The San Diego area Progressive Metal powerhouse, known as Symbolic, recently released their fourth album. It’s the second release that was done as a concept, and ‘Xenatopia’ will certainly take you on one hell of a journey. Led by the distinctive vocals of Scott Bruce and backed by Stevie Ray Potts (guitars, keys), Robert Fernandez (bass), and Tom Wallace (drums, percussion) this four piece delivers a sonic experience that belies the fact that they are an independent band. The talent by each musician and the production of the CD once again has me wondering why this band isn’t on a major label yet.
“Xenatopia is a tale of interplanetary abduction, assimilation, forced servitude and one character's attempts to break free of those bonds” according to Symbolic’s facebook page. Drawing parallels to the way that many people feel right now allows the listener to either relate or escape. It’s all a matter of perspective. What you can’t deny though, regardless of how you view it, is that fact that as a whole this is one of the tightest releases out there.
Technically speaking this is Symbolic’s best release so far. There has been an evolution in the sound that is evident if you’re lucky enough to have all of their releases. Although there are four members in the band they are so cohesive that it feels like one entity. If Steve is giving you goose bumps with a guitar solo, you still hear the oh so important rhythm of Tom and Robert. If Scott is bearing his soul while raging against the ever increasing phenomenon of lost individualism the rest of the band is enhancing it, not trying to be heard over it.
Lyrically this one will make you think. Obviously we’re all going to take different things from the lyrics, but what I came away with was a stronger desire to remain an individual. A world where everyone is the same scares the hell out of me and gives me bad sci-fi movie flashbacks. You have to admire the main “character” of this album for refusing to conform.
As a whole ‘Xenatopia’ follows in the great tradition of an album telling a story. It isn’t a new concept by any means, think ‘Tommy’ or ‘The Wall’, but it seems to be a dying art form. While you can still take an individual track from ‘Xenatopia’ the best way to experience it is by listening to ‘Taken’ all the way through to ‘Mechanical Dawn’. I’ve no doubt that there will be certain tracks that you will like more. That’s what the whole musical journey is about; finding the songs that you connect with. Personally, my favorite tracks are ‘Eyes of Madness’ with its heavy sound, pulse pounding beat, and vocals that have me getting goose bumps; and ‘Holographic Heart’ because it shows an entirely different side of Symbolic. Instead of it being the driving sound I’m accustomed to this song is ballad like with a beautiful acoustic guitar bridge and harmony.
Although this band is primarily known in the San Diego area I would highly recommend finding this disc. As somebody that listens to hundreds of CDs a year for many reasons, ‘Xenatopia’ is definitely a stand out; not only for the technical precision, but for daring to do something that makes you think and doesn’t follow a trite formula to try to boost sales. Fans of Symbolic rejoice, they’ve come to save you from mediocre music.