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Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

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5 stars this album is quite extreme for many viewers of this site,but if you can stand brutal vocals you will be regarded with a great progressive my opinion this is an essential for anyone who likes prog has some of the greatest riffs you will ever hear.5 stars for sure
Report this review (#67402)
Posted Monday, January 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is befar Death's finest albums. As each album is realeased, Schuldiner's vocals and guitar technique becomes sharper and precise. His vocals sound higer pitched then his previous albums, his riffs are amazing, and his lyrics are far more thought-out. Gene Hoglan's drumming are precise, tight, and he does not over-play his parts as much as Richard Christy does on The Sound of Perserverance. Bobby Koelbe's solos are far more 'schooled' as Schuldnier's technique, so he really adds to the over-all music.My favorite songs are Crystal Mountain, 1000 eyes, Misanthrope, and Perennial Quest (by far the BEST track of Chuck's carrer in my opinon). This album is definately worth the money. This album is 5 stars at best.
Report this review (#70176)
Posted Tuesday, February 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
Marc Baum
5 stars "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 jorney. 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! Sorry Opeth, but you need to top this symbolic pinnacle of the genre, in which you're considered to be the masters. 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 points = 98 % on MPV scale = 5/5 stars

point-system: 0 - 3 points = 1 star / 3.5 - 5.5 points = 2 stars / 6 - 7 points = 3 stars / 7.5 - 8.5 points = 4 stars / 9 - 10 points = 5 stars

Report this review (#75531)
Posted Wednesday, April 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Symbolic is another step forward for extreme metal visionaries Death. The complexity of Individual Though Patterns has been married to a new level of heavy, much of which is thanks to returning drummer Gene Hoglan. Jim Morris finally learned to produce and this record is Death's second best sounding, next to their swan song. Symbolic marks the change from Chuck's growls to a bit higher voice, though it's not as apparent as it is on The Sound of Perserverance. Bassist Kelly Conlon and guitarist Bobby Koelble join the ranks and, though not as good as the lineup before and after, they pull their own weight. TSoP is Death's greatest work, but this album is the best for individual songs.

There are quite a few highlights here. "Symbolic" opens the album with high technicality and amazing solos. "Zero Tolerance," arguably the band's finest song, slows things down to really wreak havoc on your ears. "1000 Eyes" features some of Gene's best drumming and it revs things up. "Without Judgement" has a killer Schuldiner solo. "Crytal Mountain" is another Death classic with some great lyrics. If Zero Tolerance isn't Death's best song, then "Perennial Quest" is, with its acoustic passages and smooth progression.

Schuldiner and general death metal fans must own this album. It's tight, proggy, and full of suprises. Highly recommended.

Grade: B+

Report this review (#109017)
Posted Friday, January 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars finally they added death.

Symbolic is one of the greatest metal albums ever. Flat out. Chuck wrote some of the catchiest brutal riffs ever and he has gene behind him to blast everything out with him. Chuck really delivered great SONGS on this album. And althought the lineup isnt as good as the members on human this album is fantastic all the same. Perenial quest, crystal mountain, zero tolerance and misanthrope are all great death metal masterpieces.

Report this review (#115085)
Posted Wednesday, March 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars There are few bands that have a catalogue as solid as the seminal DEATH and Symbolic is perhaps the highpoint. As you'd expect from death the album is full of well written songs, technicality, great riffs and an unrelenting ferocity, this time around though the sound is much tighter and more refined thanks to a crystal clear production.

Chuck schulinder has again assembled a group of fine musicians and chuck himself has developed into a formidable guitarist and I must say I'm a fan of chuck's vocals on this record as well as they are higher and less guttural than some of his other work. What can there be said of Gene Hoglan - what a beast, easily one of the best drummers in the genre nicknamed 'the atomic clock' for his incredible precision at high tempos, a fantastic performance - a technical and confronting effort on the drums. The guitars and bass are super tight thanks to the talents of Kelly Conlon and Bobby Koelble and by god are there some massive solos on this record, schulinders solos are fantastically musical especially considering how heavy the music is and they are played note perfect.

The title track is a clear highlight from the outset, we're flung head first into the fray 45 seconds into it with a fast thrashy riff and it quickly becomes apparent just how talented hoglan is on drums. great riffs, great solos, great structure - best song on the album.

Next up another great song in zero tolerance, featuring some fantastic lead guitar work and a bitchin' slow paced chuggage section with schulinders oppressive vocals and well written lyrics.

Without judgement is also a highlight featuring some spacey atmospheric guitar work and again some blazing fast thrash inspired riffs.

The album comes to a close on the long winded perennial quest, I don't know I was actually quite disappointed with this song and I really can't see what others see in this song, I guess the loss is mine.

Overall it's a solid album and one of DEATH's finest but I find that there isn't enough variance in the songs, I feel a sense of sameness about a lot of the songs, there are some memorable riffs but then there are a lot of riffs that are similar, They're all pretty much played in the same key based around the same scale. The highest I can give it is 4 stars a great album if you're into technical metal and bands like ATHEIST or CORONER.

Report this review (#117022)
Posted Sunday, April 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Symbolic is perhaps one of my all-time favourite Death records, from their superior quality catalogue. Steve G has been replaced by Kelly Conlon, who does he's task fine but doesn't match the Jaco Pastorius of metal. We still have the Atomic Clock Hoglan behind the drum kit, and [&*!#], does that guy know how to drum. Pure excellency i'd say. Bobby Koelble, a pal of Chuck tears some awesome solos on this album on the songs Symbolic, Zero Tolerance and Perennial Quest.

The title song defines the word quality. Chuck's vocals are are bit more high-pitched than on the previous ones, but still, pure rage. The riffs, the solos and Gene's drumming, basically on every song, something that can't be cheered enough. Zero Tolerance has an orgasmic instrumental part after the first chorus, Empty Words is one of the most famous Death songs. The chorus is cathy and gives me chills everytime i listen to it. Sacred Serenity continues the good chosen road, but 1,000 Eyes, one of the angriest songs from the technical era of Death. The riffs will crush against the wall.

Without Judgment, what would we do? I surely don't know. All hail Evil Chuck! Crystal Mountain is another well-known song on the album. It would be blasphemy to talk about "hit-material" considering Death, but this would be something like that. Just awesome. Misanthrope, hater of all mankind. I'm running out of words here, it's too much perfection. Perennial Quest works as the closer. And it works well, the vocal parts are bit crooked and proggy but that's just bonus. The album ends nicely with some acoustic chilling.

Must have for metalheads and for some heavier proggers too, the symbol of awesome audio madness.

Report this review (#136870)
Posted Friday, September 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Wow, this album is something special for me. Super album with stunning musicianship, in fact like always, Death were above average bands. Symbolic is perhaps one of my all-time favourite Death records, from their superior quality catalogue, my fav remains Individual Thought Patterns. Only few bands can deliver such solid and in the same time very skillfull album as Death. I can mention that this is more death metal than previous one who was more fusion, but the result is fabulous. Absolute every track is mindblowing from the opening track Zero Tolerance to the stunning Perennial Quest, Death on the finest moment. We can here some influences, of course in a little portion, some Atheist, some Anacrusis or here and there Psychotic Waltz, but that is not a bad thing, because are so well melted together that you wan't recognized them only if you know this bands and this album particulary. What to add one of the best albums ever in prog metal, and the musicians: 2 new members Kelly Conlon on bass and Bobby Koelble on guitar, on drums remain the master Hoglan, again here is unbeliveble and of course the main man Schuldiner. 5 stars without hesitation, one of the true albums of '90 and in metal in general, recommended.
Report this review (#142269)
Posted Friday, October 5, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars "Symbolic" is the 6th full-length studio album by US, Florida based death metal act Death. The album was released through Roadrunner Records in March 1995. There have been a couple of lineup changes since "Individual Thought Patterns (1993)", as guitarist Andy LaRocque has been replaced by Bobby Koelble and bassist Steve DiGiorgio has been replaced by Kelly Conlon. Drummer Gene Hoglan remains from the lineup who recorded the predecessor along with band founder/guitarist/vocalist Chuck Schuldiner.

Stylistically the music on "Symbolic" continues to refine the technical death metal style Death introduced on "Human (1991)" and further developed upon on "Individual Thought Patterns (1993)". So the music style on "Symbolic" is not miles away from how those two mentioned releases sound. But as mentioned certain elements have been refined and new elements have been added to make "Symbolic" stand out as one of the most well thought out and sophisticated releases in the band´s discography. One thing main composer Schuldiner has focused on is catchiness, which was never really an issue on previous releases by the band, but here it reaches new heights. Every single track on the album features memorable vocal hooklines/patterns, melodic lead themes, and catchy rhythm work, and "Symbolic" just feels like an album where nothing is left to chance. Everything fits in the right place, and the hooks appear just when they need to. Add to that intelligent and thought provoking lyrics, which are far away from the band´s original blood´n´gore type lyrics, and you have an intriguing and mature release. It´s not sophisticated in a way where power is lost though. It´s still overall a very aggressive and raw release, which I think is important to emphasize.

Schuldiner started out being relatively deep yet intelligible growling, but over the years have become higher pitched, and they´ve been given another tweak on "Symbolic" to become the most high pitched growling vocals up until then on a Death release. It´s still unmistakably Schuldiner singing though, and the vocals are generally very sharp, aggressive, and well performed.

The Jim Morris sound production is powerful, clear, and detailed, and suits the material perfectly. While the sound production on "Individual Thought Patterns (1993)" is professional and well sounding, I always felt the drum sound was a bit off, but that has been corrected on "Symbolic", where the drums feature a great powerful sound. Not that it needs to be said, but Gene Hoglan is a brilliant drummer, and with this sound production, his skillful playing is on full display. His footwork is incredibly fast and precise, but his symbal- and hi-hat work also deserves a special mention. The rest of the band are also well playing, but compared to their predecessors, both Bobby Koelble and Kelly Conlon are rather anonymous. Most guitar solos are played by Chuck Schuldiner, and you seldom notice the bass (which is a huge difference from the busy and high in the mix bass playing by Steve DiGiorgio). It makes for an overall more streamlined sound, but also a slighly less progressive one.

That´s not an issue at all though, as the material on the 9 track, 50:37 minutes long album is well written and memorable. Tracks like "Empty Words", "Zero Tolerance", "Misanthrope", the title track, and "Crystal Mountain" are absolutely brillitant, but the same can be said about the rest of the material, so it doesn´t make much sense picking highlights. "Symbolic" is through and through a high quality release, and a 5 star (100%) rating is fully deserved.

Report this review (#146699)
Posted Wednesday, October 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
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!

Report this review (#148383)
Posted Wednesday, October 31, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Perfection, complete perfection. These were the first thoughts that ran through my head upon the first listen of this album. "Symbolic" is Death's sixth studio album. The band had begun in progressing their sound a few albums back on "Human" but nothing at all to this extent. If you will excuse the pun, Chuck chucked out most of the death metal sound on this album and chucked in a whole bunch of progressive influence which really makes this Death's most unique album (behind The Sound of Perseverance).

Chuck's vocals are different on this one, I would have a hard time classifying them as standard death metal vocals but they sure are harsh and raw. I really wish these kinds of vocals are used more often in metal as they are full of power and emotion. The guitar playing is absolute genius, the opening riff of "Symbolic" has to be one of my favourite riffs ever. The slow, brooding riff turns into some fast paced action and then into one of the craziest solo's that Death have ever written. That kind of guitar work makes the album great.

Another thing that Death have incorporated into "Symbolic" are softer section in songs. Such songs as "Crystal Mountain" and "Perennial Quest" have acoustic guitars, but by no means are these songs lacking any balls. In fact, I think it was quite gutsy for Chuck to add in these section as they really are different to anything Death had done up to that point.

Lyrically, "Symbolic" is Death's finest hour. Such songs as "Perennial Quest" and "Without Judgment" are highly philosophical. I'm really glad that Chuck ditched the old horror and gore thing many albums ago in favour of these lyrics.

The rest of the band, Kelly Conlon (bass), Bobby Koelble (guitar) and Gene Hoglan (drums) are often forgotten. Although Chuck shine on this album Conlon and Hoglan are the backbone. Hoglans' drums in every song are so powerfull and full of raw emotion, he truly is one of the greatest drummers in metal. As far as Death bassists go, Kelly Conlon is not the best (that hight distinction must go to Steve DiGiorgio) but that doesn't mean he is bad. He shines the most on "Sacred Serenity" but apart from that the bass can be forgettable Bobby Koelble does a really decent job as Death's second guiatarist. Although Chuck does indeed to the better guitar riffs and solos on the album, Koelble does have some interesting parts.

This is easily the most Accessible although it is far from commercial. Anyone who is a fan of the great Chuck Schuldiner should get this album. There is something for everyone in this album, harsh vocals, incredible guitar melodies and pounding drums so the listener should easily fall in love with this album just the way I did.

Originally written for

Report this review (#154548)
Posted Friday, December 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Death was a band that evolved from album to album and reached it's highest point with "Symbolic" in 1995. Undoubtedly, Death's masterpiece of music, the record is an intense extension of death metal's limits using high technique and balance. The album follows a straight melodic line that oscillates between electric and acoustic creating great atmosphere and harsh feelings. One of the main characteristics of "Symbolic" is it's speed, the execution being done quickly and precisely showing much sophistication and complexity. The lead guitar collaborates very well with the rhythm one, demonstrating ingenious patterns and a large perspective regarding music. The drums are impressive and nevertheless technique. The rhythm isn't monotonous at all, the persecutions being serene or intense depending on the lead guitar and the vocals. Chuck plays his wild screaming vocals once more on "Symbolic" giving it an atrocious attitude. As mentioned before, all the songs have similar structures, but all of them are masterpieces: "Symbolic" opens the album with it's aggressive riffs [9/10] being followed by the distortersed "Zero Tolerance" [9/10]. The atmosphere changes with "Empty Words" and it's acoustic beginning [9/10] but with a rough continuation that is shifted to serenity by "Sacred Serenity" [10/10]. The psychotic "1000 Eyes" continues the melodic line of the record [9/10] while "Without Judgement" draws some drastic riffs over the listener's ears [9/10]. "Crystal Mountain" is the mots complex track [10/10] and prepares the acoustic sphere for the radical "Misanthrope" [9/10]. The album finishes with the long and meditative "Perennial Quest" [8/10]. The production is OK, but I was expecting more diversity. Final impression:8/10


Report this review (#156050)
Posted Thursday, December 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars And once again... I can't find any prog in this album, just Death Metal. Here we have a lack of creativity, and 0 variances, almost every song sound the same. And Tech Metal?, I can list maybe 50 Power Metal bands with the twice of technic than this guys. The kind of guitar solos of Chuck can be played by any good guitar player.( All we know that Chuck can't play Howe's or Petrucci's solos)

Reading the reviews and high ratings in this site, I think: Maybe there's something that I'm still missing, then i give Symbolic a second chance, I listen this album at least ten times, and nothing...

The best points here are Chuck's voice, really powerful growling, and sounds real. And the Drums, this guy really plays very fast (but he's not faster than most metal drumers) , a little monotone at times. but at least is very pleasant to hear that speed.

Just can give 2 stars for this album, just for fans.

Report this review (#172788)
Posted Sunday, June 1, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars No bull[&*!#] here: this isn't progressive music at all. What is progressive rock, anyway? I bet no one can define it without inconsistency.

I was presented Symbolic back in 2001, when I was very immature, and I was lacking a musical reference, and I was getting into being a metal addict. I cannot describe the feeling of having listened to the album's overture: back then, it seemed the epitome of immemorial glory. Thence forth, I took music in a different perspective.

Symbolic was the album that led me into caring for detail, as no Dream Theatre, no Pat Metheny nor Beethoven did before. Despite being somewhat repetitive, every second appears to have been carved to the deepest sensitivity of Schuldiner's taste. All riffs are emotional, the solos sentimental, the songs symbolic. And the lyrics are not to be despised - they summary the thought patterns of Schuldiner, and his attitude towards life.

Today, when I recall sharing the experience of savouring that music along with loneliness, I can but feel tremendous sorrow, still no repentance, for the time I have wasted. Eventually, I acquired taste - like Gentle Giant did in 1971 - and I learnt to enjoy the rationality in art more than raw emotion and naiveness. But it was thanks to that failed experience that I can properly valour the effort of great composers, and musicians, like the ones I mentioned.

Chuck, like most of us are, was a naive boy lost in his journey for a concept of perfection that only he could enjoy. I demand respect for his gracious memory.

My snobbish self compels me into rating this mesh of noises with two stars, yet my inner child overcomes my consciousness through glimpses of angelical nostalgia.

(It takes a lot of sense of humour to read this review, by the way.)

Report this review (#173816)
Posted Friday, June 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
The Pessimist
5 stars An excellent album from the arguable pioneers of one of my favourite genres. Symbolic isn't their best album, then again I can't actually pinpoint their best album as it changes every day. This is seen by some as the pinnacle of their releases, and i couldn't disagree with them on that. Symbolic feaures some of the best riffs ever created with all the other factors of death metal fans love so much: virtuoso playing, percussive growls, rapid changes in tempo, dark atmosphere, tight arrangement and instrumentatio... It's all here, wrapped into 9 worthy songs.

Symbolic - The album kicks off with possibly THE best metal riff ever created in the title track. This isn't so much progressive as simply awesome, the tempo changes are here in abundance and Gene Hoglan is worth mentioning for his unmatched metal drumwork. The screams on this are well developed also, probably the sound Schuldiner was working for all these years before. 9/10

Zero Tolerance - A Death classic amongst fans, the drum intro leads us into yet another onslaught. The atonal guitarwork here is splendid and shows off just how Chuck's songwriting skills have evolved over the course of 4 albums. Speaking of which, the guitarwork here is astounding, with some splendid harmonies. This is a real mosher, so get ready for some fully angry music. Another strong track. 9/10

Empty Words - This reveals a little of their progressive side with the quite clean intro. The sequence is repeated several times until we are then bombarded with aural chaos once again, this time with a very melodic guitar line. This is also seen as a Death classic, and probably one of the highlights of the album. Everything here is done so professionally and it shows so much maturity it's practically breathtaking. The musicianship is at top notch here. 10/10

Sacred Serenity - Is a weak track in comparison. The drum and bass intro is quite promising, but then the coolness slips away slightly. Still remarkable nonetheless, just not on parre with the rest. Mind you, the high guitar line at the beginning is awesome, it has to be said, and this song really does drive. 7/10

1'000 Eyes - Living in the pupil of 1'000 eyes. I love this track to death (excuse the pun), it is THE Gene Hoglan performance to listen to (just listen to the tightness of the ultra fast blast beats) and is just littered with tempo changes. The short tapping solos make this song a gem. 10/10

Without Judgement - A stereotypical metal riff opens this strong track, the palm muting is especially effective in Without Judgement. This has a simple, yet memorable guitar solo in it which is another highlight on the album. Chuck shows us his shredding skills also in some sections and he pulls it off just as well as Petrucci, if not better in my opinion. The middle melodic riff in the centre of the track is brilliant as well. 9/10

Crystal Mountain - This is in between Sacred Serenity and Zero Tolerance standard, so it's definitely worth a listen. As usual, Hoglan's drumming is unforgettable as he really shows off his tom skills in this epic track. The dramatic breakdown at around the 1:30 marker is another nice surprise. 8/10

Misanthrope - The speed metal intro is possibly the only thing impressive about this movement. I thiknk this may well be the weakest track off the album. Some nice riffs dealt in here nevertheless, and still a good track. 7/10

Perennial Quest - Here is the most popular track off this wonderful album, and the closer. I too think it is a masterpiece of extreme music. All the musicians are at their peak here, the lyrics are great and time signatures are used with a huge efficiency. This is possibly the most progressive song off the album, and I can listen to this one all day. The clean outro is simply lush however, and because of that this way well be the first purely progressive death metal album ever. As well as historical significance it is a rewarding listen. 10/10

Overall, I would say that this is a classic metal album and a must have for prog-metal fans. If you can withstand the harshness of Chuck's screams then a whole world will open to you. If you are a drummer, this is the album for you. If you are a guitarist, this is the album for you. If you are a metal songwriter, this is also the album for you. In fact I'd recommend this album to anyone who enjoys music with bite and many quick surprises. Being an extremely (excuse the pun once again) progressive album also, I can justifiably award this album a 5 stars, a masterpiece of progressive music.

Report this review (#188464)
Posted Saturday, November 8, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The Death of Prog?

When I was playing this sort of music, back in the late 1980s, we didn't think of it as Progressive Metal - and Progressive Metal it is not. This is a kind of technical metal - focussed on technique, not on progressing the music. The music remains pretty much as it was at its inception, with the debut, Scream Bloody Gore, which I have, appropriately, scored with 4 stars as being an excellent addition to any prog music collection.

The reasoning for adding Death to this site is supposedly ever more experimental structures through the last 3 studio albums - and yet there is nothing in the structures that is inherently more experimental than the structures developed by Metallica on Ride The Lightning. Somehow, Death are widely accepted as a Progressive Metal act with little question, yet Metallica are not - although Metallica wrote the more sophisticated and progressive music, in terms of composition and structuring, and over a decade earlier. How does that work?

Here we have yet another re-iteration of the same basic musical ideas present on the debut, the same overall styling, just played with a better technical competence and using fancy techniques (hence Technical Metal, or Technical Death Metal, if you prefer).

There's nothing progressive in the compositions or structures really - compare with anything on Kill 'Em All (except, perhaps, Jump In The Fire!).

Listen to the riffs - the seemingly endless repetitions without even the faintest modification - the burn out of the title track is the perfect example. The simple construction of this song makes this modern day heavy metal - it's not as complex as, say, System of a Down, or even Linkin Park. There's nothing inherently more progressive in the structure than there is in Chop Suey or Papercut.

Zero Tolerance is crammed full of complicated riffs - but again, these are all simple re-iterations. The tempo changes are quite interesting, as are the contrasting textures, and even the riffs themselves. This song is a demonstration of how Death Metal can be a highly melodic and creative force - but that's not the same as Progressive Rock.

Empty words sounds a bit of a Slayer tribute track in places - and where it doesn't it's kind of empty in its own way, the riffs and soloing here not as convincing as on the previous two tracks, and the parallel 4th harmony on the solos is so weak that the engineer mixed it right down. This track also has a surfiet of different ideas - after about 5 minutes, it begins to feel much too long, and even Metallica references in the riffs (think Creeping Death and One) don't save it.

The spidery intro to Sacred Serenity is cool, and there are some good jazzy flavours as the intro continues - but again, the progressiveness in the music is denied by the riffs, which proclaim Heavy Metal to the world at large, not anything more ambitious. The sonic textures are an interesting expansion on the Egyptian feel first exposed on Scream Bloody Gore - there is certainly an argument for Symbolic being a literal progression from that album, but it's the same argument as the literal progression from Waterloo to The Visitors made by ABBA.

1,000 Eyes is possibly my favourite on the album - but only because of the straightforward headbangery nature of it - it's accessible, modern Metal, reminding me of Judas Priest's Painkiller, but faster and fashionably downtuned. There are some nice Pantera-styled pinch harmonics in the bridge leading to the instrumental, which is a guitar solo based around short sequences. The one thing that annoys me about the instrumental is its brevity and lack of thematic development. Contrast with the genuine complexity of, say, Ride The Lightning.

To be honest, I actually like this album a great deal - it's great to headbang to, and the riffing is chunky, the production crisp, and the soloing inventive, but it won't sit comfortably between, say, Camel and ELP, or Cressida and Eloy.

Without Judgement starts in exactly the same mould - everything as predictable as you'd want from a Heavy Metal album - nice Judas Priest/Metallica/Slayer inspired riffs, but with Possessed-style timing and changes, possibly too many changes for comfort, as the flow is almost non-existent, and the texture-space rather monotonous.

This is a classic example of how complicated does not equal complex - the many riffs do not grow out of each other, but instead overlay ideas, most of which are in one single key, or a closely related one. That's not to say it doesn't sound good - the change around 2:50 sounds excellent, but the idea is a brand new one - the sudden change to B making it sound like we're in a new piece, rather than a new sectio nof an existing piece. In fact, it begins to sound like we're listening to a different band, the style is so different - and then a return to the song. The idea is nothing new - you can dig through heaps of late 1960s/early 1970s rock albums to hear this Interlude idea at work - although generally it just doesn't work, as here.

This sounds like a Heavy Metal band trying hard to be different, rather than a Metal band actually being progressive.

A better attempt at being progressive can be found in Crystal Mountain, where some of the ideas do actually begin to push the envelope - although it has to be re-iterated that the ideas are in the riffs and textures, NOT the overall composition. The general overall sound is still that of the band that produced Scream Bloody Gore - but it's kind of like where Spinal Tap suddenly start playing Jazz Rock - kinda fake sounding.

The techniques used are simply to extend the riffs into different time signatures (the riffs themselves are clearly in the same narrow phase-space, and repeated, not developed), to play those old but extended riffs with different textures - there's a nice Spanish-style guitar towards the end, and some nice 16th work on the kit - but that's the gravy, not the meat. Misanthrope is back in standard metal territory, so let's move on to the highlight - the 8-minute Perennial Quest, which, to my ears, is more like a Perennial Mess.

It doesn't help that the opening riff stinks, which doesn't really invite me in to the piece. The whole edifice seems laboured - it's one of those pieces in which the obvious and the cliches have been deliberately avoided (an approach which almost never works), and to counterbalance this, cliched riffs are used as hooks in between sections of almost incredible boredom, the monotonous (absolutely, literally monotonous) vocals making it even harder going.

The guitar solo is kind of interesting in places, but mostly sounds like scale practice over grossly simplified riffs that happen to work with the scales that need practicing, and this shapes up to what is possibly the worst 8 and a half minutes in the history of Metal.

So a disappointing ending to a very promising - and often interesting heavy metal album that represents a band trying to break away from the style that it, to all intents and purposes, fashioned in the first place. Death were an interesting metal band, in that they did forge a style that could be positively identified as theirs - but there's no escaping the Priest/Possessed/Metallica/Slayer roots still present in this album as in the rest of their discography, and the plain FACT that this is not Progressive music in the same way as either Gentle Giant or Metallica. It still has a LONG way to go to catch up with the latter.

Generally a good to very good album, if you like this sort of Death Metal style, let down mainly by the last track. But don't be misled or fooled by claims of complex compositions!

Report this review (#190309)
Posted Monday, November 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars I am a Death Metal fan and have great respect for the late Chuck Schuldiner for basically inventing the genre, but Death's discography has always been hit-or-miss for me. I enjoy Death's two previous albums (especially the excellent 'Human') but I feel like they lost the plot here.

The music is very well played but is rather bland and unimaginative... and things would become even worse on their next album 'The Sound of Perseverance' which is a complete bore-fest. This album sounds like straight-ahead Death Metal to me, and there is very little of a Proggy nature here.

'Zero Tolerance' is the best song here; featuring an excellent heavy riff and one of Chuck's best recorded vocal performances. There is a slower part in the middle with an icy clean guitar arpeggio which is very simple but effective and chilling. There are some very good guitar solos here as well.

'Crystal Mountain' is probably the most Prog-related track and features some very technical parts and complex time changes, but overall the song has little emotional impact on me and seems too focused on technique over substance.... and that's the story for the rest of the album as well.

I would only recommend this to hardcore Death fans... but every Death fan already owns this album anyway. 2 stars.

Report this review (#202000)
Posted Saturday, February 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Symbolic acts so vivid...

One of Death's best albums. And this is most certainly a terrific death metal release, but is it prog? It is, and by far. The technicality is stunning, the riffs are amazing, and it is all so furious and pounding. Each song has skillfully written lyrics and a punch so shattering as to crack holes in your ears.

The riff of the opening track Symbolic, is well... symbolic of the entire album. So ripping and shredding. THIS is death prog, and it wants to consume you! The drumming is so gut blasting I'd say it could cause irregular bowel movements. This is part of the reason why Gene Hoglan is my all time favorite drummer. He is quite unearthly.

Each song is not very diverse, but sometimes a calm (for death) passage will appear with lilting melodic guitar. Thick and violent. The songs ooze monstrous blood. And Chuck has one of the best Death vocals I have heard. So sharp and biting. I love this album.

My Final Rating is 5/5.

Report this review (#209014)
Posted Saturday, March 28, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Who's now the second guitarist? Bobby Koelble. Oh wait a minute I don't know this guy. It doesn't really matter he's great believe me. When this came out I bought it not even knowing what's the music on it. And I became slave to those sounds for couple of months. Symbolic is excellent piece of death metal. In fact I see no major change if compare it to previous release. Songs are done exactly in the same vein. Again no filler. The only difference is the songs became longer what doesn't mean more complex. Production of this album is excellent and very clear. Still very heavy though. I think Chuck wanted to give us another portion of good melodies and not necessary fresh ideas. 1000 Eyes and Without Judgement are probably my favorite tracks on this release but I can't find any weak point on here in fact. Solic piece of work you can enjoy for a long time. The only question is. How does it look like if compared with other Death albums? Musically it's definitely one of their finest releases but it has no that impact of Spiritual Healing or freshness of Individual Thought Patterns. This album is recommended mostly to those who like a bit commercial (kill me) death metal. In 1995 Death became Dream Theater of death metal and treat Symbolic like this. Of course 4 stars totally deserved.
Report this review (#212508)
Posted Sunday, April 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars I had always looked past this band. I thought they were just another death metal band with pointless complexity and unintelligent songwriting. So, even when I saw this band was considered progressive metal on ProgArchives, I still wouldn't bother buying their music.... until I saw it for only 5 bucks at my record store. I was wondering if I should go for it, especially when there's all of these safe purchases I can make. I decided to be a little adventurous, and buy something that might be out of my comfort zone.

I am so glad I did. This is a progressive metal album without a doubt. This is one of the greatest progressive death metal albums I own, and this really is masterpiece material. Chuck Schuldiner's compositions here are incredible, and there isn't a song worth skipping. The main highlight on this album musically is the incredible drumming from Gene Hoglan. The guitar work is also incredible, the songwriting here is very intelligent, the production is top-notch, and everything is perfectly executed. This is becoming one of my favorite albums in my collection.


"Symbolic"- The opener is a masterpiece of progressive death metal, and contains an awesome progression of heavy riffing. This song is pretty intense, but keeps a great variety of riffs to keep the song moving without repetition.

"Zero Tolerance"- This song is actually slowed down in tempo, and contains some awesome riffs. While this song isn't very progressive, it certainly shows that these guys aren't a typical death metal band.

"Empty Words"- An extremely awesome and progressive song. The chord progressions flow excellently, and this is masterpiece material. This is an intense and heavy song, but is very enjoyable for any prog metal fan.

"Sacred Serenity"- One of my favorite songs on the album, believe it or not. One of the main sections in this I swear sounds like Rush! This actually has a beautiful slower section with a short guitar solo to bring us back into the main riff. Excellent song!

"1,000 Eyes"- Possibly the heaviest song on the album is incredible, and another excellent progressive death metal song. The excellent drumming from Gene Hoglan is most certainly present here, and shows what a talented drummer he is. Chuck Schuldiner's voice sounds particularly good here as well.

"Crystal Mountain"- One of my favorite Death songs that, like "Sacred Serenity", has moments sounding like Rush. What starts like a standard metal song has a great chorus with some great progressions and solos that amaze me every time.

"Misanthrope"- It can be argued whether or not this song is progressive or not, but who really cares? This song has some excellent riffing and blistering complexity. Some great soloing surely helps as well. An excellent song, but is far forgotten by the following masterpiece.

"Perennial Quest"- Easily the best song Death EVER produced. This is a very epic song with perfect transitions through the main sections. Everything is perfectly executed; from the production qualities, to the playing, and the incredible songwriting skills of Chuck Schuldiner. The outro to this song is a beautiful acoustic melody that sends shockwaves through my spine every time. This is the definition of masterpiece. This is the definition of progressive death metal at its highest possible potential.

I was very pleasantly surprised by this, and any progressive metal fan will be as well. What I thought would be a dreadful mess turned into one of my favorite albums EVER released. Chuck Schuldiner is a mastermind and ranks up there with Kevin Gilbert, Neal Morse, Daniel Gildenlow, and Dan Swano as my favorite songwriters. This is a masterpiece of progressive death metal, and few albums are this good in any prog genre. If you are the slightest bit into bands like Opeth and Edge of Sanity you MUST give this a try, whatever may be your original impression of the band. It's a shame Chuck Schuldiner was taken away from us so early. Few people can revolutionize the music scene like him. To invent the genre of death metal, and then push the boundries of a genre you created, and create another type of music; progressive death metal; in such a short amount of time is really an accomplishment.

R.I.P. Chuck Schuldiner

5 stars.

Report this review (#236831)
Posted Thursday, September 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Absolute Masterpiece - of Metal

For a guy who played in a thrash band in the early 90's, Death's SYMBOLIC takes everything I loved about the genre, threw it in a big pot, added habaneros and cooked on high heat for several days. The result is a juggernaut of great riffs, precision playing by all instruments, fairly intelligent lyrics, and very good production. Without a doubt, this is one of the best extreme metal albums I own. But it's not prog.

The most progressive part of the album is the use of rhythm. By the time of this album, bandleader/mastermind/guitarist/growler Chuck Shuldiner has successfully made the transition from intentional jarring time changes to a music that is basically without time signature. This a technique used by many of the classic prog acts including Genesis and Yes, a testimony to a mastery of that aspect of music. After listening to SYMBOLIC, many straighter metal acts seem laughably simple and pedantically plodding. The success of this insane use of time owes tremendously to the talents of "Atomic Clock" Gene Hoglan. His clinically precise, insanely fast drumming, often sounds beyond the reach of human appendages. Certainly, the pinpoint sharpness of his execution would not work in all bands. But here it is perfect, allowing Shuldiner's compositions to weave in and out and still always sound connected and musically valid.

The riffs and guitar playing are superb, drawing on the thrash giants of the 80's and turning up the complexity, syncopation, and speed to a dizzying degree. The playing is very precise and composed, a very modern notion of lead playing that is really unseen in the genre before this band. In fact the guitars on here are so good that album is worth having just as an electric guitar fan, regardless of taste in its other aspects. At the same time, nothing that is played is truly new. Every lick has been played before - maybe slower, maybe less exact, but this music is VERY grounded in its influences. The riffs grind and pummel, but you've heard all the styles before, from Crazy Train style circular pedals to Metallica style death polkas to Megadethish sixteenth runs.

The vocals are, well, ugly. Shuldiner's growls are relatively high pitch, intentionally atonal, and on some listens just laughably bad. In today's age of evolved harsh vocals, the voice here seems pretty unrefined. The lyrics are pretty difficult to understand in places. To be fair, Chuck communicates rage, pain, and desperation in his delivery, but there is very little variation in that expression. The lyrics I can distinguish are solid enough.

Like most thrash metal, there is essentially nothing harmonic going on at all in the music. Occasional simple interval twin leads come in, but this is not a layered music. Much of the riffing is done with two guitars and bass in unison. The use of soloing over accompaniment is within the usual metal vocabulary, though it is well done. Flurries of notes provide sounds rather than traditional melodic ideas. Though only the vocals approach atonality, this is not even as layered as Mastodon's new release and nothing compared to Opeth's best work.

I like this album, a lot. It is a masterpiece of extreme metal. It moved the genre forward. It features some insane drum work, and great riffs. But it is an enormous stretch to call this prog. Still, for this site it lies somewhere between a 3 and 4. If this were a metal site 5+.

Report this review (#248028)
Posted Tuesday, November 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Chuck's done it; it's a classic album, no doubt about it. The progressive textures built up over the course of Human and Individual Thought Patterns have arrived at a glorious point of perfection as Symbolic proves itself to be Death's finest release. The song complexion has reached a higher level, tracks now spanning over eight minutes with epics such as Perennial Quest: a scene of immense riffage before falling into a sombre and moving acoustic backdrop where the album fades away into darkness. Long before that we're treated to monster riffs ands the finest production any Death album has been treated to, the vocals notably clearer and more defined than on previous releases. Lyrically, Symbolic reigns supreme also, Schuldiner commenting in an earlier interview that the soul lyrical basis being less angry than on Individual Thought Patterns; here we get everything from life issues to government conspiracy with 1,000 Eyes. Symbolic presents the greatest collection of riffs and songs to be found all in one place than on any other Death album.

The opening title track sets the scene perfectly, a solid riff leading way for the howling vocals of Schuldiner before plunging into thrash and then into a riff of bone-crunching density. Similar riffs can be found on Misanthrope, a circling demon-like riff that shows the sheer force of Death. Schuldiner's vocals have become somewhat higher in pitch and with that more defined; gone of the thrash/death days of Scream Bloody Gore and Leprosy, here is a more structured and progressive form of metal.

Guitar solos are another highlight. Sacred Serenity appears to be another full-on track before, halfway through the solo it drops into a ballad-style acoustic wonder where the guitar stuns us all as the album presents yet more musical surprises. There's even an acoustic solo during Crystal Mountain, which is seen by many as the albums power ballad.

In truth, every track is a standout. Zero Tolerance, one of Death's most iconic songs, explodes after a stylistic drum intro into one of the record's highlights. Empty Words opens with some atmospheric bongos before plunging into another brilliant metal riff, and Without Judgement contains some classically inspired guitar soloing; there's so much going on here it's fascinating to listen to.

At one point, this could have been the final offering from Death as Chuck went on to form his next project, Control Denied. However, the project was put on hold and we are treated to one more in The Sound of Perseverance which would continue the progression found here. In Symbolic is a masterpiece of not just metal, but progressive metal/death metal, what ever you want to call it. Chuck had been forming his own form of music from the beginning and it all comes to its pinnacle on this album.

Top Three Tracks:

1) Symbolic 2) Sacred Serenity 3) Zero Tolerance

Report this review (#254754)
Posted Monday, December 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Iconic...

This is one of the best metal releases ever. There is no weak moment on this album which is, or at least should be, the pinnacle of technicalt/progressive death metal. The musicianship is top notch here, and especially Gene Hoglan's drumming is no less than insanely sick. The production is crystal clear and the more screetchy vocal style that Schuldiner uses on this album complements the music very well. Compositionwise, the tracks are fairly complex and contain many quirky parts and numerous tempo and time changes without ever becoming too complex or quirky for the mainstream death metal fan (although it should be mentioned that death metal in itself tends to be characterized by more complexity than most non-conneseurs would expect).

Every song is a masterpiece in itself, but especially "Empty Words", "Crystal Mountain", "1,000 Eyes" and "Perennial Quest" are fantastic.

Report this review (#273150)
Posted Saturday, March 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars 9/10

."Symbolic" is the best Technical Death Metal ever released, taking everything, from the instrumentation, the musicianship, the songwriting, the lyrics, up a few notches.

When you think of Death Metal, the few bands that pop up are usually bands like Morbid Angel, Opeth, and Death. The last band is probably the most important Death Metal act ever, since it did create the genre back in 1987 with the album "Scream Bloody Gore" and contributed in creating a new subgenre called Technical Death Metal in 1991, with the album "Human", . Despite the importance of these albums, "Symbolic" is regarded as their supreme masterpiece, as well as the best Death Metal album of all time.

"Symbolic", compared to Death's earlier work such as the mentioned "Human" and "Individual Thought Patterns", has a much more mature, clean sound, abandoning the muddy production of the previous efforts. The guitars have a surprisingly refined sound, whether they're distorted or clean. Even the drums have an amazing sound, and are really doing the job on this one, even more than before. Chuck's vocals are as high pitched as they never were before, sounding particularly aggressive sounding. Even though the sound changed, the technical virtuosity and the progressiveness are still here, this last element is actually even more highlighted in this release, thanks to a bigger dedication in this album to the slower parts. But don't think this is a dull, slower record; in fact, back in 1995, "Symbolic" was the heaviest, fastest Death album yet, before "The Sound Of Perseverance" came along in 1999, with an amazing production technical perfection.

But "Symbolic" is a powerful, fast-paced and highly technical beast, full of mind blowing guitar riffs and complex rhythms. It's a nine song affair, all of these can be considered Death Metal classics; from the opening title track, to the final, highly progressive "Perennial Quest", this album is full of masterpieces that make this album so legendary. They the more famous songs, like "Zero Tolerance", "Misanthrope", "Crystal Mountain", and the not as known but still amazing pieces, like the mentioned title track, "1000 Eyes", "sacred Serenity", and "Perennial Quest". "Empty Words" is the only single of the album, but it somehow is my least favorite.

No question that "Symbolic" is the best Technical Death Metal ever released, taking everything, from the instrumentation, the musicianship, the songwriting, the lyrics, up a few notches. A classic every metal fan must listen to and own.

Report this review (#283174)
Posted Sunday, May 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
3 stars Symbolic is one fine death metal album if I ever heard one. Still, 6 albums into their discography I'm totally clueless as to why this band is associated with progressive death metal. Maybe the one remaining album will shed a light on that matter?

Death sure brought their best songwriting and hardest hitting intensity ever into play here. Symbolic is an amazing death metal album. It's competent, technical, gripping, aggressive and inspired, but it does little or nothing to be more then just that, a genre-record. It conforms too much to all old-school death traditions and rules, guaranteed to please all fans of the style.

Granted, Death created much of those rules themselves and they are entirely welcome to perfect their own style, but I'm lacking that little extra that would make one song distinguishable from the next. The vocals are ripping and emotive, but remain the same through all songs. The same goes for the riffing, excellent throughout but too little diversity in phrasing and structure to make the songs memorable. Maybe I'll need some more years with this album to distinguish one riff from the other. Which will be quite the task given this album must have about 300 of them.

Rather harsh words for an album that I really enjoy, they are not meant as a punishment for not being Prog, it's just that I find some other albums in the Tech/Extreme Prog Metal more diverse and engaging. Of course this is an excellent Death Metal album.

Report this review (#283831)
Posted Friday, May 28, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars The best Death metal album of all time? well its no doubt in my top 5 of all time, maybe in my top 10 of all time any genre. This album is simply without a doubt a masterpiece, really showing what Death are capable of and showing them as a force to be reckoned with. As far as the songs go they are longer more complex than ever before and just overall more epic with standout tracks including CRYSTAL MOUNTAIN the most wellknown Death song, ZERO TOLERANCE with its uber catchy chorus and the overly epic final song PERENNIAL QUEST reaching over 8 minutes. Production wise again i had no real gripes with it, it seemed cleaner than ITP and had a bit more sparkle to it. Musicmanship in any Death release is always flawless and this is no different, with the mighty Mr. Schuldiner as godly as he can be, and Gene Hoglan blasting his heart out all for the love of the metal;

Symbolic ? 9/10 Zero Tolerance ? 10/10 Empty Words ? 9/10 Sacred Serenity ? 9/10 1,000 Eyes ? 8/10 Without Judgement ? 9/10 Crystal Mountain ? 10/10 Misanthrope ? 9/10 Perennial Quest ? 10/10

My Conclusion? nothing more i have to say, the last two Death albums are essential to any music fan full stop, this albums needs to be bought...

Report this review (#283912)
Posted Friday, May 28, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Symbolic is one of those rare Progressive Death metal gems from the 90’s, alongside Cynic’s “Focus” and Atheist’s “Unquestionable Presence”, that really crossed the bounds of conventional metal. Symbolic is deaths 6Th record, and by far their best record it’s very progressive, (surely their most progressive and technical) as well as having a pretty large thrash influence. Don't let the thrash influence fool you this is no Metallica sound alike.

Sound: The album is quite heavy, matched with a lot of time-signature alternations, and a very distinct sound it would be hard to confuse this album with deaths previous work since the overall quality is much higher. The band is at it’s best with tracks like “Misanthrope”, "Without Judgement" and "Perennial Quest", each with it’s own strengths. "Perennial Quest", for instance, is the epic closing track composed of great song structure and powerful singing accompanied with excellent and extremely technical guitar playing making this one of the best tracks on the album.

Vocals: In this reviewers opinion this is Chuck Schuldiner (RIP) best work, very well written lyrics and songs like "1,000 Eyes" are very clever and catchy definitely helps boost this album above and beyond the call of duty.

Summery: The band pushes the limits on metal (and progressive music in general), after listening to this album a couple times through I had a hard time appreciating other 90’s metal acts such as Metallica, Anthrax and Slayer. That's not to say those are bad bands, but Death was so much further ahead in sound development overall skill and composition. In conclusion a great record, recommended for thrash and tech/death metal fans. 5 out of 5

Report this review (#287228)
Posted Friday, June 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Perhaps the most progressive work put out by Death, (opposed to Individual Thought Patterns which is their most technical) this is another brilliant album put about Chuck and Death. I still do not consider this band a "prog metal" band and I am not 100% sure of this album is. Regardless, this may be the closest Death has ever come, and is a masterpiece of metal.

Death is largely a musical dictatorship, and yet again the lineup changed for this album. Luckily, Gene was retained on drums. One the best drummers in metal, and on this album you will here less thrash and more exotic. In fact this is a much slower album then a lot of Death's previous releases. Gene's drumming is superb as always and while it is more varied than usual, still retains its technicality and blistering double bass.

As always, the entire lineup is loaded with talent. Each musician is great, and showcases their skill well, but is never sloppy. Chuck's composition skills are brilliant, and each song is well constructed. Their is never a part that drags, and the overall flow is smooth, (which is nice when so many metal bands tend to be quite abrupt, it is a nice change of pace).

Symbolic. Starts off nice and slow. Song has decent variation, there are not only changes in tempo, but also feel. A truly wild part in the middle! The song has it all, slow and heavy, thrashy, technicality and a blazing solo.

Zero Tolerance. A much slower song, made even more crushing with Chuck's vocals over it. Also note that his vocals are taking a higher pitch than compared to older stuff. Lots of great solos, and I really love the guitar work on this song. The rhythm and solo's are well done! Lots of great drumming from Gene the Machine.

Empty Words. Starts off quite slow and atmospheric. What!? Very chilling. Then the metal comes in. Some cool riffing and the song subtley picks up speed before the solo middle section.

Sacred Serenity. BASS! One of the more progressive songs, this one does feel like its actually moving. The changes are not too abrupt, and sections don't last too long. As I said, really feels like the song is moving. Some awesome riffing and drumming to boot.

1,000 eyes. With a name like that how can it not be good!? A faster paced song, lots of double bass drumming and outright thrash pace. Some damn impressive drumming on this song. I really enjoy near the beginning, there is a short time when the guitars are playing frantic sounding chords over some insane drumming.

Without Judgement. The weakest song on the album. Not that it is weak, but it just had to be pointed out. It is like the link in the chain that is 11 inches think while the rest are 12. The only real reason is because by this point, the song, while great, is more or less the same. Same layout, flow, etc Though the mid section, (2:47 to 3:35) is one of the better parts of the whole album.

Crystal Mountain. My favorite on the album, and one of my favorite Death songs. I have a difficult time picking "favorites" but I may have no issue saying this is my favorite song from Death. A true masterpiece. Starts off nice and metal, but won't last too long. The songs changes it up fairly often, but never too often or swiftly, and Gene's drumming does not let up. This song may be one of Gene's best displays. Has all the essentials but some also some unique cymbal work throughout. I almost don't need to mention his complex drumming. The tapping part is awesome and gives way to an emotional solo. The intro riff starts again, followed by the same succeeding section. This is good though! It's mellow feel is complemented with Chuck's harsh vocals and backed up by sweet bass and awesome drumming. I have not mentioned Chuck's lyrics yet. They are always good, but this song always struck me. Lines like, "Inside Crystal Mountain commandments are reborn!", "Inflicting wounds with your cross turned dagger!", "Shatter the myth, don't cut your self on your words, against dreams made of steel!". Listen to the lyrics on this song, and thrown at us with such power! The outro is simply amazing. I have to stop myself, because I can probably write a review on this song alone.

Misanthrope. Talk about a change of pace! Starts out intense, probably the most straight up death metal on the album. A thrashy, fast paced song, sans a quick section near the middle. All the Death essentials.

Perennial Quest. The finale, and a good one for the album. A microcosm of the whole album, this is a long winding song. Lots of slow, very slow, heavy riffs, some thrash, some mid paced, technicality, great dual guitar work, melodic and shred guitar solos, varied drum work and even an acoustic section! Add a nice guitar solo over it, and you have a chilling, beautiful outro to a brutal and technical album. Can it be any more fitting?

OK, so maybe not progressive metal, but this album is a masterpiece. If you don't like heavy guitars, and harsh vocals, or really metal than you should avoid this. However, if you like prog metal, tech metal, or have tolerable tastes this album is a must!

Five Stars

Report this review (#292066)
Posted Tuesday, July 27, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars When I first listened to this album about 5 years ago, I thought WOW. Death kicked ass. But when you're getting older and your musical taste changes with you, so are the old albums you loved so much. Now when I hear this album, its OK, a bit out-dated i think. In its time it was groundbreaking but I don't think it passed the test of time. Chuck(R.I.P) was a great artist and very skilled guitar player, he wrote here really great riffs. But it sounds a bit childish for me now, for a teenagers it was great. Overall, it's a very nice album but you can find better stuff around these days.
Report this review (#340683)
Posted Thursday, December 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
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.

Report this review (#400150)
Posted Sunday, February 13, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars After reading a review claiming against this albums progressive merits I had to think about my rating for awhile. The review I read claimed that everything this album offers had already been done in the 80´s. After thinking I came to the conclusion that it may be so, but this is still to me the perfect death metal album.

This album has everything a death metal album needs. You´ve got good crunchy, powerful, and even catchy riffs in all the songs. We have Gene Hoglan playing drums whose style is perfectly fitting for this album. Chucks voice is so crisp here that it makes me shiver.

There´s no real need for me to go into this song by song, because the same things apply for each of them.

Any one intrested in the heavier side of progressive rock should hear this, because this a masterpiece of this genre.

Report this review (#418170)
Posted Saturday, March 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
1 stars Unfortunately I don't like death metal. Initially I felt that this disqualified me from writing a review for this album. But the fact that Symbolic has risen to the top of the Metal Music Archives rankings has driven me to do so. I have honestly tried to listen to every track. I enjoy every one of them until the vocals start, which then spoil it for me. I really do not see the attraction of this type of vocal. I appreciate the instrumental composition and the skill level of the musicians but 80% of the album is unlistenable for me. This is why I can only give this one star.
Report this review (#549799)
Posted Thursday, October 13, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Symbolic is a well-produced technical death metal album which adds a substantial amount of polish to the more progressive direction taken in the band's music from Human onwards. The musicianship present is top notch, and the band successfully manage to avoid the pitfall of allowing the superior production values to take the edge off their aggression; on the whole, it's an intriguing listen which on a superficial level resembles traditional death metal but which reveals more and more hidden aspects the more you listen to it. I wouldn't go so far as to call it an all-time classic, but it's certainly a decent contribution to the genre.
Report this review (#621697)
Posted Friday, January 27, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I recognize the technical prowess of the band members of this band, but most of the sounds here feel the same as any metal album. What makes this music stand out is the lyrics and singing (I can actually understand the words!) and the phenomenal time and tempo shifting that goes on within each and every song. Amazing flexibility and skill coming from drummer Gene Hoglan as well as from the guitarists. The only reason I rate this album down from masterpiece status is the over-familiarity of many of the riffs, sounds, and chord progressions co-opted herein (many of which I hear as if they were lifted from the RUSH catalogue). Is this album, this band, a shaker and mover of metal? Yes. But they are to these ears first and foremost a synthesizer of all that has come before (Is there such a thing as Neo Metal?), and secondarily innovators. Still, kudos to Chuck and the band for their passion, their skill, and their creativity.

Report this review (#1908992)
Posted Saturday, March 24, 2018 | Review Permalink

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