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Atheist - Elements CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.22 | 256 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Post/Math Rock Team
4 stars Atheist were one of those extreme metal bands of the early 1990s that I was certainly aware of but never actually checked out at the time. When Elements came out I was moving away from metal and getting more into alternative rock and hip-hop. Had I heard this album at the time though, I'm sure I would have loved it. Atheist play a jazzy and even funky version of death metal. You can really hear the bass here which is great. Not until the Nu Metal bands of the mid/late 90s does the bass become important in most metal. Elements contains lots of complex musicianship pulled off flawlessly. The guitar solos are generally not that great or memorable. There is no growling but the vocals are in between shouting and screaming. Some of the lyrics and song titles are based on the elements (hence the title).

For such a great and even timeless album, all the drama that went into recording it does not show at all. For one thing the band's bassist Roger Patterson died in a crash. The only reason they stayed together was because they owned their record company another album. Eventually Cynic bassist Tony Choy joined and they recorded this album. Elements is more accessible and melodic than earlier albums but is still nowhere near being mainstream. Three of the tracks here are short instrumentals with no drums. "Samba Briza" is another short instrumental but this one is very Latin sounding with drums, great bass work and, uh, piano. Mostly a Choy song, you wouldn't find many death metal fans listening to this song outside of their closet. Apart from those instrumentals the rest of the album is mostly in slightly funky jazzified death metal territory.

"Green" starts the album like a metal band trying to play jazz. Then it gets more typical death metal sounding. "Water" has an almost Latin rhythm to it, maybe that's why they say "aqua" in the lyrics. This song just swings and sways like there is no tomorrow. Nice acoustic Spanish guitar at times. "Air" is the standout track. Starts out very jazzy with a guitar imitating a trumpet. Great rhythm to this song, makes me want to shake my booty. I like the Judas Priest -meets- Slayer style of guitar playing throughout this track. "Animal" is another standout song with it's vaguely royal marching theme, sounding equally regal and evil. Changes for the guitar solo into a more laid-back jazzy style. Some of the vocals sound studio altered.

After some jazzy drumming "Fire" goes into a blues-metal vibe. Then more typical death metal territory. Some dissonant playing with a short spoken word section. Basically the whole song just jumps back and forth to all these different parts. Featuring probably the best guitar solo on the album. Sustained guitar notes lead "Earth" into death style guitar playing mixed with very funky bass playing. Then some very danceable Latin influenced death-jazz. Out of nowhere you hear a beat on a drum machine and then it goes back to the song. This track along with "Fire" is the most complex song from a compositional point of view.

The title track has a very funk-metal riff typical of the early 1990s. This song is funky death metal at it's finest. Interesting guitar runs in this track. The guitar solo here isn't too bad. Overall this is a great consistent release with great sound. Fans of fusion who want to test the waters of Tech/Extreme Prog Metal may want to start here. Elements is certainly one of the best and most important albums in that sub-genre of prog. A solid 4 stars.

zravkapt | 4/5 |


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