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Felix Martin - "Mechanical Nations" (CD)

Felix Martin - "Mechanical Nations" CD cover image

"Mechanical Nations" track listing:

1. Flashback
2. Carnatt
3. Eight Moon Headdress
4. Nomadic Tree
5. Da House Cat
6. Cosmo Basket
7. Bom
8. Bom Continues
9. Cardboard Roofs
10. Santos (feat. Angel Vivaldi)
11. Barquisimetal
12. King Zartman
13. Four Handed Giant
14. Canaima
15. Bridge Clock Disparity

Reviewed by on April 26, 2017

"Although the album is overall fairly dynamic - and I say this as someone who really digs technical and progressive instrumental music – there's some serious listening fatigue involved here."

Looking back to bands like Abnormal Thought Patterns, Cynthesis, Exivious, Odyssey, and Blotted Science, there's actually a long tradition of instrumental music within the metal underground if you take the time to look. What's a little more unusual is a instrumental solo project combining 14-string metallic guitar with world fusion music – and that's what you get with Felix Martin's “Mechanical Nations.”

Martin first hit our radar at Metalunderground back in 2012 more as interesting oddity than full musical entity, but that has most certainly changed over the years as Felix's music machine has hit full gear and really reached its stride. From classical music to full-force metal, there's a bit of everything here on this album (except vocals, of course) all presented with a constant, dizzying sense of being propelled forward.

“Carnatt” is a highlight track with the unexpected sound of its intro and an excellent sensation of motion it creates with the fast picking segments. “Da House Cat” is another one that jumps straight into the fray with an off-balancing sound that makes you feel like you are wobbling and losing equilibrium just by listening.

Conversely, the opening segment of “Eight Moon Headdress” is just sort of overly technical without a lot of purpose and isn't particularly interesting to listen to (beyond being impressed by the playing ability), although the melodic change-up around 1:10 gives the listener a hook to grab onto. Segments like that pop up from time to time, and that's where I fear Martin will lose a lot of listeners. The constant finger tapping segments all across the fret board are impressive, but get tiresome after a few tracks, especially for those who aren't as interested in just hearing guitar.

Certain tracks do manage to break up the monotony on the back half half, however, like Angel Vivaldi offering a melodic solo on 10th song “Santos” or the incredibly chunky, jazz-inspired bass lines on “Barquismetal.”

Although the album is overall fairly dynamic - and I say this as someone who really digs technical and progressive instrumental music – there's some serious listening fatigue involved here. “Mechanical Nations” is a very dense album that doesn't ever really let up, so actually making it from 00:01 of first song “Flashback” to 03:31 of fifteenth song “Bridge Clock Disparity” is exhausting work. As far as I'm concerned, that's a pretty big downside, because listening to an album shouldn't be “work” at all. This would have been killer as a six song EP, but as a 15 track album it frequently falls prey to the pitfall of instrumental music – making the audience wish there were vocals and less focus on unending technicality.

Highs: Utterly superb playing ability and an interesting mashup of sounds

Lows: Unending technicality and repetitive styling drags the album down across 15 tracks

Bottom line: If you dig technicality above all else this will be a great listen, otherwise you may end up yearning for vocals and blast beats

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)