Symbolik – Emergence (Album Review)

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Where contemplation and realization collide.

The United States may well have been playing catch up for the better part of 20 years in relation to Sweden in honing the melodic death metal template into the diverse movement that it is today, but it has definitely carved out its own unique niche in the process where a healthy degree of progressive and technical aspects have entered the equation. Perhaps best underscored by the ground originally broken by seminal outings like The Black Dahlia Murder’s “Nocturnal” and Arsis“A Celebration Of Guilt”, it is marked by a break-neck pace that diverges quite a bit from the Gothenburg sound and even the more thrashing Swedish outfits to come in a bit later, but really makes itself distinct through a wildly virtuoso-based musical presentation, particularly wherein the guitar work is concerns. Though they’ve been among the least prolific of the bunch, California’s Symbolik (likely named as a tribute to the pioneering progressive death metal album of the mid-90s) seem poised to be a prominent player in this newly unfolding decade, if their long awaited debut is any indication.

Per this Stockton-based outfit’s own testimony, “Emergence” is an album that has arisen over about a decade’s worth of visualization and composition, with some of the songs originating from as far back as the year of the band’s founding. Given such a long period of development, expectations would no doubt be heightened for any with an ear to the American death metal underground who took to their debut EP “Pathogenesis” nine years prior, but even the most inhumanly high bar would need to be raised a fair bit to account for the utterly astounding display of technical mastery on this nearly 40 minute offering. Alongside what can be best chalked up as a slightly blackened tech death template is a keyboard-rich, quasi-symphonic gloss that is somewhat comparable to Fleshgod Apocalypse, complemented by a dualistic vocal display of high-pitched, Dani Filth-like shrieks, Chris Barnes-inspired barks and a neo-classical guitar display that could rival any Malmsteen or Impellitteri imitator to have slung the six-string to date.

“Emergence” Album Artwork

The album itself is a conceptual work of the more abstract and introspective order, dealing with a solitary protagonist who struggles to consider a seemingly infinite number of choices with only a singular outcome, perhaps drawing some comparisons to the elaborate Sci-Fi world of Wormed but without the pronounced Sci-Fi elements. Consequently, the arrangement of the music accompanying this lyrically elaborate offering is of a fairly dense nature, piling on the atmosphere via a number of synthesized orchestra and pipe organ sounds to complement the blurring riffs and blasting drum lines. The songs themselves are relatively compact and avoid veering too far into left field, but the lead guitar work accompanying the generally straightforward songwriting listens less like the Iron Maiden-inspired fair of the Gothenburg Trio, listening more like the expressive melodic passages of a shred album after the mold of Joe Stump or Paul Gilbert and yet also showing a degree of tastefulness in how things are presented when compared to the more excessive tech death outings of the late 2000s.

About the only strike that this collection of philosophical musings set to music has against it is that things occasionally get a bit overwhelming, stopping maybe just a bit shy of entering the exaggerated world of Rings Of Saturn. Then again, there is a certain quirky charm to more prog-drenched offerings like “Invoking Oblivion” and overtly shred-obsessed and longer running odes such as “Corridors Of The Consumed”, but they tend to take a few listens before the average listener can fully begin to grasp what is being heard. Generally this album tends to shine its brightest when things are kept at a more tuneful level, such as the haunting melodic screams of “Coalescing The Void” and the film score-like bombast and stride of closing song “When Eternity Collapsed”, i.e. songs that are a bit shorter yet take time to build up to an apex point rather than showering the listener with technical intrigue from second one. Nevertheless, the qualitative breakdown of these songs is more along the lines of varying degrees of good, and nothing really comes off as being either filler or obnoxiously showboating in demeanor.

It’s a fairly safe assumption that any strain of melodic death metal fan will take to most of what this album has to offer, even ones who are only moderately interested in the gymnastic abilities of a given band’s lead guitarist. It has a level of stylistic uniformity to it befitting a band with about 10 years of experience under their belts, yet is infused with a level of youthful energy and aggression that is generally unique to a green outfit on their first go in the studio. The target audience falls along similarly lines to overtly tech-happy character of American melo-death outfits such as Vale Of Pnath, Allegaeon and Inferi, but this has enough of an underlying, idiomatic character to it to also appeal to more conservative fans who plant their flag on the earlier outings of the Swedish melo-death scene. Definitely a band to watch in the coming years, and hopefully not one that will require another decade for an equally competent sophomore outing to come about.

Released by: The Artisan Era
Released Date: April 10th, 2020
Genre: Technical / Melodic Death Metal

Musicians:

  • Chris Blackburn / Vocals
  • Allen Burton / Guitar
  • Taylor Whitney / Guitar
  • Daniel Juarez / Bass
  • Brandon Clevenstine / Drums, symphonic Samples

“Emergence” Track-list:

1. Augury of Ancients
2. Invoking Oblivion
3. A Tyranny in Decay
4. Corridors of the Consumed
5. Dirge of All Creation
6. Coalescing the Void
7. In Servitude of Silence
8. Souls of Deception
9. Perceptions of Reality
10. When Eternity Collapsed

SYMBOLIK on social media:
Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Bandcamp

THE ARTISAN ERA on social media:
Facebook YouTube | Website | Bandcamp

8.3 Great

A technically oriented melodic death wildcard from the American west coast opts to play the long game after a respectable 2011 EP outing, taking nearly a decade to hone their 2020 debut LP into a formidable sonic excursion to rival the Vale Of Pnaths and Inferis of the world

  • Songwriting 8.5
  • Musicianship 8.5
  • Originality 8
  • Production 8
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