Blue Öyster Cult, The Symbol Remains review (Frontiers Records 2020)

The iconic rock band Blue Öyster Cult releases its first full-length studio album in nineteen years.

Here is where I am coming from as far as Blue Öyster Cult goes. The first three albums are unassailable. As far as I am concerned, nothing serious can be said against them. After that, I have unpopular tastes with regard to the catalogue. Agents of Fortune (1976) is a classic, true, but I never really connected with Spectre (1977) or Mirrors (1979). I absolutely love the sequence of albums from the early 1980s: Cultosaurus Erectus (1980), Fire of Unknown Origin (1981), and The Revolution By Night (1983). Also Imaginos (1988) – an excellent reimagining. The other albums are good, and I listen to them still, but not as much as the ones on my list. Blue Öyster Cult has created a large catalogue of amazing music and some song or another of theirs is always in my rotation. They are one of my all-time favorite bands.

I’ve been waiting for The Symbol Remains anxiously, wanting new music I would really like to listen to. With so much great work that had come before, a reasonable person faces new music from a band that hasn’t put anything out in a long while with some trepidation. Like when Black Sabbath released 13 (2013). They had not released a full-length studio album as Black Sabbath for almost twenty years. I sweated that one, but 13 was excellent, and the band supported the album with a great tour. Fingers crossed, then, for the new Blue Öyster Cult. The band is Eric Bloom (vocals, guitar), Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser (guitar), Richie Castellano (keys, guitar, vocals), Danny Miranda (bass), and Jules Radino (drums). With the two originals Bloom and Roeser, and the longtime bandmates Castellano, Miranda, and Radino, the lineup is rock solid.

The hour-long album starts with a banger, the single “That Was Me.” It has the kind of sound I was hoping for, from the crisp guitar work to the distinctive vocals. This is Blue Öyster Cult. The next two songs (also released as singles) show a tonally lighter side to the band, demonstrating their musicianship and compositional prowess. Throughout the album, their creativity is on display from the amazing guitar work on “Nightmare Epiphany” to the theatrical Danny Elfman-esque “Edge of the World.” “Florida Man” is a quiet song with a lyrical lead break and rich harmonies. “The Alchemist” is dark and heavy, pushing out heavy threatening riffs and a wicked fantasy narrative. “Secret Road” is a desert driving song that will make you see rattlesnakes in your sleep. The variety is intoxicating.

Having listened to The Symbol Remains three times in a row, I know now that I was wrong before – there was never anything to worry about. This is an excellent album. This is Rock and Roll. Highly recommended.

The new BÖC album is out now. You can listen on Spotify and buy on Amazon and other places. The important thing is to here it.

Band photos snagged from the official website.

Links.

Band website, www.blueoystercult.com/

Frontiers Records, http://www.frontiers.it/index.php

Blue Öyster Cult, The Symbol Remains review (Frontiers Records 2020)

Blue Öyster Cult, 45th Anniversary Live In London review (Frontiers Records 2020)

Recorded live at The O2 (Indigo) in London during the Stone Free Festival on June 17, 2017, this concert is a complete retelling of the band’s first album, Blue Öyster Cult, plus a couple of extra favorites for the fans.

Blue Öyster Cult has been releasing notable live sets this year like Hard Rock Live in Cleveland 2014, iHeart Radio Theater N.Y.C. 2012,and 40th Anniversary Agents of Fortune Live 2016. Now the best of the bunch so far is out, a recording of the band playing their entire first album, 1972’s Blue Öyster Cult. That trilogy of the first three LPs BÖC released in rapid succession are absolute hard rock classics, the self-titled one first, then Tyranny and Mutation (1973), and finally the monstrous Secret Treaties (1974). After these seminal works, the band achieved enormous commercial success with Agents of Fortune (1976), and the music turned a little toward the pop direction. These early ones had the killer tracks that still raise the hairs on your neck like “Cities On Flame with Rock and Roll,” “Hot Rails To Hell,” and pretty much every song on Secret Treaties. I have a particular affection for the 1972 original because of its stark originality so this new release was a hot grab for me.

I watched/listened to the Blu-ray version. The band is: originals Eric Bloom (since 1969) and Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser (since 1967), with Richie Castellano, Danny Miranda, and Jules Radino. The sound on the Blu Ray is excellent – you might remember, BÖC fans, that the recording of the original album was very muddy so this performance actually sounds better. The playing is crisp and sharp, and there is a lot more guitar on these versions than there was on the 1972 release, including an epic ten and a half minute version of “Then Came The Last Days Of May.” After the original ten songs, they played on with the “Buck’s Boogie” jam fans have come to expect from their live performances, the hits “Godzilla,” “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” and “Hot Rails To Hell,” plus the surprise “Tattoo Vampire” – I didn’t see that one coming. It was a great show and I wish I had been there. I was REALLY looking forward to seeing BÖC at Psycho Las Vegas this year. Fingers crossed for 2021.

Available now from Frontiers Records, pick up whichever version you like best and don’t wait too long. The supply of these live albums from BÖC has been a little spotty this year. The Blu-ray looks and sounds great, but it has essentially no extras except for a five minute green room video. Digital streaming is always there if you miss out on the physicals so there are no excuses – give it a listen and breathe in the cult.

Band photo snagged from the official website page.

Links.

Band website, www.blueoystercult.com/

Frontiers Records, http://www.frontiers.it/index.php

Blue Öyster Cult, 45th Anniversary Live In London review (Frontiers Records 2020)

Blue Öyster Cult, 40th Anniversary Agents of Fortune Live 2016 (Frontiers Records, 2020)

I was thinking about my earliest music influences as I sat down to write this. the first record I ever bought was Nazareth’s Hair of the Dog. Wow, did that open my eyes. I had never heard anything like Dan McCafferty’s voice, and the heavy guitars went straight to the center of my brain. I don’t know how many times I listened to the record, but it had to be over a hundred. Incidentally, the only reason I picked this particular album was because of the cover painting, which was very cool. This was the 1970s, and there was no internet, no digital music services. What we had then was record stores, and you went in, walked through the aisles, and looked at the covers.

What came next? I remember vividly, the next three albums I bought were Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality, Alice Cooper’s Killer, and Blue Öyster Cult’s Tyranny and Mutation. All classic, iconic releases, but at the time (mid-to-late 1970s), they were fairly recent releases and none were mainstream breakthroughs. I wasn’t reading music magazines then and I landed on these by accident mostly, but I couldn’t have had better primers for heavy music. I still listen to these four albums on the regular. I know all the songs by heart, all the guitar parts, every bit of them, and music never wears out. Whenever something new comes out by any of these bands I always buy it, even if it is a remaster or live recording that ends up sounding a lot like another live recording I already have. Which brings me to the 40th anniversary release of Blue Öyster Cult’s biggest selling album Agents of Fortune in a completely different format.

The cover reads “40th Anniversary Agents of Fortune Live 2016,” which makes you think it is a concert recording. Not quite. It was actually recorded live in a studio in Los Angeles for broadcast on a music network. So this is a video of the band playing Agents of Fortune in a studio. I was not expecting that. The other thing I was not expecting is that it isn’t quite the entire Agents of Fortune album, either – there is an audio-only live version of “This Ain’t the Summer of Love” which, for some reason, is not part of the video set. Odd, that. And who is playing? The core members of the band who remain with us are there, with Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser and Eric Bloom in on the entire set. Albert Bouchard steps in for several songs, and the rest of the band is made up of Richie Castellano, Kasim Sulton, and Jules Radino. Once I settled down into the idea of what I was seeing, it all came together for me and I enjoyed the show. The band does not sound exactly like it did forty years ago, of course, but the performance is good and it is great to see this set of songs played together in order.

This is a Blu Ray release (there is a version with a CD, too), and it is pretty short because it is limited to Agents of Fortune front to back (mostly). The only extra worth noting is a short interview (about 20 minutes) with the three principals. There is also that audio version of the missing song, and it does not stand up as well as the video version of the rest of the set. Still, in the interest of completeness, it is nice to have on the disc.

Blue Öyster Cult is touring, and notably they are one of the headliners at this year’s Psycho Las Vegas. The band has also announced they are working on new music, so look for an upcoming studio release. If you are a Blue Öyster Cult fan, you’ve got to get this new incarnation of Agents of Fortune. Don’t wait too long, though, because it is already getting a little bit hard to find.

Links.

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/blueoystercult

Frontiers Records, http://www.frontiers.it/index.php

Psycho Las Vegas, https://www.vivapsycho.com/

Blue Öyster Cult, 40th Anniversary Agents of Fortune Live 2016 (Frontiers Records, 2020)