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SYMBOLIC

Death

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal


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Death Symbolic album cover
4.25 | 370 ratings | 33 reviews | 54% 5 stars

Essential: a masterpiece of
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Studio Album, released in 1995

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Symbolic
2. Zero Tolerance
3. EmptyWords
4. Sacred Serenity
5. 1,000 Eyes
6. Without Judgement
7. Crystal Mountain
8. Misanthrope
9. Perennial Quest

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Chuck Schuldiner / vocals, guitar
- Kelly Conlon / bass
- Gene Hoglan / drums
- Bobby Koelble / guitar


Releases information

Roadrunner RR 8957-2
Produced by Jim Morris
Co-Produced by Chuck Schuldiner
Cover art by Rene Miville

Thanks to MikeEnRegalia for the addition
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DEATH Symbolic ratings distribution


4.25
(370 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(54%)
54%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(25%)
25%
Good, but non-essential (10%)
10%
Collectors/fans only (5%)
5%
Poor. Only for completionists (5%)
5%

DEATH Symbolic reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Marc Baum
PROG REVIEWER
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

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Send comments to Marc Baum (BETA) | Report this review (#75531) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Review by 1800iareyay
PROG REVIEWER
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+

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Send comments to 1800iareyay (BETA) | Report this review (#109017) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, January 26, 2007

Review by FruMp
PROG REVIEWER
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.

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Send comments to FruMp (BETA) | Report this review (#117022) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, April 01, 2007

Review by b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
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.

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Posted Friday, October 05, 2007

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Being a fan of Death since the Spiritual Healing days, I watched Chuck develop his compositions, and changing his musicians to match them. On Symbolic Gene Hoglan is still on drums. Kelly Conlon on Bass and Bobby Koelble on Guitar joined the band. So the lineup changed once again.

Symbolic is the most focused Death album, and in my eyes their masterpiece. The production by Jim Morris in wonderful. Sharp, dry and full. Gene Hoglanīs drums sound so much better here than they did on Individual Thought Patterns. The compositions are just a touch better than the both Human and Individual Thought Patterns, even though Chuck still stuck to his formula. Highligts on the album include the title track and Crystal Mountain, but as on any Death album no song is a filler.

One of the best metal albums of all time. This one is highly recommendable.

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Posted Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Review by The Pessimist
PROG REVIEWER
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.

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Send comments to The Pessimist (BETA) | Report this review (#188464) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, November 08, 2008

Review by Certif1ed
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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!

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Send comments to Certif1ed (BETA) | Report this review (#190309) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, November 24, 2008

Review by J-Man
PROG REVIEWER
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.

THE MUSIC:

"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.

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Send comments to J-Man (BETA) | Report this review (#236831) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, September 03, 2009

Review by Negoba
PROG REVIEWER
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+.

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Send comments to Negoba (BETA) | Report this review (#248028) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Review by EatThatPhonebook
PROG REVIEWER
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.

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Send comments to EatThatPhonebook (BETA) | Report this review (#283174) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, May 23, 2010

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.

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Send comments to Bonnek (BETA) | Report this review (#283831) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, May 28, 2010

Review by JJLehto
PROG REVIEWER
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

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Send comments to JJLehto (BETA) | Report this review (#292066) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Review by 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.

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Send comments to Conor Fynes (BETA) | Report this review (#400150) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, February 13, 2011

Review by Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
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.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#621697) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, January 27, 2012

Latest members reviews

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#549799) | Posted by bassgeezer | Thursday, October 13, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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 80īs. After thinking I came to the conclusion that it may be so, but this is still to me the p ... (read more)

Report this review (#418170) | Posted by I Love Internet | Saturday, March 19, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#340683) | Posted by BlindGuard | Thursday, December 02, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#287228) | Posted by DASistGrantTeeL | Friday, June 18, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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 ever..in 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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#283912) | Posted by FarBeyondProg | Friday, May 28, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#273150) | Posted by Time Signature | Saturday, March 20, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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 l ... (read more)

Report this review (#254754) | Posted by dalekvilla | Monday, December 07, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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 d ... (read more)

Report this review (#212508) | Posted by LSDisease | Sunday, April 26, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#209014) | Posted by Alitare | Saturday, March 28, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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 i ... (read more)

Report this review (#202000) | Posted by AdamHearst | Saturday, February 07, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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 can ... (read more)

Report this review (#173816) | Posted by Komuna | Friday, June 13, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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 ca ... (read more)

Report this review (#172788) | Posted by Kurpij | Sunday, June 01, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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 oscillate ... (read more)

Report this review (#156050) | Posted by Zarec | Thursday, December 20, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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 th ... (read more)

Report this review (#154548) | Posted by Koonze | Friday, December 07, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#148383) | Posted by Xanadu97 | Wednesday, October 31, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#136870) | Posted by Cuomi | Friday, September 07, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#115085) | Posted by Yontar | Wednesday, March 14, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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, ti ... (read more)

Report this review (#70176) | Posted by | Tuesday, February 21, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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 album.in my opinion this is an essential for anyone who likes prog metal.it has some of the greatest riffs you will ever hear.5 stars for sure ... (read more)

Report this review (#67402) | Posted by | Monday, January 30, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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