It’s a good year to be a BÖC fan with new albums from both Joe Bouchard (Strange Legends) and Albert Bouchard (Re Imaginos) and of course “The Symbol Remains”, the brand new record from the current lineup of Blue Öyster Cult.
It’s now been 19 years since the release of the bands last album “Curse of the Hidden Mirror”, an album that in my opinion is a lot better than some people realizes, but that’s another story. In the years that has passed between these albums BÖC have lost original member Allen Lanier (R.I.P) and drummer Bobby Rondinelli. They are replaced by Richie Castellano and Jules Radino respectively. The other members on the album are Danny Miranda on bass, who have been a member of the band off and on since 1995, and original members Eric Bloom and Buck Dharma.
All members have contributed to the writing of the songs and that also includes lyrics on some of the songs by longtime collaborator novelist John Shirley. The vocals are handled by Bloom and Dharma as well as by Richie Castellano on a couple of the tracks. Castellano is not just a fantastic musician but also a great writer and singer, but it’s very hard for me to get used to a new voice in the band. Even though the singing is very good, it doesn’t sound that much like BÖC when he sings. Anyone that has heard the band live in recent years probably agrees that Eric Bloom’s voice is perhaps not as good as it once was, but you need not to worry. In the studio he is almost as powerful as on previous albums.
As a teaser before the album release we got three songs on video.
First the powerful hard driving “That Was Me” featuring Eric Bloom on vocals. One of the albums better songs, the only thing I don’t like is the short reggae influenced part with a weird guitar solo. Still a great track.
The second video was “Box in My Head” featuring Buck on vocals. This is a good but not great classic kind of typical Buck song.
The third video is “Tainted Blood” featuring for the first time Castellano on vocals, which as I wrote earlier is a bit weird. The music is like a mix of a classic slow BÖC song and a power ballad. A pretty good song but it doesn’t sound that much like BÖC.
These three songs are also the first three tracks on the album. All in all there are 14 tracks, so let us take a look at the rest of them.
“Nightmare Epiphany” is an upbeat kind of pop song with vocals by Buck. Not bad at all, a song that has grown on me.
“Edge of the World” is written by Castellano but features Bloom on vocals which almost always is a guarantee that I’m going to like the song. However, the refrain is very non typical BÖC, it reminds me of something from the eighties MTV pop hits. Bloom saves this song with his vocals.
“The Machine” is also by Castellano and this time he also takes care of the lead vocals. I don’t like the intro with the smart phone ring signal but otherwise it’s a pretty good song. Still can’t get used to his voice, Eric should have sung this song.
“Train True (Lennie’s Song)” is the least good song on the album, it’s a high energy old time rock’n’roll track. Not really my cup of tea, even though Buck sings.
“The Return of St. Cecilia” is yet again a song written and sung by Castellano. This is a great track mostly in the style of classic BÖC, but it needs Eric’s voice and a little less rock’n’roll in the refrain to be a perfect BÖC song.
“Stand and Fight” is a real heavy song, unusual heavy for being BÖC, and this time with Bloom back on lead vocals, though he co-wrote it with Castellano. The backing vocals in the refrain is a bit standard Heavy Metal compared to what we usually hear from BÖC. All in all a great track.
“Florida Man” is sung by Buck and is a bit more laid back. I recognize the first riff very well and the backing vocals on the refrain reminds me of something I can’t put my finger on. An ok track, but I expect more from Buck.
“The Alchemist” is in my opinion the best song on the album. This is the first time we get the suggestive and mysterious feeling that so many of my favorite songs by BÖC has. The vocals are handled by Eric but surprisingly it’s written by Castellano alone. The solo part is great, almost a bit like Iron Maiden, before the eerie feeling and dramatic piano returns. This is the BÖC that I love.
On the same day as the album was released BÖC also released a very cool video for this amazing track.
“Secret Road” is also a great song, that pretty much sounds like classic BÖC, featuring Buck on vocals. His best song on this album so far and also one of the albums best tracks.
“There’s a Crime” is yet again close to the high energy classic BÖC and it’s also the first and only song that drummer Jules Radino gets writing credits for. Great track.
“Fight” is the final track on the album and what a great song to end it with. Cowritten by Buck who also is the vocalist. It sounds very much classic BÖC and is probably my favorite by him on this album.
All in all, apart from maybe “Train True (Lennie’s Song)” there isn’t a weak track on this album. It’s perhaps not a great BÖC album, for that we need more mystery and darkness and less pop and rock’n’roll, but it is a great rock album, and it is a grower.
And once again, I like Castellanos vocals and voice. I just don’t think it sounds like BÖC when he sings, but I will get used to it. He is a great addition to the band, both as a musician and as a composer and he is great live as well.
I must also say that the cover is fantastic and very much BÖC, their best since “Fire of Unknown Origin”. Now I only hope that we don’t have to wait another 19 years before the follow up album.
Band: Blue Öyster Cult
Title: The Symbol Remains
Label: Frontiers Records
Date of release:, October 9, 2020
Stand out tracks: “The Alchemist” “That Was Me” “Stand and Fight” “Secret Road” “There’s a Crime” and “Fight”