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Atheist - Elements CD (album) cover

ELEMENTS

Atheist

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.19 | 205 ratings

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Rune2000
Special Collaborator
Prog Metal Team
4 stars This final piece of the album legacy sees the band at its final hour grasping at straws in order to record new material just to fulfill the straining contract set by the record label. Oh wait, I though that I was writing about Love Beach here! Does this mean that a band can write great material even when they are on a verge of a split? Yes, they can indeed!

I highlighted this interesting phenomenon observed on the Beatles' Abbey Road where a band decides to go all-in and do whatever they could just to keep the legacy going. The Atheist camp was completely shocked when its front man and lead guitarist, Kelly Shaefer, had developed carpal tunnel syndrome meaning that he could no longer handle his instrumental duties and a new lead guitar player was required. Add the fact that Steve Flynn quit the band and the drum duties were handed over to Josh Greenbaum and we have almost a completely new band compared to that from Unquestionable Presence, not to mention Piece Of Time!

Luckily these new changes didn't offset the band's will to strive even further in their development of the Tech/Extreme Prog Metal sub-genre as we know it today and Elements turned out to be quite a heavy hitter in that department. The elements of jazz and latin-oriented styles have taken a leap since Unquestionable Presence by taking most of the Thrash Metal elements out of the picture, which was quite a shock for fans of the more extreme Death Metal sound. I also believe that the highly improved production sound might have taken made the more experimental soundscapes stand out more than they did on Atheist's previous releases, making many fans think that the band abandoned their true calling.

This was of course not true and if you are able to look past the short experiment interludes between some of the tracks there is quite an album to marveled at! The first few songs don't feature any notable highlights in terms of complete excellence, but right when the out of place sounds of samba on Samba Briza begin to fade out, Atheist finally come into their own with the masterful performance on Air. This composition does take its time before abandoning its spacy instrumental scenery for more of the Death Metal such, but that's what makes me appreciate the performance even more. The hideous, almost hyena-like sounds open Animal on a highly epic note and the rest of this pompous performance just gets better and better, working almost as an opener to its follow up number. Mineral features a very mechanic riff reminiscent of those great Led Zeppelin numbers from Physical Graffitti, only with more groove to the performance. Finally it's the album's funky closing title track that reunites all of the elements that were mentioned over the course of the album and combines them into what can easily be considered the greatest track even conceived by Atheist!

Yes folks, when a band in disbalance decides to put their differences aside and work on carving the best possible album they can succeed! This doesn't happen every single time, in fact not so often at all, but that's exactly what makes these performances all the more special! Elements definitely takes Atheist even further in the realms of progressive music, which might not have been appreciated by all of their fans in the metal community but the band pushed on in order to achieve something new with their body of work. This is as close as an album can get to achieving an essential rating from me, still I have a minor gripe with the short experiment numbers that take away from the overall flow of the material, making Elements sound slightly incomplete to my ears. I definitely give it my most sincere recommendation to anyone looking to explore the Tech/Extreme Prog Metal, where Atheist will always remain as one of its top three major innovators!

***** star songs: Air (5:34) Animal (4:11) Mineral (4:33) Elements (5:48)

**** star songs: Green (3:23) Water (4:29) Samba Briza (1:59) Displacement (1:25) Fire (4:37) Fractal Point (0:44) Earth (3:54) See You Again (1:17)

Rune2000 | 4/5 |

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