Death
Symbolic


5.0
classic

Review

by Brendan Schroer USER (113 Reviews)
March 27th, 2018 | 107 replies


Release Date: 1995 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The perfect balance of the spirit of adventure and the energy of the moshpit.

I remember when I first heard the phrase “adventure metal”; guitarist Chris Letchford used it to describe his band Scale the Summit. And it’s not like I can’t see where he’s coming from, either. Scale the Summit use atmosphere and shifts in mood to take you on a journey, an expedition of sorts. At the same time, though, it’s not like they were the first band to come up with such a concept; countless acts, from Opeth to Gojira, have gone great lengths to make their music feel more like an excursion than mere tracklists. But today, we’re going to talk about a band who had to evolve to get to this point: the almighty metal giants Death. To put it simply, it’s hard to believe that the same band that wrote such a primal display of death metal fury as Scream Bloody Gore could come up with an incredible mixture of aggression and sophistication. Despite this, Symbolic proved to be the pinnacle of Death’s steady evolution into the realm of progressive extreme metal. With a new lineup of guitarist Bobby Koelble, bassist Kelly Conlon, and returning drummer Gene Hoglan, Chuck was ready to redefine metal once again… this time achieving the strongest results.

From the opening notes of the title track, Symbolic sounds like a daunting undertaking, as if you’re actually scaling a mountain. Those monumental octave-jumping riffs, combined with the classically-inclined melodies arched above, show just how much Chuck Schuldiner has grown as a songwriter over the years. It’s not enough anymore to just have meaty, brutal riffs, but now they’re all embellished with little ornaments that flesh out the atmosphere and diversity of the recording. That melodic opening riff in “Without Judgment” sounds pretty cool; what more could they add" Well, some intricate and progressive drum fills courtesy of Gene Hoglan should do the trick. That chunky Drop-D intro to “Crystal Mountain” is aggressive and driving; how about that one" Get Schuldiner and Bobby Koelble to bring in some classical harmonies straight out of a Dream Theater album to round it out! Despite the progressive influences, however, the technicality and ambition never get overbearing to the point that they get in the way of a good riff or a good groove. On top of that, songs like “Misanthrope” and “1,000 Eyes” still pay respect to the band’s thrash-driven past with harsh and relentless arrangements that round out the variety on Symbolic.

Now, let’s get back to that first statement I made: the one regarding “adventure metal.” That may sound like a really stupid term (and, to be honest, I’d agree), but it’s still a great way to describe Symbolic. The way each song shifts and adjusts to each change in mood and tone is ridiculously natural, and gives off the true sense of embarking on a journey. “Perennial Quest” is probably the best example, especially in how it concludes the record with a soft acoustic portion that somehow doesn’t sound out-of-place on a Death album (then again, there’s also “Voice of the Soul”...). Many of the riffs and melodies here are adorned with an emotional punch that’s lacking in a lot of today’s technical metal; just listen to the quiet introduction to “Empty Words” and the subtle melancholy it wrings out of the clean guitar progression. On a similar note, check out the beautiful clean section of “Sacred Serenity,” which provides a nice contemplative break from the metal frenzy without breaking too far away from the band’s signature style. The lyrics are equally thought-provoking too, touching on themes of religion, hypocrisy, deceit, misanthropy, as well as many depictions of inner contemplation and soul-searching. The poetry on the record brings nice accompaniment to the more advanced musical arrangements, to say the least.

Death’s followup The Sound of Perseverance might be even more adventurous, and Individual Thought Patterns might have been more technical, but neither of them pulled these qualities together as meaningfully as Symbolic did. If you were to ask me why Symbolic works so well, I could answer that in just a few words: songwriting and storytelling. They sound like simple ingredients, but Death elevated them to such lofty heights that very few death metal or progressive metal bands could keep up with the sheer ambition and focus of this epic. Symbolic is beautiful, immersive, elaborate, brutal, and a stunning testament to just how emotionally and artistically accomplished heavy metal can be.



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user ratings (3493)
Chart.
4.5
superb
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • Atari STAFF (5)
    An absolute f*cking pillar in the world of metal....

    sonoflilith (5)
    Symbolic is legend...

    skeletorissatan (5)
    Magic. Utter Magic....

    Angmar (4.5)
    Symbolic redefines the death metal genre, adding in proggressive elements making up a fant...

  • necroscope86 (5)
    On "Symbolic" Death arguably hit their creative peak, with frequently changing tempos and ...

    Andy H. B. (5)
    Death's Symbolic is one of the the crown jewels of all of death metal, combining the perfe...

    Thor (4)
    Yet another reason why Death's "Final Four" is probably the best stretch of death metal al...

    Necrotica (3.5)
    A very solid metal release that serves as a fine penultimate chapter in Death's discograph...

  • askingalexandriasuck (5)
    Chuck Schuldiner's swansong, a magnificent album loaded with great riffing and awesome son...

    LaughingSkull (3)
    Crosses the line between complexity and pretentiousness...



Comments:Add a Comment 
SoccerRiot
March 27th 2018


5350 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I said I would do this someday, so here it is

Doctuses
March 27th 2018


1832 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I think I'm the only one on this website that doesn't cum over this band. In fact they bore the fuck out of me, like most Florida/1st-wave-DM. Very well written review though

Source
March 27th 2018


3592 Comments


You really are the only one

Digging: The Absence - From Your Grave

SoccerRiot
March 27th 2018


5350 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

You're not the only one, Doctuses. In fact, I gave this album a 3.5 in my original Necrotica review. But my opinion changed over time :]

Darius the Great
March 27th 2018


18135 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Necrotica revs always put me in a good mood

Doctuses
March 27th 2018


1832 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

you were necrotica?

SoccerRiot
March 27th 2018


5350 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yeah

Doctuses
March 27th 2018


1832 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

oh snap

Darius the Great
March 27th 2018


18135 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I originally thought necrotica quit cold turkey before I found out lmao

Doctuses
March 27th 2018


1832 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I definitely prefer their earlier DM straight forward style instead of the proggy mid tempo stuff.

Source
March 27th 2018


3592 Comments


So you've achieved contrib on two accounts?

SoccerRiot
March 27th 2018


5350 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I achieved staff on the first one and contrib on this one

Source
March 27th 2018


3592 Comments


Oh wow

Darius the Great
March 27th 2018


18135 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

He achieves a lot.

Source
March 27th 2018


3592 Comments


Apparently

SoccerRiot
March 27th 2018


5350 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

a lot of success and failure both, lol



self-imposed, of course, but still

Doctuses
March 27th 2018


1832 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I'm sure you've been asked this before but Why did you make a second account?

Source
March 27th 2018


3592 Comments


Did you lower your rating even further doctuses :-(

SoccerRiot
March 27th 2018


5350 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I wanted to distance myself away from the mistakes I made with my original account (of which there were several) so I made a new start for myself, ironically coinciding with the new start I got in real life as well

Doctuses
March 27th 2018


1832 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I feel you.



@Source, - yes. I'm just too hard for this album.



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