Blue Oyster Cult - The Symbol Remains

by Kevin Wierzbicki

When a band that's been around for more than 50-years announces that they're putting out a new album of original material, critics and many of said band's fans are given cause to moan. So often, for the best of efforts, these releases turn out to be unexciting and bound for obscurity. With The Symbol Remains, the new album from Blue Oyster Cult (a going concern since 1967) the band has set the bar incredibly high for classic rock bands that think they can still cut the mustard.

Ominous scenarios, cryptic lyrics, ripping guitar and memorable hooks are what Blue Oyster Cult is known for, and the 14-cuts on The Symbol Remains are packed with all of it. Want a hit single with a chorus that you can't get out of your head? The story of evil incarnate told with devilish delight that is "That Was Me" fills the bill. On a much lighter note, "Box in My Head" rocks the classic Blue Oyster Cult made-for-radio sound, again with an earworm chorus. If you're a big fan of the band's pre-superstardom work, like Tyranny and Mutation and Secret Treaties, the hard-edged guitars on "Stand and Fight" and "The Alchemist" will lead you to familiar musical ecstasy.

In a bit of a departure for Blue Oyster Cult, the guys have a blast raving up a real blues-rocker on "Train True (Lennie's Song)" where harmonica mimics a train whistle, the beat rocks like a runaway locomotive and rapid-fire lyrics will challenge those who are determined to sing along. Elsewhere "Tainted Blood" is ostensibly about a vampire couple but some will interpret the song as being about a drug-related death. "Florida Man," another surefire sing-along inducer, is about how was Florida was inhabited by indigenous peoples long before European explorers arrived, and about how today the words "Florida man" are a search engine favorite for those looking for wacky news blurbs. Knowingly, the song's ending words equate the Florida man with "any fragile soul." Set to a slinky guitar line, "Secret Road" hints at a way out of turmoil, equated here with the end of the world.

The Symbol Remains is Blue Oyster Cult's first album in 20-years. Certainly they have not been working on it all that time, but all that time, 50-years or so of experience, is how they are able to make this incredible album which should ultimately be named as one of their finest. The current Blue Oyster Cult lineup features founding members Eric Bloom and Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser, both on guitar and lead vocals, along with long-standing group members Jules Radino (drums), Richie Castellano (guitar) and Danny Miranda on bass.


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