MARK BRAVI (VIRTUAL SYMMETRY): “As A Band We All Share A Common Love For All That Is DREAM THEATER”

Virtual Symmetry Band Photo

Virtual Symmetry will release their first concept album on June 30, 2019 entitled Exoverse [read review]. The album tells the story of a hero that travels to a new dimension beyond what is known in our universe. His mission is to discover himself along the way. Musically, Exoverse is a mix of Progressive Metal and orchestral arrangements. The album was recorded at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios in the UK and features special guests, Thomas Lang [Peter Gabriel], Jordan Rudess [Dream Theater], and Thomas S. Englund [Evergrey] among others. Metal Express Radio had the chance to chat with Virtual Symmetry keyboardist, lyricist, and co-producer Mark Bravi.

Metal Express Radio: If I knew absolutely nothing about Virtual Symmetry how would you describe the group’s music to me?

Mark Bravi: Virtual Symmetry define themselves a Cinematic Progressive Metal band, we like to fuse soothing and moving melodical sections with huge orchestral themes, heavy metal riffs, atmospheric cinematic sections, guiding the listener through a unique and adventurous journey in each track. We like to tell stories, leave strong messages and use our own experiences to inspire people and share our viewpoint on life.

MER: Your latest album Exoverse will be released on June 30, 2020. This is your first concept album. It’s built on the story of a hero traveling to a new dimension beyond the known universe in order to discover himself. What inspired the story?

MB: All correct! The story of Exoverse was actually inspired by what is told in the previous album X-GATE Suite, a first test of concept album, in which the protagonist faces fast emotional changes while going through a hard time in his life, to reach a new and better “state of mind”.
The X-GATE Suite story was deeply inspired by my personal experience in that period, in which I had to face a hard breakdown and get back on my feet pretty fast.

In Exoverse the story has been reprised and turned upside down, like a reboot for a classic movie. The “state of mind” I described in X-GATE Suite becomes an actual area to be reached and the hero is brought on an actual adventure, driven by the pursuit of a legendary book containing the directions and rules to be followed in order to reach an extra dimensional portal leading to what lies beyond the known universe, a land of pure freedom, harmony and fulfillment.

MER: What songs are you most proud of and why? You can’t say all of them…

MB: The song I’m personally most proud of is “Exoverse Suite”, the new album’s last track. It has very deep messages lyrically speaking, which are supported by a great cinematic track with many movements, complex arrangements and fast genre switches here and there, from fusion to djent, orchestral and pop music.

As a band, we are very proud of our first ever released track “Program Error (We are the Virus)” from our debut album Message From Eternity. It was our business card, the track we showed ourselves to prog metal fans with and the first track to have a very special guest in it; Dream Theater’s Jordan Rudess. Who we also met in our first ever official show in southern Italy as opening act of Dream Theater themselves, in 2015.

MER: In addition to an orchestra and a gospel chorus you have other special guests. How did getting Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater on the album come about?

MB: This is a very particular story, as Valerio Villa, founder and guitarist of the band, first got in contact with him for the contribution on “Program Error” I just told you about. Going to some of DT’s after shows, playing on the same stage together in 2015 and meeting him in different location through the years helped us getting in contact with each other and asking him to be part of this album made him quite excited and that made us extremely happy!

MER: How did Tom S. Englund of Evergrey get involved?

MB: Well, the first fun thing is that Evergrey were on stage with us and Dream Theater in 2015 as well and we got to briefly meet them in the backstage, but in these years we found ways to get in contact with him through trusted friends in the music business who helped us as well, asked him to join us and made it all happen.

MER: When putting together orchestral songs, do the orchestra recordings come first or the band parts first?

MB: We always want to give near-definitive versions of the songs to the guests in our albums, with both melodies and harmonies well defined. Being I and Valerio the main composers of the songs, we like to give the orchestrators tracks that are meticulously crafted and already refined, in order to spend more time on our own for composition and less time with other artists for arrangements and guest sections. If the orchestrators come up with some variations to the structure or the harmonic chart of the tracks, we discuss about them and decide whether to keep the original idea or adapt the band to the variations.

MER: Who came up with the band name and what inspired it?

MB: The name “Virtual Symmetry” is an original idea of Valerio, he gave this name to one of his original musical projects in the 90s and brought it to the actual band. He wanted to give the band a name that sounded progressive, futuristic and philosophical at the same time, representing the idea of something very concrete but abstract at the same time, just like our music.

MER: Are there plans to tour in support of Exoverse or have the Covid-19 lockdowns prevented that?

MB: We discussed a lot about touring in support of the release of Exoverse, but being this not our main activity it is generally hard for now to think about a stable touring schedule. The Covid-19 measures in both Italy and Switzerland made us miss a cool live event in April, but gave us some time to plan our activity and to adapt to the situation.

We scheduled social media live Q&As, worked more on exclusive video material, promotion and web interaction with our fans and followers with contests and games, so we fortunately didn’t have a hard time getting through this, but feel very close to our artistic colleagues who found joy in spending more time with their family but had/have lots of difficulties with the music business.

MER: What has the band been doing musically while under lockdown?

MB: The lockdown helped us keep better track of the updates on the production of the album and its promotion, we uploaded an animated video of the opening track “ENTROPIA”, recorded and edited a special split screen performance of the same track and made it a contest for drummers, as the original track was played by the Maestro Thomas Lang and we still didn’t have a stable drummer in our lineup. In the meantime we also talked about new tracks and started working on them. There will also be some special surprise for all of our followers, but we can’t anticipate anything!

MER: In researching Virtual Symmetry it’s clear that visuals are just as important as the music. Not just with physical packaging and merchandise, but also on stage. Is that something the band puts together or do you give ideas to an outside company?

MB: Indeed. We wish to bring on stage all that is needed to support our Cinematic Prog Metal music and what better way to do that, than with animated videos in sync with the live performance? The live animations are created by a dear friend of ours, Tiziano Spigno, who is a musician as well and a phenomenal singer. I usually send him a detailed list of directions to be followed minute per minute to tell the story of every track and with his amazing skills makes it all happen with stunning results!

MER: Do you have a favorite concept album by another band?

MB: As a band we all share a common love for all that is Dream Theater and we love Scenes from a Memory, but I personally prefer The Astonishing and Haken’s Visions. Some of us like Fates Warning’s A Pleasant Shade of Gray a lot.

MER: Is the band considering a vinyl version of Exoverse?

MB: We have actually considered vinyl versions of all of our albums, but for now we didn’t find a big request for them, so we moved what is needed for their production to promotional expenses and media creation.

MER: What gig would you consider your worst?

MB: Wow, this is a hard question, as I can’t remember a worst VS live show… The one recorded in Lugano for the X-LIVE Premiere live Blu-ray was the hardest, as I and Diane Lee (our guest female singer) had lots of troubles with in-ear monitors. We regularly lost signal and had lots of disturbance in our monitors throughout the whole performance, but we made it out alive and with a spectacular Blu-ray!

MER: What gig would you consider your best?

MB: The live shows with Dream Theater are still the best live show we have ever played. To see thousands of Progressive music fans standing in front of us listening to tracks that had not been released yet (the show was in summer 2015 and our debut album was released in February 2016) and liking them a lot has been a very moving experience. When we announced our last song for the evening we heard a huge “Noooooo!” coming from the audience, it was one of the best moments in our life as a band.

MER: Do you have any rituals before hitting the stage?

MB: Well, we just like to relax, chat with everyone backstage, warming up with our instruments, our voices or by tapping on things, there are no actual rituals, just pure pre-show fun and relax to relieve the tension.

MER: Do you have day jobs outside of being in the band?

MB: Yes, we do! The founder Valerio is the owner of a real estate agency in Switzerland and he wished to have us working together one by one in order to be a group not only musically, but also in life, to strengthen our bonds and organize our days together between work and art, making us able to follow both activities regularly at professionally high levels. The only one of us who is actually in the music business is Alfonso Mocerino, our new drummer, who teaches and plays live shows with many other bands.

MER: Virtual Symmetry is currently running a contest for drummers in which the winner gets to play with the band on a split screen conference-type video. Are you close to winner? 

MB: Exactly, we wanted to create a contest which was also a way to give shout-outs to amazing musicians in our fan base, as playing Thomas Lang drum patterns is no joke at all! Well, many drummers sent us their requests to join the contest and we have received some files, we have some ideas for the moment but there’s time until the release of the album to choose, so there’s still time for us to receive more submissions to our mail info[at]

MER: Have you seen any really horrible submissions?

MB: Absolutely not! It is always common to find some submission that are worse than the others, but the ones we receive are always great!

MER: Are you planning any future contests for other instruments?

MB: We have some ideas in mind, we may be doing them for sure, we like to entertain our followers and fans with these kind of games in which they can show the other “Virtual Souls” (how we call them) what they are capable of. I remember our first contest was about Jordan Rudess’ outro solo in “Program Error.” Our fans were given the track without the solo and had to record their own. We received lots of amazing submissions and someone, instead of playing a guitar/keyboard solo, has written a full orchestral arrangement of the whole section!

MER: Is there anything I missed that you would like fans to know?

MB: You gave us some very interesting questions and we have covered lots of cool aspects and experiences of our band, but do you all know that in our first ever live show in Milano, our first drummer “Didi” cut his finger with a cymbal on the first hits and played for half an hour without any break after that?

Don’t forget to pre-order our new concept album Exoverse on our website [HERE], those of you who order the album before the release date will receive an exclusive autographed picture of the band with Thomas Lang!


  • George Dionne

    George was a contributor here at Metal Express Radio, reviewing albums and conducting interviews, out of Massachusetts, USA. George has contributed to numerous music related websites and blogs, and even managed his own from 2004-2009. George's first assignment was covering a live show by the mighty GWAR. By contrast his later assignments featured Judas Priest, Van Halen, and Bon Jovi. George was also the front man for the South Eastern Massachusetts cover band Sound Tower from 2009-2015.  Sound Tower played 300+ shows across MA and had two original songs on the Cape Cod radio station PIXY 103. George enjoys a good whiskey, scotch, and/or bourbon and fights crime in his spare time.

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