October 9, 2020 Blue Öyster Cult – The Symbol Remains (Album Review)
Back in the ’70s, Hard Rock music was reaching new heights thanks to bands like Boston, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Van Halen. Bringing heavy guitars and powerful vocals to the masses, among all the pioneers of the steadily growing subgenre, was Blue Öyster Cult. With roots that date back over five decades now, Blue Öyster Cult rocked into the mainstream toward the latter part of the decade thanks to big hits such as 1976’s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” before 1981’s “Burnin’ for You.”
To this day, the pride and joy of Long Island, New York’s Rock-n-Roll scene, they have remained staples on Classic Rock radio all while consistently touring. However, there has been little in the form of new music from Blue Öyster Cult over the last 20 years. In fact, you would have to go all the way back to 2001’s Curse of the Hidden Mirror to find it. Unfortunately times have changed, recording albums is quite costly, and with so few people actually purchasing them, is there really any motivation to put in the effort? To be truthful, Blue Öyster Cult has been doing just fine performing a consistent schedule of gigs year after year without new music. That said, something deep inside of longtime members Eric Bloom and Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser yearned to write and record some new tunes… and who could blame them? Which leads us to the present day, where Blue Öyster Cult have shocked their fans with the introduction of their brand new studio album, The Symbol Remains.
Released on Friday, October 9, 2020, let us briefly discuss what has led us to this point. First of all, the lineup of Bloom, Buck Dharma, Richie Castellano, Danny Miranda, and Jules Radino has fit really well together. Realizing the chemistry is working, Blue Öyster Cult found themselves a new record deal with Italian label Frontiers Music s.r.l., which then strategically released three live albums throughout the year leading up to The Symbol Remains. A good marketing plan to stimulate fans’ interest, then a couple singles/music videos (“That Was Me” and “Box in My Head”) dropped before the big release.
With this story laid out, the question is was it all worth it? Well, with 14 tracks lasting over an hour, there is plenty to absorb and it is really quite good. Part of the recipe for success here is the band’s willingness to share the songwriting tasks. Of course, you have Bloom and Buck Dharma penning a good deal of the music, but the rest of the guys in the band also offer their talents to the mix. Additionally, there are a slew of guest musicians to round out the recordings; that includes founding Blue Öyster Cult Drummer Albert Bouchard, Utopia’s Kasim Sulton, plus more.
These technical factors in mind, what also really adds to the album’s quality is how the tracks are shuffled with different lead vocals throughout. First, you have Bloom leading off the album with the hard and heavy “That Was Me,” then Buck Dharma’s “Box in My Head,” before Castellano sings on “Tainted Blood.” Adding a wonderful dynamic, each vocalist offers something different, and it all makes for a well-balanced Classic Rock album.
Summing it up, there is the catchy rhythm of “Nightmare Epiphany,” classic Blue Öyster Cult sound on “Florida Man,” and the thoughtful provoking “Secret Road” from Buck Dharma. Then there is the heaviness of “Edge of the World,” “Stand and Fight,” and “The Alchemist” from Bloom. But there is also the Blues Rock vibe of Castellano on tracks such as “The Machine” and “The Return of St. Cecilia,” both of which are laden with some razor sharp guitar riffs.
All together, The Symbol Remains is a well-executed Rock-n-Roll album that only adds to the Blue Öyster Cult legacy. It has everything you would expect from them, including harmonized vocals, plus more. Now wouldn’t it be a shame it you didn’t go out and actually buy it? So what are you waiting for? Assuring you will not regret the investment, Cryptic Rock gives this album 4 out of 5 stars.