Posted on November 22, 2009 -
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