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Atheist - Elements CD (album) cover

ELEMENTS

Atheist

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.25 | 201 ratings

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Alitare
4 stars Where jazz and death unite, not unlike the ocean whipped furiously by the winds

Atheist - Elements (1993)

Overall Rating: 12

Best Song : ELEMENTS

Jazz being mixed with Death metal isn't a new concept. This sort of thing has been done before, and it was even probably spearheaded by Atheist, in the first place. That doesn't make it a revolutionary concept, by any means. Jazz fusion artists have been slamming rock and jazz together like nobody's business for years upon years upon years. So, Atheist were just building on the innovative themes of others, but because metal isn't always the same as rock, and death metal isn't always the same as traditional metal, these guys were still able to come up with something that has a personality, and fluidly jams together the two disparate, but complimentary styles, and Elements was arguably their most fully formed product. It's a raucous, rampant, psychotic journey, and anyone familiar with Death's final albums, or Cynic's Focus (arguably the genres absolute peak, released barely one year before Elements, but a few years after Unquestionable Presence, you see), will be right at home in this pit of knotty time signatures, violent whipping "stop-start" song structures and classically jazz melodies over-driven to the point of aural cacophony, or some crazy word for it.

Again, it's not to say this is chaotic music. It's chaotic music that is only chaotic on account of how brutally complex and systematically crafted it is. Green and Aqua, the album's two "traditional" rocking songs blast with hardcore fury. Yeah, the lead vocalist needs a lot of work. Even for a growler, his voice comes off as being highly roughened and weakly unpolished. But, I think that it fits the music well enough. Not everyone can be another Chuck or Mikael, now can they? Really, this stuff might have more in common, formally, with thrash metal as opposed to the standard consensus on death metal, because the lyrics have nothing to do with Satan, oh...and there's actual diversity, here. Samba Briza was a jolting head trip when I first heard it. It's almost a classical jazz ragtime tune. Jazz musicians are known for their technical chops, metal musicians are usually known for their speed and flashy abilities, and progressive artists are usually known for being completely full of themselves. Wait, I meant to say that progressive artists are usually known for being a good bit of both. Now, Atheist, I can safely say, are absolute masters of their respective instruments. With rampaging guitars, bass flurries, psychotic drumming (which seemed to be a requirement in the Florida jazz death scene), and the integration of "soft" liquid passages in and out of more metal/rock oriented sonic landscapes.

Now for all the fury, some of the songs just don't rub me the right way. Maybe it's because even though the running times are under three to four minutes, on average, some of the songs still seem to go on for too long, or lack actual development. I find my favorite moments being the short, experimental interlude tracks that flesh out the album's sound, such as the chilling, void-like Displacement. Some of the longer songs tend to not have ear snagging riffs like I'd like to have, or their jerkiness wears thing, halfway through. Some of this stuff can really make my head spin and my bowels erupt, especially the nutty title track. The musicianship is mind blowing, but they just spent too much tie trying to be complicated, and forgot to really polish off the riff bag. It is this that makes me think the boys were being unnecessary, or just plain excessive.

If they could have nudged the material into the melodically mind blowing world, as well as the technically mind blowing one, we'd all have a merry metal Christmas, but sadly, Elements lacks in what I call the "heart" factor. It's energetic, brilliantly executed, and I'll be damned if it isn't pure entertainment through all forty minutes, but it doesn't whip me into submission the entire time, and some of the riffs seem recycled, if you know what I mean. Hey, this album is supposed to be about the earth, so maybe recycling the riffs is just another way for the band to play into the concept!

****

Alitare | 4/5 |

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