Given that this release is on Prosthetic Records, I was naturally expecting some loud and blazing — if not downright brutal — metal when I first listened to it. Surprisingly, much of the instrumental album by this guitar prodigy isn’t metal at all. Songs like “Viroliano Tries Metal” and “Triangle Tune” are definitely in that arena, but the sonically adventurous and ambitious album contains just as many jazz, world and prog rock-inspired tracks.
Martin is a left-handed, Venezuelan-born guitarist who moved to America after winning a scholarship to the Berklee School of Music. What clearly separates him from his peers is his instrument. He plays a self-designed 14-string guitar featuring two seven-string guitars on one super wide neck that allows him to play BOTH guitars simultaneously, resulting in a unique system of eight-fingered chords and slap-tapping techniques. Accompanying Martin on the album are fellow Berklee alum Nathan Navarro on bass and accomplished drummer Marco Minnemann (The Aristocrats, Paul Gilbert, Necrophagist).
Where most guitar instrumental albums I’ve heard over the years sound like they’re trying too hard to be over the top, Martin shows off his gift in a way that never makes you feel like you’re listening to a show off. I’ve also felt that a lot of guitarists who make albums like this try to make the listener feel as though they’re not worthy of actually listening to their music, laying down one inaccessible track after another. Martin’s music doesn’t have that standoffish vibe whatsoever. On the contrary, his playing has a warm and inviting style that simply makes you feel as though he’s trying to entertain you. Sure, there are moments when he’s clearly trying to dazzle you, but never in a way that makes you feel stupid for lacking his gift or education.
What I like most about Martin’s music is how whimsical it feels. You never really know where it’s going to take you. Like the best classical music, it often surprises you, going off on completely unexpected tangents. He named the album The Scenic Album because he wanted the songs to feel cinematic, as though they’re unfolding like scenes of a movie, and they truly do. More like art house or foreign films than Hollywood blockbusters, but still. If you’re fond of instrumental or progressive music, or if you’re simply getting bored with the whole verse chorus verse songwriting structure, then definitely give this forward-thinking artist a listen. I have a feeling you’ll be impressed.