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  • Released: Sep 17, 2013
  • Sound: 6
  • Lyrics: 7
  • Overall Impression: 6
  • Reviewer's score: 6.3 Neat
  • Users' score: 6.5 (13 votes)
Felix Martin: The Scenic Album

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.

19 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I really like this live video - what an amazing stuff!
    JP Bouvet on drums in that video, such a boss. These guys are incredible players, not my kind of thing overall I think but its impressive.
    Talented guy but man did both of those videos bore me to death. He might be talented but his music is not even worth showing to people imo, just sounds like one long continuous solo, each to their own i guess...
    I'm with you. It is really cool to watch, but not very exciting to me. But I'm also pretty musically stupid so maybe that's why for me.
    I think good music can be enjoyed regardless of the listener's musical knowledge. I don't hear anything in this music that grabs my attention apart from its technicality.
    I always wonder when I see this kind of impressive two handed tapped playing; wouldn't it be less cumbersome to switch to a keyboard?
    Not after years of teaching yourself to play guitar, it wouldn't. Also, in most, if not all cases, things that are played on a guitar in this style would not actually be playable on a piano. For example, a lot of what this guy did in the above videos relied on his ability to rapidly play the same note on two hands? It's easier to rapidly hit two different frets with two different fingers than to rapidly hit one key with two different fingers.
    But why not choose the easiest path to get the sound you want? I don't think tapping is the essential guitar skill, but I'm quite astonished at the difficulty I'm experiencing in trying to nail down this kind of stuff on guitar, whereas on keyboards it seems so much simpler...I fail to see how -usually around half of- the songs could not be played far more easily switching between a guitar and a keyboard with little to no musical compromise.I don't think I get your point on playing the same notes with two hands either...maybe I'm just block headed
    The stuff where he's playing the same notes on both hands are an example of things that make these songs unplayable on a piano. Even if these songs were largely possible on piano, this would still be the easiest path to the sounds he wants. Why? Because he already plays guitar. Why would he learn piano instead hoping to get the same results when he's already a pro at guitar? Even if the sounds happened to actually be easier to create on piano, he was already good at guitar before deciding that this was the sound he wanted. Furthermore, a guitar and a piano simply do not sound the same and do not do the same things.
    I completely disagree with the description of his music being "shallow". Or maybe [i]I'm the shallow one, for I could listen to something this all day long. Just very tasty instrumental rock, with a focus on tapping. That's my bliss catered to.
    Yeah, but what exactly is it expressing musically? What's the point of this, besides technique?
    Mr Winters
    That first video is indeed pretty dull and boring, but the second song is actually pretty interesting and engaging. Big part of the credit for making that song enjoyable goes to the drums though, Minnemann is a monster.
    Really good review, much better than the normal reviews from Brandon East.
    Nothing particularly grabbing for me. I am impressed, trying to get technique like that is hellishly difficult but this music is not for me. Background is cool but not for focused listening