"The Symbol Remains"

(Frontiers Music)

01. That Was Me
02. Box In My Head
03. Tainted Blood
04. Nightmare Epiphany
05. Edge Of The World
06. The Machine
07. Train True (Lennie's Song)
08. The Return Of St Cecilia
09. Stand And Fight
10. Florida Man
11. The Alchemist
12. Secret Road
13. There's A Crime
14. Fight

RATING: 7.5/10

At this point in time's inexorable trudge, it seems unlikely that there are too many people currently chewing their own limbs off in excitement at the prospect of a new BLUE ÖYSTER CULT album. Few would deny the Americans' significance to the evolution of hard rock and heavy metal, and that early catalogue of albums speaks for itself, whether you came to it via the ubiquity of "Don't Fear The Reaper" or, maybe, FU MANCHU's legendary cover of "Godzilla". One way or another, BLUE ÖYSTER CULT deserve a lot more recognition than they generally receive for being among the proto-metal architects. Unfortunately, decades of meandering underachievement has led to a creeping sense that Buck Dharma and his cohorts were drifting into hits-circuit obsolescence. More accurately, perhaps, nothing that the band have done since the late '80s would make you think that they were capable of producing an album as good as this one.

"The Symbol Remains" certainly has its faults. At times, it does sound like a very skilled but unremarkable party rock band playing some rather basic rock 'n' roll. But when it's good, it's really fucking good, and BLUE ÖYSTER CULT suddenly sound transformed anew, into a slightly slicker but no less thunderous version of the band that brought us such seminal cornerstones as "Tyranny and Mutation", "Agents of Fortune" and "Spectres".

It begins with a big, fat riff and some straightforward, balls-out rocking: "That Was Me" is symptomatic of everything that's good and bad about "The Symbol Remains", but thankfully that riff more than compensates for a lack of imagination. Things really take off with "Box In My Head", a dreamy but propulsive radio-rocker with a slightly trippy sheen and some neat vocal harmonies that will have classic rock fans drooling. "Tainted Blood" is the album's first overt dive into AOR, but it's pompous and melodramatic enough to sound more like MAGNUM than TOTO. Those harmonies are deliciously on point. "Nightmare Epiphany" is an absolute joy, an eccentric country rock shuffle, it's blessed with several sweet melodies and lashings of twangy guitar. Similarly, "Train True (Lennie's Song)" revels in harp-drenched GEORGIA SATELLITES vibes, and it's a style that suits this current BÖC lineup perfectly. Meanwhile, "The Return Of St. Cecilia" is a simply brilliant hard rock tune, with tasty power-pop undertones.

Of the rest, it's probably "The Alchemist" which will end up on people's playlists. The song is a six-minute riff monster that makes no (slightly chewed) bones about its metallic intent, painting a vivid picture of man's descent into madness, while also sounding like it could rock the piss out of any Broadway musical.

Not everything on "The Symbol Remains" hits the mark, but with at least ten hits and only a handful of misses, this is easily the best BLUE ÖYSTER CULT album since 1988's "Imaginos", and a worthy entry point for anyone refusing to acknowledge the last fifty years. Which would be insane, obviously, but you know what people are like.


To comment on a BLABBERMOUTH.NET story or review, you must be logged in to an active personal account on Facebook. Once you're logged in, you will be able to comment. User comments or postings do not reflect the viewpoint of BLABBERMOUTH.NET and BLABBERMOUTH.NET does not endorse, or guarantee the accuracy of, any user comment. To report spam or any abusive, obscene, defamatory, racist, homophobic or threatening comments, or anything that may violate any applicable laws, use the "Report to Facebook" and "Mark as spam" links that appear next to the comments themselves. To do so, click the downward arrow on the top-right corner of the Facebook comment (the arrow is invisible until you roll over it) and select the appropriate action. You can also send an e-mail to blabbermouthinbox(@) with pertinent details. BLABBERMOUTH.NET reserves the right to "hide" comments that may be considered offensive, illegal or inappropriate and to "ban" users that violate the site's Terms Of Service. Hidden comments will still appear to the user and to the user's Facebook friends. If a new comment is published from a "banned" user or contains a blacklisted word, this comment will automatically have limited visibility (the "banned" user's comments will only be visible to the user and the user's Facebook friends).