39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 2003
I love all of Death's albums, especially their '90's ones, but I think "Symbolic" is clearly the band's masterpiece. Death's last four albums all represented an effort to inject progressive tendencies into extreme metal, and here is where they nailed it the best. More than any of their other albums, this one contains everything that made Chuck Schuldiner and his ever-changing band so great: unbridled creativity, complex arrangements, awe-inspiring technicality, Chuck's distinctive death vocals, and time changes that Nostradamus would have had trouble predicting. Perhaps most importantly, "Symbolic" was the culmination of Chuck's songwriting evolution. In spite of all the heaviness and technicality, these songs all maintained a strong groove, effortessly flowing from one passage to another. I can't think of another album, with the possible exception of Carcass's "Heartwork" and a few Opeth albums, that has balanced heaviness, creativity, and intricacy as well as "Symbolic."
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on December 18, 2001
For the uninitiated, Death was the band (along with a few notable others) that spearheaded the American death metal wave of the mid- to late- 80's and into the 90's. Coming from Florida, it's no surprise that such a significant band would influence so many others from the same geographical region to play within the same musical frame, which is why the late 80's spawned so many death metal acts from Florida. Chuck Schulinder and company (in other words, whoever joined him on each individual release) drove home many classic albums that gave a sort of "state of the union" appeal for American death, with the most acclaimed being the first three - "Scream Bloody Gore", "Leprosy", "Spiritual Healing". In retrospect, "Spiritual Healing" was a turning point in Chuck's musical ambition and lyrical stance. Death's music expanded into a thrashier demeanor, something that would eventually morph itself into a progressive feel. Considering the changes with Death's direction, their 80's and 90's output can be pretty much split in two - the first three rattling death metal releases in one lump and the more progressive material in the second. Keep in mind, however, that despite the change in direction, none of the power, intensity, or aggression was lost one bit.
Of these later albums that might fit the description of progressive death metal - sorry, that's the best I can do! - the highlight is definitely "Symbolic", which was supposed to be the final album under the Death banner, from what I hear. In fact, the follow-up to this album, "The Sound Of Perseverance", was not even supposed to happen as a Death LP. Originally intended as the debut from Chuck's new band Control Denied, the timing apparently wasn't right.
So what to make of "Symbolic"? It simply has some of the most technical musical wizardry laid down on any metal album. Ever. To this day, I listen to this CD flabbergasted, wondrous (...how can they DO that?!?!?!) at the obvious talent oozing and dripping from every riff and every fill. Oh, the humanity! But, alas, there is more to a successful album than sheer aptitude. There's the music itself - and boy does it kill! This line-up's superior talent was required in order to execute all this ferocious madness so flawlessly while making it seem so effortless. There are tons of melodic sensibilities at work in most of the tracks, but they aren't overdone to sickening measures like you'd expect in many other "melodic death metal" acts who simply put too much emphasis on the "melodic" side of things to make the music still "death metal". There are very few "melodic death metal" bands that can do this well - and this album was proof of one that could. In other words, for each melodic riff, whether slow, mid-paced or speed-laden, there's a driving flat-out thrash-fest (shall I call it anti-melodic?) to counteract. Case in point: the 6 ½ minute opening title track starts the CD ominously and weaves its way back and forth between meaty mid-paced sections and Death's own trademark double bass speed techniques - a characteristic that finds its way in the much of the album.
Perhaps thinking of the lead guitar melodies and prog-rock complexities of Iron Maiden counter balanced with the brutality of Death's finest would best represent the direction here.
Of the nine superb compositions, I always seem to find myself wanting a second dose of the title track, "1,000 Eyes", "Empty Words", "Crystal Mountain", "Misanthrope", and even the epic "Perennial Quest". I know that accounts for the majority of the album, but with such masterful tracks to sift through maybe that's yet another testament to the brilliance on this disk.
In conclusion, I suppose one of the most important reasons to hear "Symbolic" - and even "The Sound Of Perseverance" - is to experience how far one man could push Death Metal. Unfortunately, Chuck Schulinder's drive, hunger, and ambition to do just that was coldly stripped away from him when he was forced to put down his guitar and fight the battle of his life - cancer. A battle he fought with the utmost dignity and pride, in fact. Even mere weeks before he ultimately lost that battle in December of 2001, he was in the press acknowledging that more Death and Control Denied albums were inevitable. Chuck's talent and vision are evident in all of Death's albums, but it's obvious that "Symbolic" was just that - symbolic of what he thought metal was all about.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on April 1, 2008
This review is not intended to coerce, persuade, or influence newcomers of Death, Chuck Schuldiner, and the amazingly talented music inbetween the two. If one is interested in the basics of Symbolic, please refer to the original release ('95) page where many others can assist you with an abundance of reviews. My review is for the many fans of Death and/or Symbolic.
I am writing this review today (April 1st) because I managed to acquire a copy 3 days early and have been listening thoroughly, over and over. Symbolic was always a personal favorite; a benchmark of supreme technicality and beautiful melody. There is no other way to say it than with this new remaster release, what was/is great has now become greater.
Basically, compared to the original press, the back case art and the liner notes have been revised. New layout/photos with a special page dedicated to the memory of Chuck, photos courtesy of his mom, Beth. Don Kaye contributes a 3 page editorial covering the life of Death as a group, focusing extensively on Symbolic's development (obviously) while getting Gene Hoglan to comment quite a bit throughout. '"There have been countless hundreds with whom I've interacted who have said, 'Symbolic is the whole reason I picked up my instrument.'" says Gene proudly.' I myself as a percussionist/drummer look up to Gene and practice his material/methods weekly if not daily; the whole reason why I started playing double bass was listening to his consistency and understanding why he's called Gene "The Machine". You'll never hear a sloppy note. Don also comments that while we'll never know where Chuck would have gone musically, "...his legacy shows every indication of the true artist, craftsman and musician he was."
The new quality of the music is sheer grace. Who better for the remastering job than George Marino, the man who did the original mastering in '95. Mainly, the low and high ends have been polished and raised. Gene's bass drums and cymbal accents are more articulate and present, Chuck's vocals are more intense yet smoother, the bass stands out more than the original, and the solos are packed with more clarity and ear-piercing power. All of this is definitely prevalent within '1,000 Eyes', 'Crystal Mountain', and 'Symbolic'. I noticed the most change in those tracks, but it's apparent in the entire album. I was so overjoyed with the results I couldn't stop smiling to myself as I listened, thinking, "I can't believe it sounds this good! I never thought 'Symbolic' could EVER be better."
Ah yes, and the treat for us Death fans; the bonus tracks. Four standard demos without vocals and one 4-track demo made entirely by the man himself. I find them fascinating because done in '94, DiGiorgio contributed his whipping bass and Gene worked out complete drum programming. We get to see how the songs evolved, took form, and were original presented. Plus, they all have some variation of the album versions which is fresh air. 'Symbolic Acts' as it was originally named is actually the closest to the final cut of all, 'Zero Tolerance' helped me realize that the intro riff for the guitar is (a+1+e+&+a+2) that extra 'a' 16th note in front of 1, 'Crystal Mountain' is on fire, faster than the final cut, and even though it's a drum machine, it's still pretty awesome to listen to how fast the drum programming is along with faster guitar work, and 'Misanthrope' finds the greatest variation, treated by an enticing acoustic intro and the slower solo replaced by acoustic as well. These 4 demos also display DiGiorgio's flow and presence as a powerful fretless bassist, which is pretty apparent as well. The 4-track is all Chuck, the very first incarnation of 'Symbolic', which is awesome to hear how it all began...
I don't know what to say other than that 1) If you like/love Death, 2) Are a Schuldiner fan, 3) Want to be inspired by one of the most distinct, unmistakable, and unequalled metal albums, pick up this remaster. The drumming behind Death's albums constantly influences me with machine-like accuracy and perfection. One reason I love this remaster so much is I am able to hear more of what accents and articulations Gene is doing, especially on the cymbals (as I said earlier).
I've never had such a large emotional connection to a certain group ever. Chuck's lyrics can apply and relate to everyone (it's Symbolic to everybody). The true-to-life realistic approach in his words are the best I've heard in metal, and this album is definitely the pinnacle of his thoughts/feelings of life. Chuck deserves no less, this remaster is beautiful and a sentiment to his memory; as a passionate person and pioneering musician who accepted nothing but the best. This remaster represents what Chuck stood for, RIP
32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2004
Great metal songwriters typically come in 2 forms. One's who craft the songs to fit a certain ambiance(Black Sabbath, Katatonia, Tool, Emperor...) and ones who achieve greatness through the exhibition of mastery of the instrument.(Randy Rhoades, Children of Bodom, In Flames, Slayer...) I'm a fan of both types of songwriting and it is extremly rare that a cd will satisfy my taste for both. Death's Symbolic is one of those rare albums that does. This is damn near perfect, and while there is a great deal of showmanship, it never goes over the top and over shadows the music. Chuck's growling is the best it's ever been and this album can single handedly be used as the case for including him among the best death metal vocalists ever. There's plently of amazing solo's among a somewhat progressive rhythem section. Gene Hoglan's drums are well done and drive the album along nicely. While Hoglan does hold back a bit, it's done with the purpose of playing what the songs require. This album is what pure death metal should strive to be: Intelligent and aggressive, heavy yet focused and just melodic enough to make it fun to listen to. Defitintly one of the top 20 albums of all time. Would recommend this to any death or melodic death fan. I also recommend checking out In Flames(lunar strain/subterrianian), Cynic, Mithras, Hate Eternal and Amon Amarth in addition to this.
On a different note, check out Within the Mind: In homage to the musical legacy of Chuck Schuliner, coming out later this year. It's directed by former Death guitarist James Murphy and features people from Six Feet Under to Mudvayne paying their respects. Proceeds go to help James Murphy who has a brain tumor.
R.I.P. Chuck Schuliner
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 19, 2004
Most fans will hail Death as the original death metal band, but when you ask Death's visionary, Chuck Schuldiner, he would cite Possessed as the influence. Still, Death's impact on the genre can not go overlooked. They brought technical complexity to death metal and remain one of the most creative and innovative bands in the genre.
Death's earlier albums were much more thrash oriented, but these later ones are quite a stylistic oddity. More towards the modern style of death metal, but with hints of classic heavy metal, progressive, and still some thrash. If you're not a fan of death metal, you might change your mind, were you to consider Death.
Not only is the music unorthodox for death metal, but the lyrics are some of the most intellectual that the scene will ever know. Chuck Schuldiner is not only a poet, but a thinker, something very rare in metal, especially in death metal. Ironic as it is, most bands in their genre have fallen well below Death's brand of intense, technical and sophisticated music. Which is fitting, since they pioneered the style in a sense, and few bands are ever as good or better than the inventors.
Since this is much more than just a death metal album, I'd recommend this album to anyone who likes metal at all. Some of Death's earlier albums are not as good or technical as these later ones, so be wary of what you decide upon. But this release truly belongs in the legends, as Chuck is a legend himself among the metal world, for his innovative visions and persistence with Death.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 2000
Chuck Schuldiner and Death have, once again, created another classic thrash/death metal album that goes above and beyond anything the Florida death metal scene has ever put out. Yes, Morbid Angel is a close second, and if I'm not mistaken Angel Corpse is also from FL, so I gotta give my credit where it's due. But really, Chuck is a guitar god and his band on "Symbolic" are just phenomenal at what they do - and that's play their self-described "Dream Theater death metal" so distinctly that just one listen for a second or two of any song from this album, and any fan will immediately recognize it. The instrumentation, time changes and individual talent really shine on this album, as nothing surpasses it in the genre - with the possible exception of Death's newest monster, "The Sound of Perseverance."
If you're a fan of the Florida death metal explosion and you DON'T have this album, consider yourself a death metal heretic. (Wait, that could be a good thing.) At any rate, just GO GET THIS CD, because if you're reading this, you like metal - ANY metal fan will love "Symbolic."
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 10, 2003
I'm a fan of all types of rock/metal music, and let me say, Death's Symbolic is quite possibly one of the most amazing, beautiful, technical and intellegent albums ever recorded. First of all, Chuck's lyrics are nothing short of amazing. This guy is not only a poet, but a thinker. His lyrics are very thoughtful, and are pure emotion of general issues. The guitar playing is jaw dropping as well. Not only the sheer speed of them, but Chuck's solos are just so melodic and perfect. Next, we have the drums. Gene Holgan is inhuman, as he pounds the double bass at the perfect times and hits the skins.
Simply put, this album is perfect. It desevers all the stars in the world, because this is THE Death album to own. It gives me chills listening to it, and I listen to it a few times a week, and I've had it for a long while. This is essential. Chuck Shuldiner may be gone but never forgotten.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2009
Colonization of another planet will mean nothing compared to the greatness of this musical composition.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 10, 2006
Lately, I've been looking into a lot of metal, and Death is one of the first I checked out (along with Opeth, In Flames, Children of Bodom, and Queensryche). I gotta say that this album is MUCH more than I expected. I didn't expect any ridiculous lyrics about feeling up corpses like Cannibal Corpse has, as I've read the lyrics are intelligent, but I didn't expect them to be this intelligent! Here are some lyrics from the title track: "Savor what you feel and what you see. Things may not seem important now, but may be tomorrow." Come on people, those are lyrics to live by! So far, this is the only Death album I own, but it's definately made me motivated to buy more of their albums. Chuck Schuldiner includes complex musicianship, intelligent lyrics, and a high-pitched, completely comprehendible death metal growl in his music. Even if you hate death metal with a passion, you could love Chuck's work because his music is about spirituality and problems people face every day. Despite the technical guitar solos and bone-crushing drums, progressive elements are mixed in with Symbolic making it catchier than most death metal. There are also some acoustic passages on Misanthrope and Perennial Quest. Even though Chuck's lead guitar would have to be the most outstanding instrument, Bob Koelble's rythm guitar (and he also plays dual solos with Chuck on some of the songs), Gene Hoglan's drums, and Kelly Conlon's bass (which is actually audible!) are also very impressive. Anyway, here are my thoughts on the songs.
The title track opens up with some pounding guitars and symbols, and get a lot heavier at the 15 second mark. Then Chuck's growl comes in with "I don't mean to dwell, but I just can't help myself!" There's a great solo by Chuck, and Bob solos with him for the first 5 seconds of the solo. And then there's Kelly and Gene pounding away in their rythm section. It's about how peopl always take everything for granted, and never think that things may not be what they are tomorrow. Zero Tolerance opens up with some jazzy drums, but gets heavier when Chuck's voice and his guitar and Bob's guitar kick in. We also get a quick solo after the first 4 verses. And after another 4 verses, we get ANOTHER guitar solo! I think this song is about injustices in the world. Around the 2:50 mark, Chuck and Bob do some killer dual guitar solos. Possibly the best on the whole album! Empty Words opens up with some tribal drums, synth effects, and mellow guitar work, but then hits you like the prvious track does. I believe this song is about the hypocrisies of politics ("The answer cannot be found in the writing of others, or the words of a trained mind!"). And of course, more great guitar work from Chuck. Sacred Serenity opens up with some pounding bass and drum work from Kelly and Gene, then the guitars come in and we get a solo from Chuck. I'm not quite sure what it's about, but I'll update this review once I've decided what I think the meaning of it is. Nonetheless, it's an awesome song. There's also a calm interlude with Chuck soloing in the middle. 1,000 Eyes is a little catchier than the last 4 tracks (but those tracks are still awesome). I think this song is about racism against African Americans and/or about the slave movments back in the old days ("Privacy and intamacy as we know it will be memory among many to be passed down to those who never knew it"). That may not be what it's really about (hey, for all I know this song could be about Santa Clause), but that's what I got from it. The chorus ("Living in the pupil of 1,00 eyes!") is also very catchy, and I've been finding myself humming it from time to time. 1,00 Eyes also has a very creepy ending, with all the intruments and Chuck's voice echoeing continuously until they dissappear. You also hear Chuck yell (We Are Enslaved!") Next comes Without Judgement, which I think is about court issues and how the juries can be tricked so easily with cheesy sad stories. Once again, I don't know if that's what it's about, but that's my opinion. There are some creepy guitar effects in this song too. Crystal Mountain is my 2nd favorite track off the album. It's the catchiest yet most aggressive on the album. It's about, I believe, tyranny and dictatorship ("All the traps are set to confine all who get in the way of the divine!"). The solo from Chuck is, like all the other solos, nothing short of brilliant. Misanthrope seems to be about the evolution of mankind ("Knowledge is taken in by curious life forms"). Perennial Quest is quite possibly the most heartfelt song off the whole album, and my favorite off it. It's about every-day life, and questions people ask and problems go through. Though the instrumentation and vocal style may not be emotional, the lyrics certainly are. It just shows you what a genius Chuck is.
I don't regrety buying this at all, and I look forward to buying more of Death's albums. If you thought death metal is just a bunch of unintelligible lyrics about killing god and necrophlia (*cough* Cannibal Corpse and Deicide *cough*), there are some DM bands like that, but Death is not one of them. Death is intelligent, heartfelt, and talented, while Cannibal Corpse is stupid, tastesless, and boring.
To end this review, I would like to join all the other 5-star reviewers on this page and say: RIP Chuck Schuldiner.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2008
This remaster sounds fantastic, if anyone out there is wondering if it's worth the upgrade, it is. The guitars are thicker and the bass is much more prominent, overall it's cleaner and louder (obviously). I love this album more than ever now, and it's still the best metal album of all time. There isn't much more to say since it's a remaster. buy it.