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ELEMENTS

Atheist

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal


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5 stars Although ATHEIST was a member of the swarming death metal scene in Florida, it was not just a simple musical destruction. Bands such as CYNIC, NOCTURNUS and ATHEIST tried to widen the boundaries of the genre. The band heavily inspired by MERCYFUL FATE, METALLICA, RUSH, KING CRIMSON and FRANK ZAPPA (as the mainman Kelly Shaefer mentioned in an interview). After the tragical death of the original bass player Roger Patterson the band nearly disbanded but they managed to find Tony Choy who just left CYNIC (who was replaced by a technical assistant in Morrisound Studo, namely Sean Malone, now in GORDIAN KNOT). After the release of their second album, "Unquestionable Presence", Kelly Schaefer started a hard rock band NEUROTICA, and because of the lack of any commercial success, it seemed that the story of ATHEIST ended.

But they had valid contract and the record company forced them to make another album. With a different line-up they had exactly 40 days to write and record a whole album from the beginning to the end without making any demos. The musicianship is incredible as always. In the album "Elements", ATHEIST walks on the thin line between innovation and experimentalism. Songs like Air, Animal and Earth show their terrific songwriting ability touching the borders of death and progressive metal with jazz elements while Samba Briza, Displacement, Fractal Point and See You Again are wonderful jazz-inspired instrumental bridges between the standard songs. Tony Choy is one of the best bass-player ever (now he's in a latin band which worked earlier in a cruise liner on the Caribbean See).

Recommended to any fans of technical progressive metal, but not only for historical reason. If someone is interested in the history of the prog/death forefathers and curious what the term 'death/jazz' means, then this album is for you. "Unquestionable Presence" is the best ATHEIST album, so the rating is

9/10

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Send comments to riversdancing (BETA) | Report this review (#42412)
Posted Thursday, August 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
slack4justice
4 stars 1. Green (8/10) / 2. Water (9/10) / 3. Samba Briza (8.5/10) / 4. Air (8.5/10) / 5. Displacement (7/10) / 6. Animal (8/10) / 7. Mineral (9/10) / 8. Fire (8.5/10) / 9. Fractal Point (7/10) / 10. Earth (7.5/10) / 11. See You Again (8/10) / 12. Elements (9/10)

Elements is the final Atheist album, and I'd say the most varied. The songwriting isn't as strong as it is on Unquestionable Presence, but it's sligtly so because this is a much different direction than previous Atheist efforts. Some seemingly out of place experiments are actually well-placed and work with this album. It's definitely still something amazing considering it is an Atheist album after all. Excellent once again. Now, I beg for an Atheist reunion!

Reviewer's tilt: (8.5/10)

Overall score: 8.2 out of 10 or 4 stars

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#42531)
Posted Thursday, August 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
Melomaniac
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars In the same vein as bands like Cynic and Pestilence, Atheist had a unique brand of jazz/fusion/death metal. With Elements, Atheist added a latin flavor to their mix, and to good effect. Bassist Tony Choy (formerly of Cynic and later of Pestilence) replaced former bassist extraordinaire Roger Patterson, deceased in a bus accident while on tour with the band. Patterson was mainly responsible for the band's sound, being the main songwriter. Tony Choy was, however, a more than suitable replacement (apparently the band tried to hire Watchtower's bassist Doug Keyser after Patterson's death, but he was not interested). Drummer Josh Greenbaum, while not as technical as his predecessor Steve Flynn, managed to create interesting drum parts on this album.

Some felt that Elements was a let down after Unquestionable Presence, which, in my opinion, was a bit too technical for it's own good. The songs on Elements have more cohesiveness to them, and are more easily remembered (therefore memorable) than any of the band's previous offerings. All of the songs are mid-tempo metal-jazz-fusion- latin flavored, and this really set Elements apart from any album of the era in that genre. The focus on Elements was more on songwriting than on technical prowess, even though technicality is still very much present. Every musician is a delight to listen to. The vocals, however, might not appeal to everyone, being in the death metal registry, while still being comprehensible. I personally have no problems with Kelly Shaeffer's voice. The production was average, given the small budget they had and the time (or lack thereof) they had to recruit new musicians, write, rehearse and record the album (something like a month or two, according to the liner notes in the reedition).

The thematic aspect of the album was also original (titles like Green, Water, Air, Mineral and Fire say it all), environmentally (and intelligent) engaged lyrics, giving voice to the elements of nature and what they would say to mankind given the power of speech.

I cannot name standout tracks as I love them all, but what keeps me from giving this album a five star rating is the production, and the fact that death metal vocals don't appeal to all. Still very highly recommended, very close to being a masterpiece.

4.5 stars!

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Send comments to Melomaniac (BETA) | Report this review (#88283)
Posted Sunday, August 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
FruMp
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Fantastic swan song for the Funkiest death metal band in existence.

ATHEIST were amongst a sparse group of highly influential and respected progressive death metal bands such as CYNIC and PESTILENCE who were brave enough to try and succeed in melding genres and musical ideas from progressive rock and jazz into a tehcnical death metal framework and arguably they were the most succesful in getting the right combinaiton ofthe two.

I'm not going to lie to you here, atheist are my favourite band and have been for several months now just so you know where I'm coming from on this band. That said on first impressions I wasn't terribly impressed with this album, it was at a time when I was really getting into thrash metal and had only just discovered technical metal and on comparison to unquestionable presence their earlier album I was somewhat underwhelmed with the lack of speed and technicality, it also has a lot more clarity and is signicantly less heavy (good things from a prog perspective really, this just allows for greater dynamics in the music which are well utilized on this album). As all good albums do though this one grew on me and to such a point where I love every single (proper) song on the album.

The album focuses obviously on elements and in a lot of cases ATHEIST do a remarkable job of conveying feelings and atmospheres assosciated with the elements for example the song animal has a very organic and natural feel as if you were a proud lion roaming in a jungle (sounds pretty lame doesn't it?).

Straight up probably my favourite song on the album is the opener 'green', it has this great cuban/latin feel along with the sweet riffs and pacing - just has fantastic direction and is remarkably musical which one will find is a trend throughout the entire album. The next song 'water' is another fantastic piece melding flamenco stylings with metal featuring some superb acoustic guitar parts. Then we come up upon one of the 'filler' songs on the album entitled 'samba briza', a nice little jazz interlude, there are about 4 of these filler songs on the album and they are quite suitable really I'd much rather have 8 great songs with 4 interludes than 8 great songs and 4 mediocre songs. Track number 6 animal is another favourite of mine, fantastic flowing song as I mentioned earlier with penetrating bass.

One of the things I love about ATHEIST is that they really know how to end an album as with on the previous album they have a slowish and more ominous song leading into the final (and fantastic) song top marks.

The musicianship on this album is top notch the drumming although not as frenetic as on previous albums is very funky and varied and there are some leviathan fills there isn't really any double kick aside from the odd triplet and fill here and there which is a pleasant change and fits the new style of the band. The bass well to fans of the genre tony choy needs on further introduction, he is a masterful bassist, extremely funky and interesting (he plays slap) veteran of many highly respected technical death metal bands. The guitars form more of a focal point on this album as opposed to the rythmn section and they don't disappoint, the riffs are always interesting, the harmonies are always calculated and never cheesy and the solos a freakin' bitchin'. The vocals I find are perfect for ATHEIST they aren't a growl or a guttoral vocal and they are often double and triple tracked to add an ethereal and meaty feeling to it (sounds conrtadictory but you'll understand if you hear it) more of an aggressive bark a growl would be too heavy and singing would be well not heavy enough to suit the music really.

This is a fantastic album for anyone into more extreme prog metal as well as andventurous and interesting metal. Every song is gold - very well written (written and recorded in only a month too), it's interesting, it's varied and it's unique and it's continually listenable after many listenings. 5 stars - Highly recommended.

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Send comments to FruMp (BETA) | Report this review (#121811)
Posted Saturday, May 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Elements is the third full-length studio album by American technical/ progressive death metal act Atheist. Elements is a great Atheist album and a natural successor to its predecessor Unquestionable Presence (1991). Not in the sense that Elements sounds like Unquestionable Presence because they are very different albums both in regard to composition and sound.

Drummer Steve Flynn left and a new session drummer (Josh Greenbaum) plays on this album, he is a much more "loose drummer" and the precision play of Flynn is replaced by more groove ( Almost samba/ bossa at times). A third guitarist was also added ( Frank Emmi) as they must have realised that Kelly Schafer couldn´t possibly both sing and play these complex parts live. It works well with the three guitarists on record too though, and many parts are enhanced a lot by the third guitar. Tony Choy still plays the impossible bass parts and the only two founding members Kelly Shaefer and Randy Burkey are there too. Randy Burkey playing some of his most inspired soloes on this one.

The production is quite odd and it overloads several times especially on the voice. I find this to be a minor problem I have learned to live with through the years. The music is so fantastic you just have to. Mark Pinske is the producer on this album and I´m not sure about this, but is he the same man working with Zappa on the Them or Us (1984) album ? Well never the less he also produced Malevolent Creation´s Stillborn (1993) album and it sounds exactly like Elements. Either you like it for the originality in the sound or you´ll probably hate it and think it sounds amatourish.

The production aside the music is fantastic. A mix of various genres. I´ve always felt a strong latin touch to their music on this album and it´s not just because of the song Samba Briza which is pure latin music, but also on songs like Water and Air. The lyrics are about the four elements, and pretty interesting if you´re not only into the death and mayhem part of heavy metal. Atheist were always the hippies of Death Metal lyrically and continue to be on Elements. Look in the sleeve notes where they praise Weed as their prime source of inspiration.

This was unfortunately the last album by Atheist, and maybe that was allright. Three fantastic albums are quite a good testimony.

Elements is just as essential as Unquestionable Presence, even though the two albums are very different from each other. I can´t think of many other albums I would give 5 stars before this one. A true masterpiece in its genre.

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Send comments to UMUR (BETA) | Report this review (#147145)
Posted Friday, October 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
CCVP
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars An album made extremely fast by a splitting-up band became their biggest work of art. How can that be i don't know, but Elements is here to prove that it is possible

It is truly amazing that this album even exists, and even more, to be the incredible piece of art it is. Though, the one thing that continues to amaze me to this day is that Elements was written, recorded and produced in just FORTY DAYS! That leaves about 2-3 weeks to come up with entirely new material from scratch and 1-2 weeks to produce and mix it. Under such pressure, you would expect any band to cave and just throw a bunch of random crap together and hope for the best... But not in this particular case.

Everyone in Atheist pooled their creative intelligence together and really did their best to live up to the standards of quality that they showed in past efforts and they really outdid themselves beyond anything expected and even pushed the boundaries further and further away, mixing jazz, samba, death metal, some funk and other exotic sounds. This is the way experimentation with metal should be done and this album is one great measuring stick to be used to see if any band is going to the right or the wrong direction.

Because of those unique characteristics Elements (and Atheist music in general) is not meant for everybody (i may be bold to say that, but only few chosen ones can truly understand their music and the ones who like death metal with a very unique mix with progressive attitude in musical content and song writing style as well as a deep jazzy feeling to it). So if you did not liked Atheist previous works, there are two options here: you can try this more experimental album and fall in love with the band or just leave it behind.

About the songs, musicianship and other features there are some thing i would like to state:

Well, here on elements things become even more crazy, difficult and mind-blowing than before.The riffs have become more bizarre, with many odd time signature changes all the time, the songs present many different paths of construction, but at the same time, not varying so much that it sounds sloppily thrown together just for the sake of trying to blow your mind. There is catchiness to Atheist that is very hard to grasp, let alone replicate, yet they make it seem easy. So many technical bands have tried doing what Atheist do and most of them fall flat on their face and can't write memorable, good songs. Either that or they suffer from 'studio syndrome' and can't perform any of their material in a competent fashion in a live environment, but i can't say atheist suffered or suffer this 'syndrome', since i had never saw neither listened they play live, but anyway. . .

The drumming is also VERY different. Instead of being the aggressive and destructive kind of drumming present on the previous albums the drumming is much more concentrated and focused, resulting in very solid and interesting rhythms, specially when the drum lines are combined with the bass lines. As i said before, the members have pooled their efforts together in every song so, in every song, you can see a very brand amount of ideas appearing all the time, left and right.

All that means that the technicality present here in this album is enough to make the guys in Dream Theater look like a bunch of noobish instrumentalists making a poor cover version of The Shaggs (YEAH, YEAH, i exaggerate to make a point, so what?). But the worst part is not that. The worst part is that, when you listen Elements, you have the feeling that the guys on Atheist are just jamming!!!!!! Seriously man, this album still gives me the creeps!

Grade and final Thoughts:

Now its the time you all expected: the grade and conclusion.

Seriously guys, if i could i would give this album a 6 star grade. Here these guys, putting in a VERY simple way, got what they did before and made it better beyond any kind of expectation and because of that this album obviously deserves the masterpiece grade.

If you want your metal music with great depth, pure quality and real progressive nature, but most importantly you are willing to spend time listening to a record that will shake your world. well, then i guess this is your exactly what you want.

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Send comments to CCVP (BETA) | Report this review (#172546)
Posted Thursday, May 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
horsewithteeth11
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Going down swinging...a home run.

After an album like Unquestionable Presence, I didn't think Atheist could have possibly matched it with their swan song, Elements. My, how wrong I was. This is easily as good as UP was; however, do not think of this as part two of Atheist's sophomore effort. Both albums are very unique in the realm of death metal and very different from each other.

The focus here is still very death metal infused with complex jazz rhythms and what I still think is one of the best rhythm sections in metal. Unlike Unquestionable Presence, this album is more focused on the subtle Latin rhythms in comparison to the previous release which focused on all-out aggression. This is still very aggressive music for most proggers; however I believe that many more will find this a slightly more accessible medium into Atheist than their other two albums.

Once again, the rhythm section takes very prominent notice on this album. This also happens to be much more experimental grounds than anything Atheist has done up to this point. This is very noticeable on the several very short songs/interludes, some of which are very melodic and even include bits of piano in them, especially the very Latin-esque Samba Briza. Green, Animal, and the title track which concludes the album are some of the highlights here, although every track really stands out strongly. If you enjoy any of Atheist's other albums, I highly recommend this then, as it's certainly a standout metal album. Atheist has reformed and a new album after a nearly 15 year hiatus is expected sometime later this year. If it continues in the direction that they set on Elements, I will be hardly disappointed. This is a fantastic fusion of jazz and death metal, and most certainly deserves 5 stars.

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Send comments to horsewithteeth11 (BETA) | Report this review (#201827)
Posted Thursday, February 05, 2009 | Review Permalink
JJLehto
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars I have always liked Atheist and their technical/jazzy/progressive Death Metal style. I think they are all great musicians. However, "Elements" ups it to a whole another level. This was one of the few albums I have that I can call a masterpiece without any thought. This album ended up with 3 guitarists, Kelly Shaefer handles rhythm guitar, (and vocals) while the other 2 swap lead and solos and I think this gives the album a wild sound. It is almost a non stop attack throughout. Tony Choy may not be Roger Patterson but he superbly on bass, and drummer Josh Greenbaum I do not like as much as Steve Flynn but he holds his own, and his drumming style fits the music well.

"Elements" is a lot more jazzy then its predecessor's, A LOT more. However, it does retain its metal sound in its guitars, some solos, and Kelly's vocals are the same as the first 2 albums, which I personally enjoy. His vocal style is not the "death growl" and I really can not put my finger on it. It is a snarly yell, and I love the way he sounds. This whole album has technical, odd, guitar riffs. Time signature changes throughout, jazz fusion-esque dueling solos, some great bass work, (heavily jazz inspired of course) and jazzy drumming with some strong Latin influences. As I said earlier I think the drum work on this album is less technical then before, but that is fine because pure technical prowess is not what this album is about.

My problem with a lot of Technical Metal bands is they try to hard I think. They go over the top/to the extreme to display their technicality and mastery of time signatures, etc (Meshuggah comes to mind). It can be very overwhelming even to hard line fans like myself. "Elements" though is truly jazzy, (do not want to over use that word) and while technical it has a great feel to it. Just like in pure jazz, when I listen to this album I can not help but tap my feet, swing my body, all without even noticing. Every song just has a great, catchy feel to it and each song is different, (while still the same style of course). I really do not how Atheist did it!

My favorite songs on the album: Samba Briza: This song is pure Latin Jazz. Not metal in the least, and I love it! Air: For some reason I love the vocals on this song a little more then the rest. So much emotion in some of the screaming. Also, the technicality, groovy riffs, and some great solos! Elements: Great intro, and breathtaking guitar work throughout. The solo at the end is beautiful sounding. However, every song is gold and I can not pick one favorite. Few albums are out there where I like every song, and even fewer of those I LOVE every one. "Elements" is one of them. Also one of the few where every musician on it is PERFECT. They all mold together wonderfully.

I suppose the vocals could be a bit tough, (or if you're not into heavy guitar) but I think even a lot of regular proggers can enjoy this album. Without a doubt: FIVE STARS!

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Send comments to JJLehto (BETA) | Report this review (#214074)
Posted Wednesday, May 06, 2009 | Review Permalink
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!

****

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Send comments to Alitare (BETA) | Report this review (#291356)
Posted Wednesday, July 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
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)

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Send comments to Rune2000 (BETA) | Report this review (#293306)
Posted Tuesday, August 03, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars The elements of awesomeness!

This was my first ever Atheist album, and boy is it a good one. Coming right after their Unquestionable Presence album, it is definitely their most progiest so far. All their other albums are death metal including their newest one, Jupiter, which followed this album. When I went to buy it I was looking for an album that was metal, but had some jazz elements to it, too. If you are looking for jazz this one is definitely the right choice since it has more jazz, in my opinion, over the rest of their albums.

The songs "Earth", "Air", "Fire", "Water", and "Animal" are highlighted as the elements and are longer than the rest of the songs. What's weird is that after each "element" song there is a very short song that averages out a about a minute in length. The jazziest song on the album is one of these very short songs.

As you might be able to tell from the name, "Samba Briza", is a very jazzy tune. It is completely instrumental with Congo drums from Josh Greenbaum and a pretty good bass line by Tony Choy. It has a very upbeat feel to it, played in the major key while most of the rest of the album is played in minor, like normal death metal. It also features great guitar solos from Rand Burkey and Frank Emmi.

As you can tell from the names, the "element" songs all have to do with the element they are named for. I think that by doing so they made the album more enjoyable because there is a definite point to all the songs. One of these songs is "Air" which features some great solos, and some very nice, groovy licks and riffs. Another good song is "Elements" which again features some great solos.

Overall this album includes many good instrumentals and very good drumming. One thing that I am not totally crazy about is the singing. I enjoy it a lot, but it just isn't exactly my type of singing. It seems a little to high pitched to be growling, but just not right to be singing. But, despite this, Atheist's third album still deserves 4 stars.

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Send comments to The Block (BETA) | Report this review (#337529)
Posted Sunday, November 28, 2010 | Review Permalink
Negoba
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This is Progressive Death Metal

In my ongoing quest in search of all things labeled jazz metal, it was inevitable that I would find Atheist. Commonly mentioned alongside Cynic as founders of the style, I find the two to have a very distinct sound. Cynic sits alone in my mind, while Atheist sounds like a cross between Death and Psychotic Waltz. And in this case, the combo is greater than the sum of its parts. I frankly like ELEMENTS better than anything by the two aforementioned, still magnificent bands. The simplest reason I like Atheist better is that Kelly Shaefer's harsh vocals are much better than Chuck Shuldiner's IMO, and in fact work better within the context of the music better than Buddy Lackey's in PW. (I must mention that Devon Graves is clearly a more talented vocalist, but context is everything in music, and Shaefer's just fit.)

Atheist themselves are quick to point out that their fusion is not with jazz per se, but with Latin music. "Samba Briza" is the closest track to a straight Latin jazz on the album, but the band's metal heart still is just below the surface. Former Cynic bassist Tony Choy is just a monster on this album, with a huge sound that gives Atheist a richer sound than alot of death and thrash bands. One thing the band does share with Cynic is a kind of organic looseness that warms up the sound. (Unlike Death's precision, especially with Gene Hoglan). By the time of this album, the band has become very comfortable with the switches from clean swing and metal crush. While some of the transitions are dramatic, they don't seemed forced or unnatural.

As a guitarist, I really like the approach to lead playing on this album. Despite some quick solos, the guitar playing is almost exclusively song-oriented. The lines never feel like they were created over the top of the rhythm parts, but rather that the entire songs evolved together. As with the vocals, there is a cohesion to the band that really makes the record sound energetic and musical. Ironically, the band was falling apart at the seams while this record was recorded. Sometimes that chaos ruins a record, but on occasional moments of convergence, the nervous energy actually makes the work better. ELEMENTS is one of those cases. Songs like "Water" and "Air" are my favorites, and I can't identify one weak song on the album.

The bonus live tracks demonstrate just how far the band has come. While extremely well played, the older material leans much more on straight thrash metal, and don't hold my interest nearly as well as the actual studio material.

As I'm not really a death metal guy in general, and this album doesn't truly create anything of its own, I can't give it masterpiece status. But within its style, it is very very good. Invisible Oranges to all.

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Send comments to Negoba (BETA) | Report this review (#378778)
Posted Wednesday, January 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars 'Elements' - Atheist (9/10)

Although it may be their sophomore 'Unquestionable Presence' which has gained the classic status amongst most metal fans, Floridan death metal group Atheist seems to have found their trademark sound with the third, and- at least for almost two decades before the release of 'Jupiter' - final album 'Elements'. Helping to innovate the fusion of heavy metal and jazz music that so many bands have followed since its release, 'Elements' stands as being an essential album in the history of death metal, as well as an incredibly tight piece of music by any metal standard.

With 'Unquestionable Presence', I found myself incredibly impressed by the band's great musical capability and thrashy sensibilities, even if the sound was a little too chaotic for its own good. With 'Elements', I would tend to agree with the general consensus here; the technicality has been kept more or less intact, but there has been quite a bit more diversity and memorable hooks here. Not least among these is the marvelous jazz and latin segments the band throws in here and there. Especially for the time that 'Elements' was released, hearing a chugging technical guitar onslaught followed by a quirky latin rhythm and acoustic flamenco solo was fairly fresh, and still sounds unexpected today.

With the band's talents already hailed from the first record onward, the musicianship of Atheist cannot be held in question by this point. They take the 'technical' label and run with it, not just necessarily playing fast, but playing well together. Much like a jazz band might, each musician seems to play off of each other, creating a sound that is surprisingly organic for a metal band. Of special note is bassist Tony Choy, who was always a highlight on earlier releases for his great skill and interesting style, but here he really takes the spotlight. Each track is made even more impressive through his rapidfire and clever bass hooks. Luckily, he is also held highly enough in the production mix to hear his fantastic performance. The vocals of Kelly Shaefer are also very distinctive, although they are sure to be the point of derision towards many listeners. While they may have sounded tighter on 'Unquestionable Presence' and they can sometimes even detract from the musical power here, Schaefer's vocal diversity is scarcely heard in the death metal genre.

A great conceptual masterpiece from these talented Americans, and arguably the greatest thing Atheist has ever done.

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Send comments to Conor Fynes (BETA) | Report this review (#452698)
Posted Friday, May 27, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars "Elements" is probably one of the most original releases on the weird and wonderful world of heavy metal music.

However, it is also one of the most underappreciated ones. One reason is probably because it's hard to get one's head around with its blend of progressive metal, fusion-like jazz, and Latin rhythmic patterns. Another reason is probably that it's less metal than its predecessors in the sense that, for instance, there's not a lot of double bass drum action and fast-paced guitar riffage as on the two previous releases... and I'm sure that the inclusion of "Samba Briza" (which is really a bossa nove, I think) probably scared a whole bunch of metalheads away. But this is also what makes "Elements" a very interesting and enjoyable listen. The different approach to making metal music is interesting - and that's typically also what makes metal music evolve as a genre. Also, there is plenty of heavy riffage and distorted guitars and heavy drumming (and, it's refreshing to hear metal drumming without machine gun drums). What makes it different is what makes it a masterpiece.

(review originally posted at metalmusicarchives.com)

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Send comments to Time Signature (BETA) | Report this review (#514146)
Posted Sunday, September 04, 2011 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Atheist continued in their jazz-metal direction on Elements, which is a decent album which I would recommend to any fan of their earlier albums - though I would say I think it's a mite bit less good than Unquestionable Presence. Part of this is due to the fact that the album is a little bit unfocused, whereas its predecessor seemed to be a bit tighter - possibly due to the band's desire to pay tribute to the late Roger Patterson that time around - and part of this is down to the vocals, on those tracks where they crop up, just being a little half-hearted, as though the band really wanted to do an all-instrumental album. Still, these are quibbles: it's a decent jazz- tech-death hybrid, and if you liked the earlier Atheist albums you should give it a go.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#612067)
Posted Tuesday, January 17, 2012 | Review Permalink
zravkapt
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.

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Send comments to zravkapt (BETA) | Report this review (#767801)
Posted Friday, June 08, 2012 | Review Permalink

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