Review: Symbolic
Magazine: Prog Archives / USA
Written by: Marc Baum
Published: April 2006

Symbolic is Death's pinnacle and outstanding masterpiece. Chuck Schuldiner takes the complex songwriting from Individual Thought Patterns and sets it on the next level here. With a crystal clear production and powerful band sound, superbly engineered by producer Jim Morris, were Schuldiner's ideas perfectly brought to record. The line-up was re-arranged with Kelly Conlon on bass and Bobby Koelble on guitar. Only drum-beast Gene Hoglan was recruited by Chuck Schuldiner on Symbolic from the last album.

There are a couple obvious changes in Deaths sound with the release of Symbolic, one Chucks voice is in the higher register and is more of a scream/snarl type sound. Secondly the music is crisp and clear thanks to some great production. Some fans of older Death may not like these changes, but don't worry it's still damn heavy, but at the same time it's probably the most accesible Death album… While yet again at the same time being really progressive in a sense.

"Symbolic" is up first, the song is mid-paced and rather long, but also technical and progressive. The music is what makes this, the guitar solos at the half-way mark are jaw dropping. And that reprisal of the thrashy opening riff around the 3:50, ooohhh…

"Zero Tolerance" the next song, a slow paced crusher with some more great solos. This song is also a fan favourite and that fact is well justiced, since the song is a melodic, powerful and well arranged smasher.

"Empty Words" starts out with some type of eerie atmospheric sounds then comes crashing down. A great lead riff drives this song at first, Chucks vocals are great here, a classic Death song and sounds like it could have came from Human or ITP. And good god those solos just scream.

"Sacred Serenity" is another superb piece. The bass pounds out loud during pretty much the whole song. The little breakdown at about the 2 and a half mark that slams back into full force sounds awesome. While this isn't a typical Death song, Chucks vocals sound great and it is just a fantastic progressive piece.

"1,000 Eyes" speeds things back up and has some of the most impressive drumming I think I've ever heard, damn that guy can play! The melodic lead guitar chord in that song, which repeats throughout is simply haunting and I always get goosebumbs when they run together with the insane drumwork by Gene. Brilliant!

"Without Judgement" keeps the pace up, some great riffs and what do you know some awesome solos drive this song. There's a weird breakdown at about 3:00, you know what's coming when you hear this, the song rips back to pace. The lyrics here are worth mentioning, Chuck has always been one of my favorite lyricists.

"Crystal Mountain" is pretty fast paced, technical riffs/solos and tempo changes it pretty much has it all. Some pretty awesome lyrics too, anytime I think about the band in general the line "Inside crystal mountain, evil takes its form" pops to mind. God, great song!

"Misanthrope" is up next, one of the most progressive songs by Death. Complex, with simply stunning tempo changes and brilliant guitar work.

"Perennial Quest" is the closer, and is the most experimental/progressive song Death ever done. Clocking in at over 8 minutes long, the song starts off with the line "The journey begins" that's what this song is, a journey. The song flows along quite smoothly the first time I heard it I remember thinking how it seemed more like 5 or 6 minutes as opposed to 8. The little accoustic sections may scare off the hardcore death metal guys, but they sound pretty mesmerizing with the guitar soloing over them. Great song and highly recommended to been checked out by any prog fan out there!

There are albums that went beyond words and need to be breathen and adored. Symbolic is one of them. This is in my book not only the best Death album, it's also the greatest progressive death metal album ever recorded! A must-have item to any (progressive) death metal collection! On their next and final album The Sound Of Perseverance Chuck Schuldiner once again broke the boundaries of death metal and perfected the progressive element in DEATH.

Album rating: 10/10


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Edited for Empty©Words 01-15-08