Blue Oyster Cult – The Symbol Remains

It’s been 19 years since BOC’s last studio album [Curse Of The Hidden Mirror], and it’s an album I didn’t get at the time, in part because I didn’t dig the previous album [Heaven Forbid] a few years earlier. Though Heaven Forbid has grown on me, I’ve yet to get in to COTHM yet. So, with that all said – I didn’t expect too much, I guess from The Symbol Remains. Initially I did love the title when I read it, and I love the artwork, and I thought the first track released [“That Was Me”] was good, [not my favorite here], but hard hitting and to the point musically & lyrically. After hearing the full album though, this is far better than I’d imagined. Frankly, it kicks ass, and I’m digging it more than I thought I might with every listen. BOC 2020 consists of founding members Donald Roeser [aka Buck Dharma & Eric Bloom, as well as longtime members Richie Castellano [guitar, keys, vocals], Danny Miranda [bass], and Jules Radino [drums, percussion].

Two things that stand out on this album are the variety of songs – 14 in total, spanning everything BOC in the 70s would’ve covered; so there’s lots to get in to here. The 2nd thing that is noticeable is the contributions of guitarist/keyboard player, and now songwriter, singer, co-producer — Richie Castellano has made; the guy comes up with some of the album’s best material, IMO . Writing and / or co-writing 7 tracks here, as well as singing lead on such standouts as “Tainted Blood”, “The Machine” [Buck’s backing vocal sounds great on this one too] and “The Return Of St Cecilia” [co-written with Richard Meltzer; a sequel to a song the band recorded in 1970 as The Stalk Forrest Group].

Really, every track here is really good to outstanding, and I can see favorites changing daily – whether it’s Buck Dharma’s excellent “Box In My Head”, “Florida Man”, or “Secret Road” [the former co-written w/ Castellano, and both co-credited to John Shirley – for lyrics], a couple of the previously mentioned Castellano tracks, or the heaviest hitting songs sung by Eric Bloom [who sounds just great here] – “That Was Me” [w/ a guest appearance by founding member Albert Bouchard], “Stand And Fight” and “The Alchemist” ; the latter 2 heavy in the Metallica & Maiden sense. BOC was a hugely influential and classic American band in the ’70s, and The Symbol Remains is an impressive return. At a time where many older bands are still putting out excellent material BOC is now front & center in that category. A great year to be a BOC fan, with 4 new live archive albums having been released, a few reissues, a great new album from [founding member] Joe Bouchard, this awesome new album, And a soon to-be-released album from Albert Bouchard! What more could fans ask for!?

*Artwork for The Symbol Remains, as well as the 4 live releases from BOC this year were done by Graphic designer Stan W. Decker, who’s done a ton of great album covers including Blackmore’s Knight, Jorn Lande, Stryper, Night Ranger, and the excellent new Black Swan album!

KJJ. 09/20

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