Fear not - The Symbol Remains doesn’t fall into that category. Not even close. Coming 19 years after their last studio album but still staying true to their sound, Blue Öyster Cult run hot and cold on this album, alternating between dark, heavy tracks and pop-like ritornellos that wouldn’t stand out in Billy Joel’s discography. The brains behind the band haven’t changed either: Eric Bloom (guitar, vocals) takes charge of the dark side while Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser brings a light, airy side to the album.
The 14 tracks on The Symbol Remains are rather heart-warming. Bloom’s darker tracks (such as the opener That Was Me or the brilliant The Alchemist) create threatening atmospheres that bring Megadeth to mind, but they never cloud over the lighter ambiences found on tracks like Box In My Head, Tainted Blood (the album’s hit song, composed and sung by their youngest member: guitarist Richie Castellano) and Florida Man.
On these overtly soft tracks, the listener is guided between melodies destined for Californian radios and harder Toto-esque rock. The duality is brilliant. Sounding close-ish in spirit to the sublime Fire of Unknown Origin (1981), The Symbol Remains is one hell of a comeback. 19 years is a long, long, long time. It takes talent to come back well. Luckily enough, Blue Öyster Cult have lots of it!