New York rock legends return with first studio album in nearly twenty years as they bring some much needed excitement and pleasure to rock fans given the paucity of live music to see. Donnie straps his headphones on and checks it out.
Its been a long wait for fans of the band for new music. It was announced in early 2019 that a new album was in the works and the last studio album was 2001’s Curse of the Hidden Mirror which performed poorly in the retail market leading the band to become disinterested in new music and instead focus on their hugely impressive and commercially successful back catalogue.
The album kicks off in belting fashion with balls out rocker “That Was Me” which comes packaged with glorious melody lines and a clear indication of what’s coming for the rest of the album. Hot on the heels of the opener is the excellent, intriguing and beautifully crafted “Box In My Head”, a track that regales the unusual and confusing workings of the mind, particularly when it comes to that awkward topic of relationships.
“The Alchemist” is based on a short story by famed writer H.P. Lovecraft that was written in 1908 when he was only 17 years old. and is perhaps the standout track on the album. Musically it might be something you would expect of a modern-day Iron Maiden with it’s twists and turns and lyrically tells the story of a revenge and curses. All very Lovecraft and all very Blue Öyster Cult.
The track “Fight” was originally released by guitarist Buck Dharma as a solo track five years, so too the languid and rolling blues of “Secret Road” and the upbeat funky tones of “Nightmare Epiphany” have been previously released by Dharma but given the full BOC treatment here.
There is everything on this album that makes BOC the legendary band they are. Blues, Power-Pop and Progressive Rock. These days only Dharma & vocalist Eric Bloom remain from the original line-up, which is a damn sight more than most bands of their vintage. Guitar and keyboard whiz Richie Castellano is on his first BOC studio album and likewise Jules Radino breaks his BOC studio virginity on drums. That just leaves long-serving bassist Danny Miranda to complete this very impressive quintet.
The band have always benefitted hugely from outside collaborations and much respected sci-fi author John Shirley lends he considerably talented pen to a number of tracks on the album. Also former lyricist Richard Meltzer adds his weight behind the dynamic strut of “The return of St. Cecilia”. “Stand and Fight” brings a Metallica-vide that is hard to ignore. The most enjoyable listen on the album is arguably “Train True (Lennie’s Song)” which is an old school rock n roller that wears its rockabilly roots right on its sleeve.
A new album by Blue Öyster Cult should be a cause for universal celebration and whilst it appears that no tour to support the album will be happening anytime soon, and yours truly is absolutely gagging to hear to some of these tracks live, that should not dampen the enthusiasm for this release. Long term fans will absolutely love this album and rightly so. For those unfamiliar with BOC then there has never been a better time to start getting acquainted.
Donnie’s Rating: 9.5/10
The Symbol Remains is out now via Frontier Records