Thursday, 18 October 2012

CD Review: Symbolic, by Death (1995)

Death's sixth and penultimate studio album is filled with worthwhile musical innovation, but on each individual track the whole is often less than the sum of the parts. Symbolic is packed with segments of thoughtful melodic death metal delivered with purpose, but overarching themes to hold the pieces together are more often than not frustratingly missing. Pieces of good music hold hands but lack intimacy, awkwardly failing to make a connection.

The Symbolic line-up assembled by Chuck Schuldiner features Gene Hoglan on drums, the former Dark Angel and future Devin Townsend skinsman adding substantial heft to the album's foundation. Bobby Koelble as the second guitarist and Kelly Conlon on bass complete an accomplished line-up, and the production sounds pleasingly rich and professional under the guidance of producer Jim Morris. Schuldiner as usual leads from the front, his semi-growl vocals surprisingly close to coherent.

Title track and album opener Symbolic, the strongest selection on the record, opens with a massive riff made of hardened steel, and escalates to a high tempo race into a storm. Empty Words desperately searches for a groove, and around its halfway point finally settles onto an evocative theme worth celebrating. Crystal Mountain is more accessible with a melody more persistent than most of what the rest of the album offers.

While Misanthrope is noticeably the weakest track, the other five cuts are competent, aggressive, melodic, and jumbled. With longish song lengths hovering around five minutes and often longer, Schuldiner is keen to explore a diversity of ideas, but regularly starves them of the necessary development time and playfulness needed to tease out a cohesive whole. Too many abbreviated and frantic moments interrupt the album's potential.

Not short of inspiration but lacking in streamlined assembly, Symbolic is a case of too many elements crowding each other out of the room.


Chuck Schuldiner: Guitar, Vocals
Bobby Koelble: Guitar
Gene Hoglan: Drums
Kelly Conlon: Bass

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

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

Average: 7.33

Produced, Engineered and Mixed by Jim Morris.
Mastered by George Marino.

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.

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