More than a half-century after bubbling up out of Long Island, New York, Blue Oyster Cult still exists, and not just as a perpetually touring oldies act — the band released its first album in nearly two decades, the well-received The Symbol Remains, in October 2020.
BOC originally formed as Soft White Underbelly in 1967 before switching to their forever name in 1972, which is when their self-titled debut dropped. The fivesome — which currently still includes original co-vocalists/guitarists Eric Bloom and Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser — is more than their classics “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” and “Burnin’ for You” might suggest, releasing eight albums in their first decade of existence (and 15 overall), including landmarks like 1974’s Secret Treaties and 1976’s commercial breakthrough Agents of Fortune, which feature a heady mix of Hard Rock, Metal, Prog and Pop. The Symbol Returns is just as adventurous, jumping genres as fearlessly as ever.
“We approach every song as a song,” Roeser said in an interview with Metaltalk.net late last year. “We don’t set any limitations for ourselves in terms of overall style. We didn’t even anticipate what the record would sound like all together, we just wrote songs that would fit the lyric or the concept of what we had in mind. Also, different writers in the band covered different bases. Obviously, Eric Bloom is responsible for the heavier stuff and Buck Dharma does his thing and Richie Castellano bridges that gap and brings his own broad Rock sensibility into the band, and you hear the result of that combination.”
“The Alchemist” — a song written by Castellano, who has been a BOC member since 2004 and was actually born after the band’s 1970s heyday — is the most curious of the new material, coming off like a proggy Tenacious D cover of a BOC song, its epic vocals, crunchy guitars and shifting tempos backing a tale about an alchemist who also appears to be a sorcerer. The song culminates with the line, “Our lives were a prison of my design,” which should sound just as operatic in a live setting.
Blue Oyster Cult plays Ludlow Garage on Thursday, Dec. 2. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8:30 p.m. No health check required. More details and tickets at ludlowgaragecincinnati.com.
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