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Although there seems to be a healthy overlap between the instrumental progressive and metal community, I feel that it may be more accurate to label this album as experimental jazz-fusion instead of metal with many of these compositions reminding me of the eccentric solo releases from King Crimson members.

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Album Review: FELIX MARTIN Mechanical Nations

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If you've read my previous reviews of instrumental albums, I apologize for sounding like a broken record, but I feel like I must stress this aspect. In my opinion, the goal of instrumental music is to transcend beyond the limitations of what is to be expected of a composition without vocals to the point where the instruments become capable of speaking a message or emotion.

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For Mechanical Nations, Felix Martin makes the theme of this album relatively clear. Although the song titles don't blatantly mesh to a consistent concept, the cover art and musical styles used represent that of South American culture. As of lately, I've noticed and appreciated the increase globalization of heavy music and this example of Latin styles meshing with progressive metal is a terrific creative direction. "Nomadic Tree," "Bom," and "Cardboard Roofs" are a few examples of compositions that showcase such fusion vibes. And for clarification sakes, this record isn't exclusively bound to the theme of Latin music as many tracks lack that flavor, but altogether I would say there is more-so inspiration from that culture and style.

Besides the Latin influence, there is plenty of experimentation with jazz going on throughout Mechanical Nations. This allows for many aesthetically pleasing moments, but maybe perhaps not much memorable parts. While a song like "Flashback" has melodic repetition, the majority of these compositions feel like experimental grooves rather than substance that will get stuck in your head. And while I certainly understand that the objective of this music isn't to create catchy tunes, I hold merit in music that can find middle ground between technical virtuosity and infectious songwriting.

Similar to Animals as Leaders most recent output, there are few moments that delve into the heavier side of spectrum. "Four Handed Giant" is what I would consider the heavy highlight of these tracks. On "Barquisimetal" and "Santos," which the latter features Angel Vivaldi, the bassy tapping is akin to many djent artists' tone and rhythm. Although there seems to be a healthy overlap between the instrumental progressive and metal community, I feel that it may be more accurate to label this album as experimental jazz-fusion instead of metal with many of these compositions reminding me of the eccentric solo releases from King Crimson members.

Before wrapping up this review, I do feel the need to pay some respects to where they are due. Bassist Kilian Duarte and drummer Victor Carracedo are equal counterparts to Felix. While this project is labeled as Felix Martin, the rhythm section is as crucial as the backing band of other frontman-titled groups such as The Devin Townsend Project. And while Felix was proactive in producing this release, the talented Jamie King, known for his work with Between the Buried and Me and other prog bands, did a fantastic job in mixing the LP.

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In the end, I found that the most important aspect of this album was the conceptual creativity within. Other progressive instrumental musicians like Plini and Intervals are extremely talented, but I believe that there is a threshold where there is only so far you can take this style of music before it becomes bland. The idea to focus on Latin and world music, a notion that is somewhat foreign to the prog or metal community, is wondrous. Musically, the duality between tension and resolution that occurs in the symphony of string tapping allows for an immense experience. Part of me believes that the awe of Felix Martin's talent rests in seeing his skill live. Simply from listening, one cannot fully comprehend the reality in that 14 and 16-string guitars are being used. Regardless, Mechanical Nations is a stunning showcase of three skilled musicians that deliver not only impressive works of musical art, but also absurdly fun songs.

Score: 8/10

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