Review Summary: Magic. Utter Magic.
For an album to stand the test of time, said album must either be utterly flawless, or, at the very least, it must be of the standard where any flaws are completely overpowered by the sheer talent on display. Very few albums can claim to come even close, with even the most accomplished albums often falling completely short, due to small unavoidable niggles. However, there is one extremely famous example of utterly flawless song writing, which leaves nothing but destruction in its wake. From the very first notes of this album you know you are onto something special, and are hooked in to listen to it in its entirety. This is Death's Symbolic. This is a masterclass in how metal should be done right.
Death had every right to be not only satisfied with their past work, but completely ecstatic. Over the course of just five albums, they had innovated a genre and released five albums that were considered the very finest the genre had to offer, and had managed to do so whilst transcending said genre and drifting towards a more progressive territory. So, it would be fair comment to say that the band had done pretty much everything that could be done with the genre. Surely no band could top Human, could they?
Wrong. Symbolic manages to top Human in nearly every aspect. From front to back, this album is completely flawless. The guitar work on here is, as with every Death album released, the absolute selling point, and this really does not disappoint. In fact, it elevates the band to the next level, ascending to a point where no mortal man should ever get close to. The talent of Chuck Schuldiner is something that should never be questioned, and this album proves exactly why. From the intro riff of the title track to the closing moments of Perennial Quest, the riff work on this album is utterly astounding.
Crystal Mountain boasts one of the most famous Death riffs, and remains the bands signature song. Despite being one of the weaker tunes on this album, it is still breathtakingly good. The riff work found on this song is exceedingly tight, and was far better than other Death metal elites Obituary, Morbid Angel or Cannibal Corpse could put out at this point. What makes Crystal Mountain stand out the most, however, is the use of Spanish acoustic solo's, with one being found towards the middle, and then an acoustic outro, and are done beautifully, without hindering the pace of the song. Even Holy Wars could not use this to better effect, and that really is saying something.
Empty Words remains one of the absolute finest songs the band ever put out, with a clean intro, before heading straight into one of the most furious guitar riffs on the album, and some completely insane vocal work from Chuck. Chuck's growls were getting a lot higher on this album, but there are very few death metal vocalists who could sound remotely as brutal as Chuck manages to here. He spews utter venom throughout this song, as the guitars carry this song on a perfectly written rollercoaster of a progressive death metal track. This really is a completely amazing song, boasting an amazing solo to boot.
If Symbolic was the perfect way to open this album, then Perennial Quest was sure the most incredible way to close it off. From the opening seconds right through to the closing notes, Perennial Quest embodies every element that Death would use throughout the course of their career, without once sacrificing the intensity this album has worked so hard to create. There really are few closing songs that can truly match up to the genius of Perennial Quest, which is my second favourite song from the album.
Sacred Serenity may well contain one of the finest intros to any song on any album ever. The drumming is absolute perfect, the bass work is completely incredible, and the frantic guitar work makes this one of the most worthy listens of its time. Chuck really does make his opinions known on this song, and there can not have ever been a death vocalist who manages to put as much raw emotion and rage into music without ever once being taken for a fool or sounding pretentious.
Symbolic was a highly technical, well written progressive death metal album that never fails to astound. From faster section to slower section to clean moment, this album really is sheer brilliance throughout. If there was ever one death metal album that really deserves a listen, it would be this, and every self respecting metal head should already own a copy of this album. If, by some small chance, you have not heard this album, i recommend going to the local CD store and picking this up, and prepare to be taken on an awe-inspiring, emotional journey through the mind of Chuck Schuldiner. 5/5