• Blue Öyster Cult - The Symbol Remains (Frontiers Music) Album Review & Video




    Released by: October 9th, 2020.
    Released on: Frontiers Music
    Purchase from Amazon


    19 long years after “Curse Of The Hidden Mirror”, BÖC have returned with a new studio album. Is it any good? Does it capture the mysticism and quirky grandeur of the classic era? Can the twin lynchpins of founders guitarist Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser and Eric Bloom deliver a quality product?

    You bet your ass they can.

    We’ve been blessed with some truly excellent legacy act albums in the last few months. ALCATRAZZ, TESTAMENT and Dennis DeYoung spring immediately to mind and this one happily joins that bunch.

    Since their last record, keyboardist Allen Lanier has sadly passed away but the lineup on this is still the definition of road tested. Buck and Bloom are joined by multi-instrumentalist Richie Castellano (guitars, keyboards and vocals), Danny Miranda (bass), Jules Radino(drums). These guys have now been playing together the better part of 20 years and it shows. The playing is tight and the chemistry strong. Richie has also ably stepped into a lead vocalist role on a few tracks - most notably on the powerful AOR number “Tainted Blood”.

    But the heart of BLUE ÖYSTER CULT is the Buck and Bloom and the album begins with the great one-two punch of “That Was Me” and “Box In My Head”. The opener is a borderline Metal number with a great pounding riff and sinister Bloom lyric about evil on the loose in the world. The first thing that hits you is the band’s energy level and that Bloom sounds very strong vocally. Next up is our flipside - an excellent Buck Dharma heavy pop song with irresistible hooks and the axeman singing. Buck’s voice hasn’t lost a step - he still has that gorgeous sweet melodic tone you remember from “Burnin’ For You”. Bringing in a newly featured lead vocalist was always going to be a bit of a gamble for a band with this strong a musical identity but Richie does a fine job on the aforementioned “Tainted Blood”. It sees BÖC veering into more overt AOR territory akin to a more aggressive FOREIGNER but it works. Next up we have a fantastic Buck number in “Nightmare Epiphany” with great jangling guitars and some peppy drumming from Radino. This one is a kissing cousin to the Mirrors track “Moon Crazy”. “Stand And Fight” mines more obviously metal territory with a brothers-at-arms lyric and some leadbooted drumming and rumbling bass and gang chants on the chorus. Buck is also extra spicy on this one.

    One of the coolest things about this album is how it clearly melds the various elements of the classic BÖC sound into an eclectic mix. Some of these songs began life as Buck demos like “Nightmare Epiphany” and “Secret Road”. Catchy album closer “Fight” was also released as a Buck solo track in 2015. Castellano contributes the album’s best track - the storming “The Alchemist”. After a grandiose keyboard and stomping drum intro, Bloom goes headlong into full medieval warrior magician mode narrating a metal-as-fuck tale of murdered kings and occult vengeance. Everything about this one just kicks ass from the powerful playing to the raging IRON MAIDEN middle instrumental section. As one internet wit put it “I’ve never heard Eric enunciate so clearly while rocking out”. Call this beast a true blood brother to “Black Blade” and “Vengeance (The Pact)”. This is preceded by “Florida Man” which is the other record highlight and is simultaneously brilliantly infectious and utterly bizarre. This is as good a time as any to give the horns and a hearty hail to the cyberpunk novelist John Shirley who has penned a large number of lyrics for this record. Shirley has been working with BÖCfor a long time - his fingerprints were all over the previous two studio records - but this one represents some of his very best work. The lyrics on “Florida Man” are a compilation of various insane news stories about the rather whacked out Sunshine State. Anyone who has been following the news for the last few years will surely get a big chuckle listening to this. The snaky guitar work and breathy Buck vocal (dig the way he whispers the words “he’s cursed) on this one coupled with tales of drug dealers and caterpillars all set to some swamp rocking foot tapping rock and roll is irresistible. Weak spots on this release are few - though “There’s A Crime” is a bit generic and “Train True” and “The Machine” are a bit forgettable.

    The bottom line on “The Symbol Remains” is that it is one of the year’s very best releases and should please any BÖC fan.

    Editors Note - In the interests of trying something new, Horace and John took the time to put together a quick fifteen-minute discussion review aboud the new album that we've uploaded to YouTube which you can view here: