Review: Symbolic
Magazine: Deadtide / USA
Written by: Kris Yancey
Published: February 2008

There are few personalities in the death metal community that are indomitable. Chuck Schuldiner, the only original member and main songwriter of death metal's titular band, Death, is one such example, perhaps due in part to the DM progenitor's unfortunate death in 2001. But those of us who are fans of Death know why Chuck Schuldiner is one of the most lauded death metal figureheads of all time: simply, you cannot fake the sweat, blood, tears, and outright talent that Chuck dumped into the songs he wrote. The best example of Chuck's gift, and what has been a contender for the best death metal album of all time for over a decade now, is the sixth Death outing, 'Symbolic.'

There is wonder: every instrument is audible, none overwhelming the other, and none becoming mashed together into synchronicity syndrome that often plagues death metal bands. The low end is bouncy and still menacing, not discarded to the back of the mix ('Sacred Serenity' has one fun and bombastic bass intro). The double guitars switch between tons of different fields of distortion during interludes and bridges ('Crystal Mountain' and 'Without Judgment' come to mind) while keeping bright and melodic on the main riffs and dream-inducing grooves. The vocals have a rich snap to them without losing their originally visceral edge. Drums, handled by no less than Gene Hoglan, are as precision as one could only expect from the Machine: the fills, breaks, timing, EVERYTHING drum-wise on this album is a standard by which all other death metal drum efforts are compared.

To say that one song represents the album best would be a complete and utterly devastating understatement on my part. From the opening lick on 'Symbolic' to the acoustic outro with accompanying electric solo on 'Perennial Quest,' there really isn't a boring moment to be had on here. But the kicker is that each of the songs have their own identity: this album is not a guitar-wank fest for Satch hounds fixated on just how many sweep arpeggios managed to get crammed into the solos, nor is it beating brutality into your skull like a thick-fisted mongoloid with a hatred for anything remotely above the cut of guttural and bleak. Each of the nine tracks take you on their own separate journeys, and get their point across in poignant, deliberate, and sincere ways. I really can't compare two songs on this album to one another. Honest.

Those who are not fans of Death, I truly do not understand you. That being said, if you, the not-Death fan, are reading this, you are subscribing to the beliefs of a writer, if for only a moment. If you never end up listening to 'Symbolic,' the moment I want you to remember most from reading this review is this: "You're going to hate yourself for not listening to 'Symbolic' sooner."

Standout Tracks: All


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Edited for Empty©Words 02-25-08