Symphony - Symphony EP Review
Symphony is a rock band from Los Angeles, California formed in 2011. The band consists of Briton Sky (lead vocals), Brandon Marlan (guitars) Cameron Kay (bass) and Jonny Weiner (drums). On January 1st, 2012 they released their debut self-titled EP Symphony. This 3 track album is sure to impress fans of rock music, as well as critics around the world. Their fusion of rock, groove and pop maintains a vintage feel while exploring new sounds and dramatic styles. The band pulls from many different influences and styles, and ultimately transcends any one musical genre, which can only be experienced in full during one of their live performances.
In essence, Symphony is a stadium rock act with similarities to musical acts like The Goo Goo Dolls, Bon Jovi, and similar sounding artists. It is very much what would fall under the broad definition of "pop" music, but interesting enough to impress active musicians and casual music listeners alike. Throughout my first few listens of the Symphony EP, I easily realized that this was not simply "standard fare" of the rock music world; but would actually be the work of talented musicians that will easily be elevated above the chaff of most modern rock music.
I was immediately impressed by the sound quality contained on the Symphony EP. This is a truly professional sounding debut EP, which in and of itself will make this music instantly appealing to new listeners around the world. Throughout my multiple listens to these tracks, I could not find one significant flaw among the tonal qualities of the mix. Each instrument blends together in a perfect way, with a few effects thrown on top (like reverb) to add a sense of depth and atmosphere to this music that really says "stadium" sound to me. I easily got the sensation that I was standing in a live arena watching these guys play, which is a rather unique feeling considering how very few bands can capture a "live" performance without sounding like it was actually recorded in a "live" setting (as in: sloppy playing and not properly mixed music). That is not to say that live music does not have it's own cathartic qualities, but when a listeners sits down to hear music; they often are not interested in hearing music that is unpolished and full of blemishes (especially not within this genre of rock/pop). In the sound department, to reinstate, I have no complaints and think the Symphony EP was very well done from a technical standpoint.
To further elaborate on the "sound" aspect of the Symphony EP, I will be analyzing in more depth specific aspects of Symphony's music below.
COMPOSITION AND INSTRUMENTATION:
The composition and instrumentation found on this album can be summed up in the following word: tight. Every note, chord, and composed section of music seems very intentional and serves a purpose within the songs. The tracks are primarily structured around a basic pop/rock compositional structure, but this makes sense considering the overarching genre that they are: stadium rock. The chorus sections are high flying and feature great rhythms, and on occasion additional guitar melodies and solos find themselves peaking out to instantly be imprinted on the listeners brain.
Instrumentally, the range of instruments is fairly limited to a standard rock setup, which is guitars, bass guitars, drums, and vocals. I would have preferenced to see some more instruments find themselves in these tracks, such as some light synths in a few parts. For what it is though, the instruments are all performed very well. The bass guitar and rhythm guitars are a major focus in the musical department, providing some great grooves and driving the tracks ahead. The tracks also contain some great lead guitar playing that is excellently phrased. Especially notable is the lead guitar on the last track "Gold Digger" which is excellently phrased, moving in and out of the track almost like a wave. In stadium rock fashion though, the focus of these tracks is primarily on the vocals.
Of course, in an attempt to be less then biased towards this artist; I could draw comparisons to other musical styles (such as post-rock or classical) then base my judgements of their music against those forms of music (in which case I could find much more to fault with this album), however I do not feel that would provide an honest look at what this band is and what they wish to represents. The Symphony EP is not particularly technical or complex, but again, it serves its purpose in the context of its genre and certainly stands out as a unique listening experience when compared to other "up and coming" artists in the rock/pop style of music.
LYRICS AND VOCALS:
Symphony's vocalist Briton Sky has immense talent within the rock genre. His vocal stylings are very diverse across this three track EP, showcasing a great vocal range. On multiple occasions throughout these tracks I was instantly reminded of a blend of AC/DC, Bon Jovi, and even in a few parts The Beastie Boys. The vocals are simply very well executed and will no doubt attract many people very easily. On the first track of this EP titled "So Sweet (Ride On)" we are treated to vocals that remind me heavily of Matchbox 20 and The Goo Goo Dolls in the melodic sections, yet the band still experiments a little bit with some shout sections that will instantly appeal to indie rock fans (I immediately thought of the band Tilly and the Wall), as well as fans of live music in general. Every track has a unique vocal styling to a degree that I almost felt like I was listening to a different band on each individual track. Take from that statement what you will, but as for myself I believe it lends credence to the simple fact that Symphony is a talented band of artists. The ability to convey so many emotions and musical concepts from one track to the next takes serious skill. The fact that they all work as one concise Gestalt is just beautiful.
Now, I understand I have placed a heavy emphasis comparing Symphony to other musical acts, but the primary reason for that is only to point out the similarities between this band and the more popular bands you have undoubtedly heard of before. The uniqueness of Symphony is the ability to blend the styles and concepts of these (apparent) influences into one 3 track package that is the Symphony EP. It is easy for musicians to sound like one or two of these bands, but not very easy to maintain an interesting sound and pull from a variety of source material to form a completely different listening experience; while still having a pop rock sensibility. In the vocal (and lyrical) department Symphony shows this eclectic blend of styles and influences exceptionally well, and I have no doubt that it will lend to their appeal to a wider audience of people.
Moving to further examine the lyrical department of the Symphony EP, I would say that these lyrics are not exactly major works of poetry; but they certainly get the job done and are not annoying by any stretch. In essence, the lyrics are fairly standard as far as rock music is concerned; but for what they are they are enjoyable and certainly will not bother people who frequently listening to rock music in general. The focus is much more on the vocal execution of these lyrics, which is again to be commended to a great degree. The second track on this EP, titled "Bad Guy," is a great representation of the vocal talent found on this album as well as of the lyrics that are sung.
Symphony's self-titled debut EP, the Symphony EP, is a solid album. It is not exactly a "safe" release as it does bend the genres of pop, rock, and groove styled music to a great degree where the band is able to sound "unique" amongst hoards of copycat rock bands; but the music still is able to maintain a semi-familiar sound so as to be appealing to the masses. This is the perfect grounds to be standing on considering a major focus of this band is placed on live performances, where I feel this music will standout without a doubt in a variety of settings (from intimate cafe performances to large stadiums).
If you are a fan of any of the aforementioned bands, like Goo Goo Dolls, Bon Jovi, Matchbox 20, Creed, and similar acts; or even just a fan of rock music in general; you will undoubtedly want to check out what Symphony has to offer. I give this debut EP a 9/10 because there is very little I can find to complain about when I listen to it. The mixing and mastering is well done, the instruments and vocals do their part (and well!), and as a conclusive whole I believe this album is one that will be significantly enjoyed by a range of people who are into rock and pop music in general. To end this review, let me leave you with a quote from the band: