On their first album in nearly 20 years, classic rock fabulons Blue Öyster Cult deliver a collection of songs that recalls the melodic sci-fi wizardry of their 1970s/early-’80s zenith. The Symbol Remains is a nod to the band’s iconic hook-and-cross logo, and sees legendary BÖC vocalist/guitarists Buck Dharma and Eric Bloom leading a band comprising newer adherents Richie Castellano (keyboards, guitar), Danny Miranda (bass), and Jules Radino (drums). “Maybe we didn’t have that much to say for 19 years,” Bloom tells Apple Music. “And now we do. It just took us a while to get these juices flowing again.” After recording all the basic tracks pre-pandemic, BÖC was forced to complete The Symbol Remains online. “When COVID hit, we realized we were going to have to start recording from home,” Bloom says. “Richie has advanced degrees in audio engineering, so he was the pivot man. Buck and I did the vocals and some guitar playing at our individual homes using a Zoom-type technology, so I’d do the sessions looking at Richie’s face on my laptop.” Below, Bloom discusses some key tracks from their comeback project.
That Was Me “We decided this was a good rocking track to open with. The lyric is by John Shirley, who wrote several of the lyrics on this record, and did on the last two records as well. Our longtime manager Sandy Pearlman put us together with him 20-odd years ago and thought he would be a great source of lyrical content, and he has been. John has his own band and is an author of cyberpunk novels and all kinds of things. If I feel like it's time to write something, I look in the John Shirley folder and see if I can get inspired. We wrote most of the music a couple of years ago and then I came up with the idea for that reggae-style bridge.”
Tainted Blood “I wrote this one with Richie's assistance. He’s been in the band about 14 years, but this is his first time making a record with us. Sometime last summer, we got on a plane and I had this concept in my head of vampire suicide. Why would a vampire want to kill himself, considering that he has the wherewithal to live forever?”
Stand and Fight “I wrote this one, and it’s like an anthem. I got the idea on that same airplane where I wrote ‘Tainted Blood.’ It's funny to get two ideas for two different songs on the same two-hour flight. It’s about what’s going on in America, but I wanted to keep it even-handed, so I sort of wrote it with the idea of that movie Independence Day. It’s the idea that you could stand and fight against anything that seems to be overwhelming. It’s in a metal style that I like, and in the bridge there are some sound effects—that’s supposedly the fight scene.”
Florida Man “It’s almost a meme about how people in Florida are so fucked up. I think you could look up your birthday and there’s something weird that happened that day in Florida. You open your door and there’s an alligator. Or a weird person does something to somebody.”
The Alchemist “It’s almost literally based on an H.P. Lovecraft short story about a fantastical kingdom where the alchemist lives on the outskirts of town with his son, and the king’s son—the prince—goes missing. The king is outraged and blames the alchemist, so he goes over to his house and kills the alchemist. But then the alchemist’s son curses the king and all his descendants. And then the alchemist’s son becomes the alchemist. But Richie outdoes Andrew Lloyd Webber in this song. It’s very dramatic, very Phantom of the Opera or something. I think it’s great.”
Fight “Usually if Buck’s singing, you know he wrote it. I think he put out three of these songs as home demos a couple of years ago, and this was one of them. I’m not sure where the lyric comes from, but it’s just a clever little ditty. It’s almost like an exercise or something. It’s just a delightful thing to listen to.”