Thursday, August 12, 2010

Death - Symbolic

In my eyes, this is where they peaked

While it may not have the dream lineup that Individual Thought Patterns had, this is still one of the most solid ensembles of musicians ever put together. The extremely capable duet of newcomers, Kelly Conlon (bass) and Bobby Koeble (guitar) put on quite a show on Symbolic, each with their share of stand out technical parts. The real heroes of this record though, are hands down the two gods of their instruments, The Atomic Clock... Gene Hoglan (drums) and the almighty mastermind behind Death.... Chuck Schuldiner (guitar, vocals).

Let's get one thing out of the way early, Death has gone through many progressions as a band, and for some reason it is frowned upon (while bands like Running Wild get lambasted for never changing (and stranger yet, bands like Iron Maiden and The Lord Weird Slough Feg are praised for "sticking to their guns" (I love all three bands by the way))), maybe it is because they are one of the pioneers of Death metal, and to some, the first death metal band. So I guess as pioneers they aren't allowed to expand and instead need to stick with what they started lest they form a new band. Whatever, it's all a load of bullshit. My point is, this is during the later period of their career, so comparing it to Scream Bloody Gore or Leprosy is just absurd. Instead of the straight up thrashy death metal found on the first few releases, this is far more extreme progressive metal.

The production here is magnificent, every instrument is heard crystal clear, even the bass (a rarity for a metal record). Gene's drums just absolutely obliterate everything on high speed shredders like 1000 Eyes and the title track. Chuck's vocals are once again a bit higher than on the previous release, a trend that started with Human and continued throughout their discography.

The opening track begins with a slower, kind of grinding riff. You can just feel like something is going to explode on your face like Peter North's yogurt cannon does to the likes of Jenna Jameson, and oh boy does it deliver. When it kicks into full gear, I find myself headbanging and air guitaring every single time..... even when driving. This is a dangerous song for my iPod to randomly choose in the car. This particular track also features one of the most insane solos on the album. Easily one of the highlights... and it's only the beginning.

Next up is Zero Tolerance, a noticeable step down from the shredding moshfest of the title track. I think my main reason for thinking this a weak point in the album is because it's too slow. Hey, I love Candlemass, so slow music isn't a problem, it's just that this piece is too pedestrian, and seems to just chug along without ever releasing it's potential like the last one did. Again, the solo is the highlight of this song, and really saves it a point or two.

Empty Words is a strange one, it's one of my favorites, but there is just something about it that I find bizarre. Maybe it's because you hear one of the melodies used in the opening track being used here.... it's clear there is no shortage of ideas, but there is no overt concept to the album, so it's strange that they reuse ideas. That doesn't stop this song from being just as awesome, if not MORE awesome than the Symbolic. Death really is a band that gets it right when they turn it up to eleven and play fast paced, at least Hoglan seems the most comfortable at those extreme speeds... and that's where he shines the most. Further examples to come....

Sacred Serenity keeps the weirdness up by using a very blatant melody found in the previous track! It uses it as the chorus this time, so it's almost impossible not to notice, but once again it doesn't detract from the song at all. This one showcases some of my favorite riffs on the whole album.

But then, the unholy trinity of the album arrives. The next string of songs rivals the first half of Litany or By Inheritance for the most amazing string of songs in a row. 1000 Eyes is really Gene's showcase for his insanely precise drumwork. Coupled with a catchy chorus, this song is just tailor made for destruction. For best results, crank at full volume around old people. Without Judgement brings up the second part of our blasphemous trilogy of metal. It starts off with one of the most perfect riffs in the sense that I just feel like moving every time I hear it. Be it air guitar, moshing, punching my nearest companion in swinging distance, I find it impossible to sit still. The buildup around 1:50 is nothing short of orgasmic, especially when the drums kick in.

Bringing up the rear of the trilogy, is one of the most masterful songs of the genre, and considered by some to be the standard by which this style is judged by. This song is Crystal Mountain. As I've said in other reviews, the best things in life need the least explaining. The acousticism and melodic distortion intertwine so well in the chorus, it's nuts... just trust me.

Misanthrope is the first time the songwriting drops down a notch since the second track, and that isn't saying much, considering it is a great song. Finishing off the record is the 8 minute epic, Perennial Quest. This one is a fan favorite, but I actually find it to be a bit overlong. It has great riffs, some of the best on the record, but I don't think the song should've

My calculations make this album round up to a 96%, making it the highest rating I have given so far. Truly a testament to how great this record is. I suggest any music fan with a passing interest in metal that can at the very least tolerate screamed vocals give this album a shot. It was my gateway to Death, and it is a great album to start off with. If you like a more straightforward and raw sound, try their debut, Scream Bloody Gore. If you like really proggy death metal, try The Sound of Perseverance. If you are a big Atheist fan, try Individual Though Patterns. If a good mixture of all the elements of metal, listen to Symbolic. Really, Death can do no wrong.

RATING - 96%

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