Responsible alongside Possessed and Massacre for establishing the American death metal scene, Death – essentially mercurial songwriter Chuck Schuldiner plus various backing musicians – progressed from simple, raw violence on their early albums to a progressive approach that has influenced every modern day prog-metal act from Meshuggah to Mastodon.
By the mid-90s, Schuldiner was sick of the original brutal sound and was exploring extended, epic song structures with multilayered instrumentation and unusual time signatures, which took the death metal sound to a new level. This approach made the 1995 album Symbolic unique, and this remastered version (with five demo tracks) allows its atmospheric complexities to come through fully for the first time. The gobsmackingly intricate arrangements behind Misanthrope, Perennial Quest and the outstanding Crystal Mountain (only made possible by the recruitment of the fearsomely skilled ex-Dark Angel drummer Gene Hoglan) shine through, along with the classical and Spanish guitars that lend the album light and shade.
This is as close to flawless as metal gets, and a testament to the drive and talent of the much-missed Schuldiner, who succumbed to brain cancer in 2002 at the young age of 33. This buffed-up version of Symbolic is a suitable epitaph.