1. STATE OF FLUX 2. CRYSTAL PHASE 3. THE CATALYST 4. SYMBIOSIS 5. RESISTANCE 6. METAMORPHOSIS
Vestal would appear to be a one man labour of love by multi instrumentalist Thomas Vestal, who composed, produced and barring one guitar solo, played every piece of music on this his debut album. What you can also take from that fact is that Thomas doesn't think he has a great singing voice, as if he did, I'm sure he would have sang on the songs too!! In fact all six tracks on the album are instrumental.
The emphasis across all the music on Symbiosis is very focused towards intricately arranged progressive rock with a symphonic train of thought. What strikes you first is the excellent standard of musicianship that Vestal has achieved right across all his chosen instruments. Over the course of the songs Thomas turns his hand to bass, guitar, keyboards, and drums as well as all the programming that it takes these days to put together a progressive album.
Influence wise the most striking similarity felt is The Rudess Morgenstein Project put together funnily enough by current Dream Theater ivory tinkler Jordan Rudess and Winger drummer Rod Morgenstein. Whilst the drumming is not as constantly manic on this release, a lot of the keyboard sounds and stylings are strongly reminiscent of Rudess' playing, whether that be on the more restrained "Resistance" with its classical interludes, or the straight prog of "State of Flux" where the keys support a strong riff by creating counterpoints married to a layered atmospheric background.
Equally impressive is the guitar and bass playing of Vestal, the bass shines throughout and yet again it's "State of Flux" that allows him the room to let it take centre stage for a while. Whilst the four string playing is impressive, it's the six string that really catches the ear. Vestal's style is laid back and fluid, the guitars seldom dominate but in fact complement and accentuate everything else that's going on. Only on the title track is a slight weakness shown, with a solo in the middle section that feels a little at odds with the nimble keyboards.
A lot of the music on Symbiosis would not be out of place on the soundtrack to a science fiction movie, with epic fanfare like "Metamorphosis" being a prime example. A driving insistent beat is interjected with keyboard blasts and angular guitar passages. Over it's almost 15 minute length you can imagine a battle taking place and as the song reaches its tension filled climax a resolution to the fight. It really is quite evocative stuff, where the strength can be put down to a real eye for detail where the arrangements are concerned. Every keyboard effect enhances what is going on around it and helps drive the song on.
Whilst the lush styles are obviously where Vestal was aiming for with the album, a little more variation would have been welcome as on the odd occasion the songs can become a bit bogged down in their own pomposity, however on the whole all six songs have a positive upbeat feel and keep the attention throughout.
Sometimes labours of love can be nurtured beyond their capabilities; however in this case that is most certainly not what has happened. Symbiosis is not an album that will break new ground for symphonic progressive rock, however it is a fine starting point for Vestal and one of which he should be very proud.
Sub-Genre: Progressive Rock Origin: North America Multi-born musician