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Death - Symbolic CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.27 | 603 ratings

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5 stars Wonderful! This is a near perfect follow up to Individual Thought Patterns, making an even greater album in this more melodic style that DEATH was exploring. Gene Hoglan is back on drums tearing it up, and although the other members are not well known it doesn't matter as this is still the peak of the (crystal) mountain of DEATH's evolution. This took me a while to full appreciate because I heard the two albums around it (ITP and The Sound of Perseverance) beforehand and this fits squarely in between them stylistically. Technical, complex and full of character, these are attributes that DEATH has become associated with and this album is the best representation of that sound.

It starts of sounding much like the previous album, but listening further will reveal songs which are on the whole stronger and even more memorable. The complexity and quality really hits in time with the 8 minute Perennial Quest serving as the ultimate statement of Chuck's intent. I think a lot of what I used to describe previous albums applies to this, except that the care and attention to detail here is a just that further developed. The combination of heavy bits, slow bits, fast bits, melodic bits, including all the tempo and time signature changes... just about everything that was put down on the last record is fully realised now and at its most effective. Considering how much I have praised the last two albums this is not to be taken lightly and while I feel that this best represents the DEATH sound, because Chuck and his ever changing band were so consistent it is that hard to choose. The production is also very kind to everything this time, while not up to the insane clarity of the final DEATH offering, everything still feels huge and the effect of combining atmospheric melody in contrast with heavy riffs is fully heard because of it.

The last three albums all follow a similar path that was developed into and this is the centrepiece of that identity. I forgot to explore the significance of the lyrics in previous review so I'll do it now. Zero Tolerance and Crystal Mountain continue to push Schuldiner's ever increasing lyrical depth, now firmly rooted in philanthropic, philosophical and social matters. Spiritual Healing touched on somewhat morbid and negative social issues which continued to be refined and get more inquisitive and gain depth in each new album. This made a change from the gore and death lyrics of Scream Bloody Gore and Leprosy and became synonymous with DEATH in their later years. The band logo also changed to remove the cliché images and confirm DEATH's rebirth as a serious band.

Another point that is of interest I feel, is how the DEATH artwork up to this point was in threes. The first three albums had artwork by Ed Repka, who is famous for his paintings for metal bands such as MEGADETH, NUCLEAR ASSAULT and ATHIEST's first album amongst others. This covers the whole early period of the band. From Human to Symbolic, artwork was provided by Rene Meville, whose covers that present more abstract, obscure and cough... symbolic pieces which perfectly represent this new direction and the new era of the band. The last DEATH full length, I feel is separate from these although related in terms of musical progression. It simply came about under different circumstances to the mid 90s albums. It's an interesting point that shows the importance of artwork, and how in this case they distinctly mark and define in their own way two very separate eras of the band.

Overall, I feel this is the best place to begin with DEATH. It is more accessible in that it is the height of the progressive era of the band and not as extreme as the earlier albums that may scare away a prog fan. Essential metal mastery!

Xanadu97 | 5/5 |


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