Review Summary: Viroliano tries world domination -- and does surprisingly well for himself
If progressive metal has a bad reputation, Felix Martin isn’t aware of it-- and something tells me he isn’t particularly irked. The Venezuelan guitarist makes one of the most overwrought genres sound natural and digestible as ever, and through nothing more than ambitious-- but logical-- songwriting.
The Scenic Album
is dense and comprehensive, harboring the breed of power that guitarists like Tosin Abasi and Chris Letchford have been swiping at for quite some now. Not to say Felix Martin has outperformed his peers-- his style is more an amalgam of his favorites, and is lacking its own definitive edge-- but for the man’s debut release, The Scenic Album is quite the accomplishment. A glance at the album’s tracklist reveals Martin’s stylistic ambition; the three-part series of “Viroliano Tries Prog,” “Viroliano Tries Jazz” and “Viroliano Tries Metal” says enough on that front. To be fair, though, those song titles give the wrong impression of The Scenic Album
. While it is chock-full of different genres, they function as cards he plays throughout the album’s runtime, not bells and whistles he throws in for novelty’s sake. While “Viroliano Tries Metal” is as brutish as expected, the track still blends in with The Scenic Album
’s overall aesthetic, camouflaging itself amongst the other behemoths on this record. “High Spirit” begins by exploring progressive metal in a way Animals As Leaders once did, and “Triangle Tune” is both complex and affecting-- it wouldn’t even surprise me if, in an alternate universe, the track were placed on a more caffeine-laced copy of the latest Scale the Summit record. The song conveys emotional substance in such an instrumentally industrious way, toying with dynamics and distinct styles from one moment to the next. But these parts of The Scenic Album
overshadow the rest, for they illustrate a picture of Felix Martin himself, not the aggregate parts of his biggest influences.
I can’t say the same for the rest of the record; The Scenic Album
is awe-inspiring, but not particularly innovative. Of course, this isn’t much of an issue-- all music is inspired by the music before it, and so forth-- but I do look forward to when Felix Martin finds a more distinctive voice to present in the future. The record is already promising on so many fronts, namely that it’s musically mountainous without being overbearing. This is the case because it’s Martin, doing what he loves and with the help of his friends. If he’d thought up a pretentious band name and chosen an off-the-mark art style for this record, well, I wouldn’t have been surprised. It simply would have created a more amusing release than a memorable one. But because the album cover is nothing more than Felix with his custom 14-string guitar, and because the contained music is nothing more than a collection of songs that aesthetically speak for themselves, I can’t help but be fascinated with The Scenic Album. It’s entertaining, sleek and unique, but more importantly, it’s an immensely solid record from a man who’s bound to blow up the prog-metal scene someday soon.