A very strong statement indeed

A new album by Blue Öyster Cult in 2020 came as possibly even more of a surprise than a worldwide pandemic – the idea that it might be any good perhaps even further from anyone’s mind.

Forgive us, then, for passing over this album for a few months since it dropped in October. This is a band whose last decent album was in 1988, when they technically weren’t even together at the time, so imagine our surprise when The Symbol Remains is not only not terrible but probably the best thing they’ve done since Imaginos.

The very title is a bold statement that BÖC are still very much alive almost 50 years since their first album. Not the force they once were, but one that’s still able to churn out some good stuff. That Was Me opens up with straight-up rocking and a riff that reminds fans of the glory days, ahead of Buck Dharma’s trippy, psychedelic Box in My Head that could have come right from Spectres. Tainted Blood swings the pendulum into the AOR of their post-81 career, but better. Train True has a smokey blues vibe, Nightmare Epiphany all twangy guitars and country shuffle like a distant cousin of True Confessions. It’s BÖC exploring every one of their musical guises – melody-laced hard rock, dreamy radio rock, pomp and drama,  climactic metal mini-epics like The Alchemist – getting back in tune with a creative force that seemed to have abandoned them long ago.

The Symbol Remains runs long, but that’s excusable when it’s been so long between drinks, and when it’s as surprisingly good and robust as this is. It’s been a long time in the creative wilderness for Blue Öyster Cult, but they have returned with a very strong statement indeed. Twelve months ago, we said they should hang up the guitars. Our own words have never tasted so good.

  1. That Was Me
  2. Box in My Head
  3. Tainted Blood
  4. Nightmare Epiphany
  5. Edge of the World
  6. The Machine
  7. Train True (Lennie’s Song)
  8. The Return of St. Cecilia
  9. Stand and Fight
  10. Florida Man
  11. The Alchemist
  12. Secret Road
  13. There’s a Crime
  14. Fight