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Review of "The Symbol Remains" by Blue Öyster Cult

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Blue Öyster Cult: an iconic band, who has plied its trade for fifty years now. Representing all that is great about Rock 'N Roll, it has consistently released a slough of excellent heavy and/or atmospheric songs all with intelligent lyrics. Yet, despite the passage of time, the band has still not received the recognition it deserves. In addition to being criminally ignored by the addled, clueless music industry, the band has been cruelly dismissed by that viper's brood of hipster jerks known as the music press. I mean, Blue Öyster Cult is still not in the Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame even though it has been eligible for induction since 1997!

Having seen the band fourteen times now, I know what a national treasure it is. It is the only band from the AOR era, who still tours on a regular basis and thus purveys the epic Rock experience live. Given they have a new release out, called The Symbol Remains, I felt it behooved me to write a review of this great record to help bolster its sales.

The Symbol Remains opens with the scorcher That Was Me. A song about the sinister person/force behind nefarious events, the song features a menacing riff with chromatic movement every bit as dark as the lyrical theme.

Next, comes the rousing, hard-charging, yet melodic Box In My Head. This song features Buck Dharma doing the vocal chores. Like sonic comfort-food, his voice is the feeling one gets when driving with the top down on a warm summer day.

The third track on the record is Tainted Blood. A song about a vampire's unrequited love, it features Richie Castellano on vocals and a tasteful Buck Dharma solo to boot.

Following Tainted Blood, comes the atmospheric track Nightmare Epiphany. Featuring Buck Dharma once more on vocals, its spectral chordal stabs (peppered with surf-guitar figures to boot!) swirl around one's ears like some eldritch mist.

The fifth track is the crunchy and cocky Edge Of The World. Penned by Castallano, it shows his writing style to fit nicely alongside Bloom's and Dharma's. A song about an alien encounter (a theme Bloom loves to explore), it features Eric on vocals and another tasteful Buck Dharma guitar solo.

The sixth track is The Machine and humorously begins with a phone's ringtone. Another composition penned by Castallano, it shows his maturity as a writer. Rather than just tuning his guitar down and riding the lowest note, he alternates between chords way up the neck and lower notes. For someone so young playing heavy guitar, this is a novelty.

The seventh track is Train True (Lennie's Song), another melodic yet fierce song penned by Buck Dharma. Of special note is Buck's use of a cut-time feel in parts of the song. Have no fear however for he uses it in the manner of Before A Kiss, A Redcap rather than in the manner of Hee Haw.

The eighth track is a barnburner called The Return Of St. Cecilia. Something of a sequel to the song the band performed when it was called The Stalk Forest Group, it is another solid rocker that strafes the listener's ears with Buck's fierce, yet melodic soloing.

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Stalking the listener's ears like an angry jungle-cat, Stand And Fight is one of the heaviest tracks on the album.. Here again, Castallano's writing talents come to the fore. Unlike many heavy guitarists, who throw up a mindless wall of sound, Richie's riffs are more sculpted, making them a perfect compliment to Eric Bloom's voice.

Next, comes the somber Florida Man. Another tune penned by Dharma, it is that confluence of melody and melancholy as only he can do. A song about a Seminole shaman, who puts a curse on the future residents of Florida, the song affords Buck yet another opportunity to hypothisize about the supernatural and mystical influence that might be coming to bear on everyday life (like he did in the song Real World off the album Heaven Forbid).

After Florida Man, we then arrive at The Alchemist (this reviewer's favorite track). A decidedly heavier tune, its riffs vault over and encircle one's ears like a spiral staircase of sound. Another Castallano creation, it shows one aspect of Blue Öyster Cult I absolutely love: its willingness to explore fantasy themes. Something unheard of in today's Rock (thanks in no small part to the hipster jerks in the music press, who deem such subjects “pretentious”), Blue Öyster Cult handles such themes with great aplomb (especially Eric Bloom, who has worked with fantasy novelist Micheal Moorcock on a number of songs). Fittingly, Eric does the vocal chores on this track. Given the subject matter and heaviness, he is the perfect choice to do so.

After The Alchemist, we thence come upon another pensive Buck Dharma gem Secret Road. Once again, Buck's hauntingly melodic playing and singing envelopes the ears of the listener and takes that person on a journey much like the aforementioned driving on a warm, summer night.

In contrast to the pensiveness of Secret Road, we have the reckless abandon of There's A Crime. In addition to the aggressive, heavy riffs, the fierceness of Buck's soloing further augments the song.

The final track Fight features the spidery melodic figures reminiscent of Buck's work in I Love The Night and Don't Fear The Reaper.

In sum, this record shows the band as creatively potent as it has ever been with every track a solid one. There is no filler on this record whatsoever. Given that it stands with all the great records of Blue Öyster Cult's past, what is stopping you from buying it?



Buy "The Symbol Remains"

Blue Oyster Cult's "The Alchemist"

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