Symbolic
DEATH

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4.46 | 117 ratings | 10 reviews
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Album · 1995

Filed under Death Metal

Tracklist

1. Symbolic (6:33)
2. Zero Tolerance (4:48)
3. Empty Words (6:22)
4. Sacred Serenity (4:26)
5. 1,000 Eyes (4:28)
6. Without Judgement (5:28)
7. Crystal Mountain (5:07)
8. Misanthrope (5:03)
9. Perennial Quest (8:18)

Total Time: 50:37

Line-up/Musicians

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

About this release

Full-length, Roadrunner/Metal Mind
March 21st, 1995

Produced and engineered by Jim Morris.
Co-produced by Chuck Schuldiner.
Recorded and miexed at Morrisound Recording, Tampa, Florida.
Mastered by George Marino at Sterling Sound, New York.
Music and lyrics by Chuck Schuldiner.
Cover art and band photos by Rene Miville.
Design by Patty Mooney.

Roadrunner Records released a remastered special edition CD on 04/01/08 with the
following bonus tracks:

Demo/Pre-Production Recordings:
10. Symbolic Acts (original "Symbolic" title) (instrumental)
11. Zero Tolerance (instrumental)
12. Crystal Mountain (instrumental)
13. Misanthrope (instrumental)
14. Symbolic Acts (original "Symbolic" title) (with vocals)

* Tracks 10-13 recorded March 1994:
Chuck Schuldiner – Guitar
Gene Hoglan - Drum Programming
Steve DiGiorgio – Bass

* Track 14 recorded January 1994:
Chuck Schuldiner - Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Drum Programming

Thanks to UMUR for the updates

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DEATH SYMBOLIC reviews

Specialists/collaborators reviews

Warthur
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.
Conor Fynes
'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.
Stooge
Symbolic is the second Death album I ever heard after The Sound of Perseverance. While that album got my initial interest in the band, Symbolic secured my place as a Death fan.

Naturally, the personnel of the band undergoes another shuffle. Guitarist Bobby Koeble and bassist Kelly Conlon, while not exactly the legends that Chuck has played with on past albums, certainly perform to the expectations fans might expect of them. However, in terms of all the instrumentalists, returning drummer Gene Hoglan is the one that truly makes a name for himself. We know that he can shred on the drums from hearing Individual Thought Patterns, but his playing on Symbolic shows him a bit more fluid, making rather difficult drumming seem so simplistic. The mix does justice to Hoglan’s performance.

Looking down the track list, I’m impressed with the quality of each song. All tracks have a crushing heaviness and at the same time are rather accessible. The melodic chorus of “Sacred Serenity”, the catchy riffing throughout “Crystal Mountain”, and the simplistic but strong verse riff of the title track are just a few examples of this. Symbolic stands as an excellent choice as a “gateway” album to death metal and more extreme forms of music.

Symbolic is one death metal album that could (and should) find its place comfortably in any metal fan’s collection. If you gain a deeper interest in this album, check out the 2008 reissue, which includes select demo tracks from the album (some which feature bassist Steve DiGiorgio!!).
The Angry Scotsman
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.

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?

My third favorite death album, and in my opinion their most challenging. Very excellent work of music!

Four and a Half Stars
topofsm
Forget all preconceptions at the door for Symbolic. While it does have death metal elements all over, it is far from the sound of classic death. The instrumental ability on this album raised the bar so high for bands of the day that tech-death became a major scene within itself. Progressive death metal became a legitimate genre, and when a legendary band such as Death began progressing beyond standard metal, it somewhat gave other bands license to explore beyond the precedent. In this manner, Death is for death metal what the Beatles were for rock music.

The album starts off with a simple lone guitar riff of the title track. Upon first listen it doesn't seem to foreshadow anything particularly innovative or technical. But a minute into the groove everything explodes. Suddenly tempo changes are the norm, and any song can go any unpredictable direction. The band explores rhythms, going off several tangents within a few minutes. The musicianship is top notch as well. While everyone knows that Chuck Schuldiner was a legendary guitarist with extraordinary talent, and while he showcases this perfectly within the album, another remarkable aspect is his tone. When he's shredding it brings a mystical aura across the heavy soundscape from the other musicians. While magical is not an angle most metal guitarists aim for, the word describes Schuldiner's playing perfectly. Gene Hoglan compliments him well. As 'the atomic clock' he not only works as a timekeeper, but he embellishes the sound so well with fantastic fills and driving groove. The bass, though, is less audible than most of Death's progressive era, though Bobby Koelble carries Schuldiner's backing guitar riffs loyally.

This is one of those rare albums where every song stand out on its own merit. Each one has a perfectly good reason to be on it too. There's no filler, and each song supports the album thoroughly. The opening track introduces the album well, "Empty Words" has a haunting intro and impressive sweeps in the chorus, "1,000 Eyes" is a relentless thrashfest, "Crystal Mountain" has a strong drive along with an emotional outro, and "Perennial Quest" makes for an epic closer. These songs and every one in between bring something to the table. I feel like there is little justification to say any one track is better than another.

So what are you waiting for? Not only is Symbolic a stunning listen from beginning to end, but it is a definitive work that lays the ground for both death metal and prog metal to come. It contains innovative ideas, top-level musicianship, and metal songs that are sure to be classics for a long time. It deserves a spot in every metal collection, and for those unfamiliar to the genre it is a good introduction.
Time Signature
Iconic...

Genre: progressive death metal

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 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. Composition-wise, 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.
Phonebook Eater
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.
Negoba
Absolute Masterpiece - of Metal Guitar

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.

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 classical composers and some prog acts, 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 monumental classic of extreme metal. It moved the genre forward. It features some insane drum work, and great riffs. If I were a true death metal fan, this would likely be a 5 star. Even as a dragonvoice critic, it still comes close.

Members reviews

1967/ 1976
For the pleasure of listening to good music ... For the pleasure of dreaming! Thanks Chuck!

Death Metal is an extreme type of Heavy Metal with a mix between Speed Thrash Metal and Venom and Celtic Frost and similar bands of 80's with "growl" vocals. But for shure it has evolved into something unique, becoming, thanks to Death, Cynic, Pestilence, Atheist and a similar band in a genre that was not only extreme Metal. To give an example of what has come to try to imagine a Speed Thrash version of Atomic Rooster or Black Widow! You understand very well what I mean. And in fact this subgenre of Death Metal Progressive Death Metal comes called! This natural evolution has given birth to some of the finest Rock albums of all time in technique and magic, warmth and sincerity. It seems strange but I see more this kind of music as a descendant from the prog rock of the 70's that Neo Prog.

Musically "Symbolic" draws from Speed ​​Thrash Metal as much as from Progressive. Certainly it is an album that can not be dismissed merely as Progressive Death Metal because if that's true, "Symbolic" come to a lesser extent also Thechnical Thrash Metal, Power Metal, Symphonic Metal, Baroque music, Bach and Wagner. In an overview listening to "Symbolic" I see the same music that played Celtic Frost in the mid 80's but faster and technical! In any case, "Symbolic" sounds like an album that does not have a home in a specific genre, because as I said it becomes a pure example of Prog Metal and even of Prog Rock!

The production is crystal clear and difficult to improve. The mix is structured so that power and technique have the same weight in the pieces of "Symbolic" but, at the same time, the melodic parts become even more melodic (but without losing power!). Shouldiner is always at the highest levels but surprisingly, the drumming of Gene Hoglan, always powerful, precise, technical and fiery, played with ease and precision.

In conclusion I can say that "Symbolic" is an album truly immortal. It is the son of Shouldiner and mind, mind that, a few years later, will betray him. Even if you hate Death Metal... You can not hate "Symbolic"!
bassgeezer
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 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.

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