Thursday, November 30, 2017

Review: Herman Martinez - Secret Doors, Hidden Stairs

It is my pleasure with this review to introduce you to Herman Martinez (Video Version of this review available on the bottom). 

Herman Martinez is an up and coming (though experienced in previous bands) musician to look out for with his newer solo project.
 He plays an ethereal form of rock that crosses into many styles and influences. One of his admitted influences is the ever evolving musical auteur Steven Wilson, whose venturing into prog, alternative, metal, and psychedelic space rock styles have inspired a legion of like minded musicians to push the boundaries.

 Herman Martinez is one of these people. I also hear some elements of shoegaze, Pink Floyd and related bands, as well as alternative/indie in Herman's new album, Secret Doors, Hidden Stairs (which appears to be his second release on Bandcamp). The surreal title and artwork is only a hint of what the music contains, because it definitely contains multitudes to paraphrase the famous poet Walt Whitman. 

I also hear some of modern Anathema (the non metal years) in this release. Some of it also could draw comparisons to the psychedelic folk artists of yesteryear.
 The album begins with Season Premiere, a slow but upbeat song that starts with a lilting guitar melody. The guitars are then supplemented with some otherworldly vocal harmonies and the song continues in this manner, along with some mellow piano added to the mix. The second song improves on the vocals and has a more acoustic feel. Herman has cited Alice in Chains as an influence, and I can hear it in the somewhat angular vocal harmonies that give it a chilling touch.

The third song Paracosm is more on the light side in a way, with its drifting acoustic guitars as the melodies are not as obtuse as some on the prior two.

The fourth song Pareidolia is an instrumental has an even bigger acoustic base and this does well to propel the song to a new height.

The song Magic Squares features some great interval changes that paint a great atmosphere to get lost into.

The next few songs continue much the same manner, with multilayered guitar melodies, occasional piano and effected guitars, as well as occasional odd timed rhythms that give the songs a slight progressive edge.

The Gardner actually gets somewhat heavy for awhile, though it is cut from the same cloth as the previous ones in the beginning. This may just be my favorite for it's range of emotions and for the vocal harmonies that completely clicked as well. In fact, what is interesting about the last quarter of the album or so is how there is much more heavy guitar used. John Travoltron's theme in particular has some fuzzed out mad psychedelia, which is refreshing to hear. It is another instrumental song as well.

Season Finale is the last song, and continues the theme of “Herman Goes Electric” at least for parts of the song (not that the earlier songs of the album didn't have electric guitar, but these songs have more hard rock bits than earlier parts of the album). The heavy parts reminded me a bit of King Crimson in a way. This is one of the strongest songs on the vocals as well on vocals, as the confident delivery takes the song to a higher level.

Lyrics to the album are what's expected by many of the titles and artwork, both surrealist and personal. 

One caveat I will give for readers of Mattowarrior's Metal madness is that is very little or no metal to be found here, other than the last few songs having a slightly heavier base, however, I found the music credible enough and relating to many metal band's side projects or mellower parts to qualify for inclusion of a review on here. I was reminded of a discussion I had with someone the other day about my liking of many progressive rock and AOR bands of the 70's and 80's. Essentially, the person asked me why there was a liking of such music when I'm known as “Mr Metal”, and while I understand their understanding of metal music is pretty nil, I still explained that much of the bands I like have a wide breadth of influences that range the spectrum, because that's a lot of what progressive metal is about. It's not necessarily the style metal or hard rock that they play on the radio, and this an important distinction that I needed to point out. Anyways, I digress.

Herman does not play metal, but I thought since his music shares a lot of influences that have also influenced me as a musician, and similarities with some of the more progressive parts of the metal idiom that I enjoy, I would make an exception for this review, especially since the other music blogs I operate do not have the traction nor history that this one does.

It's cool to be in the stage of discovering such a refreshing artist like Herman Martinez. Since I am a fan of his cited influences, I feel privileged to discover such acts in this time. If you want music that can take you to other dimensions and expresses a wide range of emotions, I can not recommend this album any more highly. Looking forward to see how this project develops.

You can check out Herman with the following links:

Video edition of this review: