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A Review of the Album "Symbolic" by Florida Based Death Metal Band Death

Ara is a journalism graduate from California State University, Northridge, who is always looking to explore his writing opportunities.

Logo for the American Death Metal Band Death


Symbolic: a very memorable album and one of the best in the death metal genre

Tampa Florida based band Death had an outstanding career since their start in the 1980’s. Their 1995 album Symbolic may be their finest effort in their career. The vocals of the late Chuck Schuldiner may be his most audible and finest. The album marks the return of drummer Gene Hoglan. Joining Schuldiner as the other guitarist on this album is Bobby Koelble. Playing the bass guitar is Kelly Conlon. I remember buying the album on cassette back in 1995 and even back then, it was one of my favorite death metal albums. Even if this band had a sort of “revolving door” policy where members would join and leave after a certain time, this does not have an effect on the quality of the songs.

"Symbolic" Songs List

  1. Symbolic
  2. Zero Tolerance
  3. Empty Words
  4. Sacred Serenity
  5. 1,000 Eyes
  6. Without Judgement
  7. Crystal Mountain
  8. Misanthrope
  9. Perennial Quest
  10. Symbolic Acts (demo and bonus track)

"Symbolic" Song Only

Symbolic: Analysis of the first three songs including the title track, Zero Tolerance, & Empty Words

The first song Symbolic has a very memorable and catchy riff before speeding up and kind of slowing down. That is called a time change. There is a pretty melodic part in the three minute mark of the song before the solo comes. This band is not really your traditional death metal band. I would say they are closer to being a melodic death metal band. And they execute the riffs and leads so well. Zero Tolerance is just as the song title implies. There will be zero tolerance for our own intentions. Often times, we think and believe that we can figure things out by ourselves. But we need to let faith be the deciding factor. Faith gives us that hope that we need to keep going. Chuck does a great job by bringing up the subject for thought. Empty Words starts with a sort of atmospheric part and this makes Death a unique band willing to explore many different styles meshed into the death metal genre. The beginning vocal approach on Symbolic the title track is memorable because when Chuck utters the sentence “I don’t mean to dwell. But I can’t help myself,” in this beginning part, it gives you the feeling that it is going to be vocal performance to remember.

"1,000 Eyes"

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What makes the band Death and Symbolic so great?

Forget bands such as Buffalo New York’s Cannibal Corpse, Deicide or any of those other heavy death metal bands if you want to hear QUALITY American death metal. Quality is emphasized here because these guys were one of the best death metal bands in the US. Between 1991 and 1995, this band from Florida put out three outstanding albums in a row! Human released in 1991 features such outstanding songs as See Through Dreams and Vacant Planets, one of my favorite songs from this band. Individual Thought Patterns has the excellent first song Overactive Imagination which I still listen to and recall for its excellent riffing. Once Symbolic came out, this band may have reached the top of the mountain, the pinnacle of their greatness. Sacred Serenity has some good bass guitar work before it reaches the point of having an excellent fast part. They may have influenced such bands as Finland’s Kalmah because there is a type of excellent softer melodic part that Kalmah has experimented with especially in their album Swamplord. What are the memorable songs in Symbolic? There are several of them. Certainly the title track Symbolic is one of them. Sacred Serenity, 1,000 Eyes, Without Judgement, Crystal Mountain, and Misanthrope would be the others. So more than half of the album is memorable. I have the version that has a bonus track in it called Symbolic Acts. It is a different version of the first song.

The song "Sacred Serenity" (good melodies and bass lines)

The second half of the album Symbolic provides even more evidence of the greatness of the album

More melody treats the listener in the song Without Judgement. The song makes reference to the legal system in the US but in the opposite way. The person is presumed guilty until they are proven innocent. Crystal Mountain has a Middle Eastern influence in it. It is in this mountain where evil is said to reside and those who get stuck in it will find it difficult to get out. Our own thoughts can make us like the prisoner of our own minds if we are not careful. As Chuck growls about evil taking form in Crystal Mountain and all the traps become set to trap those who get in the way. The song has the important message that says don’t be influenced by the evil and negativity of this world.

The song called "Misanthrope"

Favorite song on the album Symbolic

"Perennial Quest"

Symbolic: A Musical Gem in the Genre of Death Metal

Even more than 20 years later, Symbolic is an excellent and enjoyable listen for the avid death metal fan. Chuck’s vocals are terrific especially for death metal. There are very good time changes, the riffing is excellent, and these guys prove they were one of the best death metal bands from the 1980’s through most of the 1990’s. This is a gem of an album and it is a must have! This writer gives Symbolic a 100 out of 100! I don’t give too many albums a perfect score like this but this album deserves it. Sadly, Chuck Schuldiner would pass away from brain stem cancer in 2001. It is very sad that such a creative genius musician like Chuck was taken from us so soon. But the brilliance that he showed in writing the songs on this album will live on to be enjoyed by future generations. Even with the time on the song Without Judgement, that part even fits in the album perfectly. What could Chuck have done wrong musically? The answer is: not much! Symbolic may be a better album than 1991's Human.

It is like you have the feeling of “wow” when you listen to this album because it is just so amazing! Death was the best American death metal band that there ever was! I know that this sentiment may or may not be shared by all fans of the genre but there is a certain brilliance that we hear from the legendary Chuck Schuldiner on this album.

Another reason to Give This Album High Marks: the Song "Misanthrope"

The song "Misanthrope" is about what can happen if someone becomes a hater of mankind. There is hope for those of us that still have retained our mental capacities. We see that there is both good and bad in the world. Chuck's lyrical writing is some of the most impressive that I have ever seen! That's another reason to give this album 100 points!

The Album Symbolic Has Definitely Stood the Test of Time

It is hard to believe that 25 years have passed since the release of one of the most brilliant albums in the history of death metal. Maybe it makes you wonder how fast all that time could pass. Nevertheless, Symbolic remains Chuck Schuldiner’s finest work and the best album put out by the band Death. The band’s name may be morbid but their music is so brilliant that words cannot describe it.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2016 Ara Vahanian

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