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Death - Symbolic CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.24 | 504 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'Symbolic' - Death (8/10)

While the more devoted Death fans out there always have their own opinions as to which album is their favourite, the band's sixth album 'Symbolic' is generally considered to be the go-to album when speaking of their later, more progressive work. Since the death of the band's mastermind Chuck Schuldiner, 'Symbolic' has since gone to legendary proportions among metalheads. Indeed, the album is a very good, even great piece of progressively- inclined death metal, featuring some great musicianship across the board, and some instances of truly grand songwriting. However, for someone that hasn't been too endeared to Death in the past such as myself, it is hard to distinguish this album as being the landmark of metal it has been heralded as being. However, although far from perfect, the album continues to see Death progress and reach their potential as an act.

When compared to the album's predecessor 'Individual Thought Patterns', 'Symbolic' can be said to have higher highs, and lower lows. On one hand, Death's music has finally received some strong production values (thanks to the strong efforts of engineer Jim Morris), Schuldiner's voice and sharp guitar work have never sounded better, and some of the songs here would turn out to be among the best Chuck ever wrote. Unfortunately however, the album isn't as consistent as 'Individual Thought Patterns' and only drummer Gene Hoglan is left from the all-star lineup of musicians beforehand. However, despite not trumping past works in all areas, 'Symbolic' does show a step forward for this band.

The philosophical growls, intermittent soloing and familiar structures that can be heard on many of Death's earlier works can again be heard here; the biggest, most noticeable change remains the improved production. Musically, the songs here are as complex as they ever have been, but the extra additions of softer sections (the beautiful acoustic outro to the album in particular) improves a dimension of the band that had been touched upon before, but never really explored.

Highlights here include the beautifully melodic and technical 'Sacred Serenity' and 'Crystal Mountain', which is arguably the most recognizable track Death has to offer. Both of these songs (with the first of particular note) show the band in their element, merging great songwriting with a touch of beauty and plenty of fiery of great skill from each member, although the band chemistry felt more pronounced with 'Individual Thought Patterns'. However, the album would stand as being the band's best yet, were it not for a few lapses in the music, being parts which feel far too generic and bland to be part of a masterpiece, although no song is completely without merit. 'Empty Words' and 'Without Judgement' seem to pass without leaving much of an impression behind, although the weaker songs are always followed by a piece of gold.

'Symbolic' is- to sum it up- an excellent album that shows the influential band at their peak, and while I could argue that the final album 'The Sound Of Perseverance' would crown the band's discography, 'Symbolic' stands as a great piece of death metal, although not meeting my expectations of the grand masterpiece it had been made out to be.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |


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