Description, Style and Sound

Symbolic was the sixth album by the death metal pioneer band Death, and was by many critics and reviewers called a redefinition of the genre. Death frontman Chuck Schuldiner's penchant for jazz fusion was brought to the front in this album, which shows obvious inspiration from such progressive death-jazz bands as Atheist and Cynic (which makes sense -- half of the Cynic lineup played in Death for the 1991 Human release, one can imagine that Schuldiner would pay attention to what his friends and old bandmates Sean Reinert and Paul Masvidal were doing to the metal genre).

The sound of the album differs widely from its predecessors. What firstly springs to the ear is the change in singer Chuck Schuldiner's vocal style. From the deep, almost growling "death grunt" that had been his personal trademark up to and including Symbolic's predecessor Individual Thought Patterns, he had switched to a hoarse, nearly hissing style more reminiscent of what you'd normally hear from black metal singers. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, the lead guitar work on Symbolic is some of the absolutely most impressive lead-work in any Death record, ever. While the drums are impressive, the bass lines are on the boring shadow guitar-style side, and are a disappointment compared to Steve DiGiorgio's masterful bass lines on Individual Thought Patterns.

The main theme of the lyrics, following in the trend started with Human and Individual Thought Patterns, is the degeneration of society, although a few criticisms of religion have also made their way into the Symbolic lyricbook.


  • Chuck Schuldiner (vocals, lead and rhythm guitars)
  • Bobby Koelble (lead and rhythm guitars)
  • Gene Hoglan (drums)
  • Kelly Conlon (bass)

True to what had then become a Death tradition, the band had undergone a major line-up change since their last release, 1993's Individual Thought Patterns. Gene Hoglan had played on Individual Thought Patterns, although he was already notorious for his work in Testament and Dark Angel, as well as the fact that he had worked on technique together with Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo. Kelly Conlon (yet another male metalhead with a girl's name) and Bobby Koelble were both more or less unknown before Symbolic; the latter was actually a jazz-fusion guitarist (and an old high school friend of Schuldiner's)

After the Symbolic tour, Conlon left the band due to personal differences. Gene Hoglan had responsibilities both in his old thrash metal band Dark Angel, and in some of the Devin Townsend projects he had become involved in (notably, Strapping Young Lad). Koelble eventually left too, leaving Schuldiner alone to put together a new lineup for the next release. After leaving Sony Music-owned Relativity Records (which had released Human and ITP), Schuldiner was left in financial ruin. He was, however, free of those who would control his music -- and that was, indeed, his stated reason for leaving his old label behind.


  1. Symbolic
  2. Zero Tolerance
  3. Empty Words
  4. Sacred Serenity
  5. 1000 Eyes
  6. Without Judgement
  7. Crystal Mountain
  8. Misanthrope
  9. Perennial Quest

Release Information

1996, Roadrunner Records

Sym*bol"ic (?), n. [Cf. F. symbolique. See Symbolic, a.] Theol.

See Symbolics.

© Webster 1913.

Sym*bol"ic (?), Sym*bol"ic*al (?), a. [L. symbolicus, Gr. : cf. F. symbolique.]

Of or pertaining to a symbol or symbols; of the nature of a symbol; exhibiting or expressing by resemblance or signs; representative; as, the figure of an eye is symbolic of sight and knowledge.

-- Sym*bol"ic*al*ly, adv. -- Sym*bol"ic*al*ness, n.

The sacrament is a representation of Christ's death by such symbolical actions as he himself appointed. Jer. Taylor.

Symbolical delivery Law, the delivery of property sold by delivering something else as a symbol, token, or representative of it. Bouvier. Chitty. -- Symbolical philosophy, the philosophy expressed by hieroglyphics.

© Webster 1913.

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