Symbolik – Emergence Review

I’ve always preferred melodic death metal to plain death metal. While I appreciate the skill involved in well-crafted brutality, I generally insist on having some kind of melody to follow along with or atmosphere to get lost in. I remember when Archspire hit the Angry Metal world through Relentless Mutation, and I could not understand the appeal. One day, not too long ago, it just… clicked. The technical skill, the expert neoclassical weavings, the sheer unmatched power of the thing — I’ve loved the album ever since. And ever since, I’ve been hungry for more. Symbolik are the next tech-death group to take a shot at winning my heart with Emergence, their debut full-length. In 2011, they released their debut EP, Pathogenesis, a wild and well-composed slab of symphonic technical death metal that felt too short for the amount of talent from which it sprang forth. It’s been over eight years, but these Americans have finally returned. Expectations are unavoidably high, but that’s fine, because Symbolik comes through in a big way.

Eight years is a long time to hone in on your sound, and Emergence is the clear result of careful composing, writing, recording, and producing. Ordinarily I’d wait until later in the review to talk about the technical aspects of an album, but it’s worth mentioning straightaway that Emergence has a killer sound to it. The album is well-mixed, with every element clearly audible, even at its wildest moments – a crucial detail for the style. Speaking of which, it probably goes without saying that the band is enormously talented, with huge solos, manic drumming, and killer vocals dominating the landscape atop impressive, inventive riffing. The standard Symbolik sets for itself is high, but they meet and exceed it consistently over a neck-breaking forty minutes.

But what makes Symbolik and Emergence stand out the most is the symphonic and neoclassical side of the album. There’s a clear influence from The Black Dahlia Murder, and I hear a bit of Inferi creeping along as well, especially in the vocal performance. But when pressed to come up with a single word to describe Emergence, I’m tempted to go with “dramatic,” and that’s where the symphonic elements shine. Yes, there are keys and synths, and while they’re not particularly overt in the mix, they’re audible enough to soften the edge a bit. More importantly, however, is that Symbolik write their music with storytelling clearly on their minds. “Corridors of the Consumed” opens with deliberate leads and slow strings that create a strongly “dark fantasy” vibe that leans into the drama of the album’s extensive story. “Dirge of all Creation” isn’t precisely a dirge (imagine that), but finds moving moments amidst the brutality, especially in the song’s enjoyable solo.

This element of symphonic, neoclassical “drama” helps to give each track its own identity, and makes the album hit that much harder when it wants to. Unique melodies, leads and ideas define each song, without straying far from the album’s main ideas. Towards the end, “In Servitude of Silence,” “Souls of Deception,” and “Perceptions of Reality” coalesce together to form what is essentially a nine-minute long epic to drive the album’s climax, a thoroughly enjoyable, constantly-evolving journey with a musically-upbeat conclusion. True to form, electric leads and massive drumming fills out most of the album, and, admittedly, it can be a bit much at times. Still, the album’s forty-minute runtime and the variance in tone and speed from track to track means that Emergence remains enjoyable from beginning to end, and never truly crosses the threshold into “too much.”

Emergence is one of those debut albums that just doesn’t sound like a debut album. Symbolik takes the already-exciting baseline of technical death metal and invigorates it with carefully-considered leads, symphonic elements, and lyrics. This level of variance means that Emergence is more than “just” a pile of extremes; it’s a cohesive story, a musical landscape of sprawling heights and valleys. It’s exciting, and I hope for sure that the band won’t leave us waiting another eight years for more.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: The Artisan Era |
Released Worldwide: April 10th, 2020

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