Virtual Symmetry – Exoverse Review

My personal favorite of the AMG banners has always been that most legendary of Yngwie Malmsteen quotes – “How can less be more? That’s impossible!” It’s a perfectly true statement as long as you’re willing to completely miss the point of the original cliché, which, frankly, makes for a great worldview. In that vein, I bring you progressive metal, in the form of the sophomore full-length from Swiss-Italian Virtual Symmetry; that output, Exoverse is the very definition of an album that believes, with everything that it’s got, that less is not more, that that would be impossible.

Even after devoting my introduction paragraph to the concept, I still feel the need to stress that Exoverse is absolutely jam-packed with stuff. I’m talking about an eight-track, seventy-five minute album that feels like it has enough ideas in it for an even longer album with even more tracks on it. Say what you will about the album – and I will, eventually, don’t worry – but Virtual Symmetry do not lack for ideas or ambition. Exoverse is a gargantuan creature, drawing influences from the likes of Southern Empire and Dream Theater to create a massive, highly symphonic, progressive metal sound. Never content to stay in one place for long, Exoverse is a hard creature to pin down, with speedy solos giving way to big catharses amidst constantly-shifting song structures. I’d say this is definitely an album designed to be listened to in full, but that quickly becomes a challenge when faced with its daunting runtime.

Still, we begin with “Entropia,” the six-minute instrumental opener that features climactic synths, progressive noodling, dramatic solos, big organs, and more. Follow-up “XI” is one of the more focused tracks on the album. At ten minutes in length, it resembles symphonic metal in the Kamelot style – vocalist Marco Pastorino even sounds a bit like Karevik, especially during intense moments. Halfway through, however, the song abruptly morphs into a heavier, largely instrumental number that closes out the runtime without ever really calling back to its first half – for all intents and purposes, it may as well be a different song. This feeling of tracks with enough ideas to have been multiple songs continues throughout Exoverse. Often, songs feel like they’ve ended several minutes before they have (“Exodus,” “Safe”), and the twenty-three minute closer (“Exoverse”) could easily be three or four unique songs in itself. Again – there is a lot to digest here.

And, honestly, it’s too much. Between instrumental passages tacked on the end of various songs (“Exodus,” “Remember,” “Safe”), the twenty-three minute epic that feels like it was written specifically to be an extra-long song1 (“Exoverse”), and the general lack of repeated themes throughout, burnout is my constant companion through Exoverse. Virtual Symmetry do not demonstrate much of an ability to edit their music, and it really hurts the album as a whole. Other, minor complaints – the ballad tracks (“Odyssey,” “Remember”), for example are fairly rote, reminding of Avantasia at the best of times and Disney at the worst – might be easy to look past, even expected, but for the fact that they are just more items to add to the pile of things Exoverse does. Keys from Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), a gospel choir, the Sinfonietta Consonus orchestra, vocals from Tom Englund (Evergrey) (“Exodus”), and a saxophone all make the list of guest contributions to this record, and there’s still so much going on beneath it all that seventy-five minutes does not feel like enough time to take all of it in. When Exoverse ends, I’ve heard so much that I haven’t really taken in any of it.

The thing is, the performances are great. Virtual Symmetry play their hearts out, with all the passion and gusto of a young band ready to take its place in the musical world, and it’s absolutely admirable. Frankly, I hate that I have to give a rating for this album, because I feel like the corresponding number below doesn’t honestly capture my feelings about Exoverse. But for the sense of there being far too much here to take in properly, I would have few complaints. There’s a strong album buried in here, and I really hope to hear the potential realized in the future.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: Self-Released
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: June 30th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. New idea + new idea + new idea + new idea + new idea… you get the idea.
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