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ATHEIST

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal • United States


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Atheist biography
ATHEIST plays an extremely complex death-jazz. ATHEIST was founded in 1984 by vocalist/guitarist Kelly Shaefer and drummer Steve Flynn, later recruiting Roger Patterson and Mark Sczawtsberg. ATHEIST progressed into an extremely complex fusion death metal band. A few lineup changes later, "Piece of Time" was released, and they started to tour, where Roger Patterson was killed in a car crash. Cynic bassist Tony Choy filled in to create the "Unquestionable Presence" album, which was their pinnacle. Shaefer went on to form Neurotica, but the album "Elements" appeared later out of contract. The band has then split up. ATHEIST can be compared to the complexity of DEATH and CYNIC, playing a highly inventive fusion oriented, breakneck speed metal.

"Unquestionable Presence" is arguably the band's best album and a landmark in progressive metal and the Florida prog-metal scene.

Any fans of complex music, fast playing, and extreme metal should love ATHEIST.

Why this artist must be listed in www.progarchives.com :

Legendary prog-metal band, incredible chops and fusion-oriented playing.

Discography:
Piece of Time (1990)
Unquestionable Presence (1991)
Elements (1993)

Atheist official website

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Piece of TimePiece of Time
Remastered · Extra tracks
Relapse 2005
Audio CD$24.83
$9.95 (used)
JupiterJupiter
Limited Edition
Season of Mist 2010
Audio CD$4.98
$5.09 (used)
The Collection (Ltd Ed Box Set)The Collection (Ltd Ed Box Set)
Relapse
Vinyl$84.98
$100.00 (used)
Unquestionable PresenceUnquestionable Presence
Remastered · Extra tracks
Relapse 2005
Audio CD$3.30
$3.98 (used)
ElementsElements
Remastered · Extra tracks
Relapse 2005
Audio CD$3.30
$3.99 (used)
Unquestionable Presence: Live at WackenUnquestionable Presence: Live at Wacken
Relapse 2009
Audio CD$3.68
$4.05 (used)
ElementsElements
Season of Mist 2013
Vinyl$15.70
$30.07 (used)
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ATHEIST shows & tickets


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ATHEIST discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

ATHEIST top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.64 | 98 ratings
Piece of Time
1990
4.16 | 220 ratings
Unquestionable Presence
1991
4.19 | 205 ratings
Elements
1993
3.30 | 85 ratings
Jupiter
2010

ATHEIST Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.46 | 10 ratings
Unquestionable Presence: Live At Wacken
2009

ATHEIST Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

ATHEIST Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

5.00 | 2 ratings
Atheist - The Collection
2005

ATHEIST Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

2.91 | 4 ratings
Beyond
1988
3.09 | 5 ratings
Second to Sun
2010

ATHEIST Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Unquestionable Presence by ATHEIST album cover Studio Album, 1991
4.16 | 220 ratings

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Unquestionable Presence
Atheist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Prog Sothoth
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

5 stars A delirious fusion of jazz and extreme metal, listening to Unquestionable Presence is like playing a pinball machine with multiple balls at once, hyper powered bumpers and an unusually multitudinous amount of flashing lights. Crazy stuff. But it's also fun!

It's almost hard to believe this undeniably influential beast came out in 1991, an effort certainly ahead of its time in that its heralded status and vast amounts of technical death metal acts borrowing its ideas would only come into play years later. What really makes this release special to me, though, is that despite the lunatic time signature shifts, piles of riffs crammed into each tune and an absolutely psychotic rhythm section, these songs are not only entertaining, but even catchy and memorable to varying degrees. Yes, there's a fair degree of showing off involved (jazz and metal...what do you expect?), but the riffs and interplay of the instruments never cancel each other out to the point where one wonders what the hell they're listening to.

The way the band incorporated jazziness to their death-thrash sound was quite revolutionary, in that instead of the band playing straight-up metal before shifting into some quieter 'jazz moment', the jazz aspect is immersed directly into their wild heavy music, a true fusion so-to-speak. Violent guitar riffs are balanced by hyper swingy free-jazz beats along with a bass presence ready to noodle off into the stratosphere and toss in some slaps at will. Often the guitar riffs themselves morph into fluttering fusion-like melodies when you least expect it. There's still plenty of moments where a full on thrashy death assault occurs with flying locomotive tempos and quality guitar solos that shred but retain an appealing bluesiness, aiding the songs rather than trying to outshine them. Everything is played tight, and the production, certainly for its time, serves the album well enough with each instrument basically getting their chance to shine.

Vocally, Kelly Shaefer utilizes a mid-toned snarl that's seems like a bridge between Kreator and Death, being absolutely feral, but not of the inhuman grunting or shrieking variety that was becoming the standard regarding the various extreme metal scenes. His vicious delivery also adds an extra pulse to the rhythms, being exact and punctual over the busy instrumentation. Another noteworthy factor is the lyrics spouted by this voice, in that rather than waxing poetic about gore and Satan, they are actually well written prose pondering life, nature and the universe, topics not exactly par for the course concerning death metal at its early stages.

Everything is right about this thing, including its short length, as these tunes have so much going on that it might have become a bit exhausting if it were much longer. Atheist's prior and follow-up releases are also quite fine in their own right, but Unquestionable Presence is the band at its most bonkers and frenetic, and the wildest and most enjoyable roller coaster ride by the band for me. Worthy of a 'classic' status for sure.

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 Jupiter by ATHEIST album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.30 | 85 ratings

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Jupiter
Atheist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Sinusoid
Prog Reviewer

1 stars If you listen to music long enough, chances are that eventually you're going to attempt to understand a style or genre several times without breaking the ice. Ultra-technical death metal hasn't exactly been my best friend lately, and Atheist's reunion album JUPITER only further distances me from the genre. To be fair, maybe this wasn't the right album to begin with Atheist.

Many of the problems that I ran into on Death's final album (SOUND OF PERSERVERANCE) are here as well. For most of the songs, the band settles into a riff for only about a minute before shifting gears completely into another riff without smoothly transitioning. The few attempts at a ''break'' feel like braking at 85 mph and immediately punching the gas pedal; the stop-start riffs end up being aural whiplash to the point where it hurts.

It practically goes without saying that the members of Atheist have quite the technical chops. That unfortunately leads to another problem. The playing is constantly on loud and hyper-complex to the point where there's no straight line anchoring the music. Other technical based bands such as Meshuggah seem to have an anchor in their complexity so that the technicality of the music doesn't run away from them. JUPITER seems to sound clogged with so many riffs and solos that I can't remember what happened after the album is over.

There are two double-edged swords here. First, the production does a great job at bringing out how destructively good the guitars can be, yet the bass is practically buried save for a slap line at the end of the album. Second, the songs are relatively short (nothing exceeds five minutes here), so there's nothing too long. At the same time, these are the longest 4 minute songs I've heard in my life.

I feel like I got started on the wrong album with this group, especially give the platitudes of their heyday albums. JUPITER is a nice present to the hardcore fans, but newcomers might be put off with this.

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 Elements by ATHEIST album cover Studio Album, 1993
4.19 | 205 ratings

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Elements
Atheist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by 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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 Jupiter by ATHEIST album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.30 | 85 ratings

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Jupiter
Atheist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Atheist's comeback album Jupiter finds the band injecting the death metal back into their sound to an extent not heard since Piece of Time, with the jazz motifs of Unquestionable Presence or Elements serving the metal rather than existing in their own space. On the whole, it's a good and enjoyable listen, even though the technical death metal world has moved on since the band's glory days; my major criticism of the album is that after the first few songs it begins to feel a bit samey, something which was never the case on their earlier albums; a few quieter spots or the inclusion of moments where the jazz outweighs the death metal, as on their previous two albums, might have gone a long way to keeping things varied here.

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 Piece of Time by ATHEIST album cover Studio Album, 1990
3.64 | 98 ratings

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Piece of Time
Atheist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Vobiscum

4 stars Recorded in 1988, released in Europe in 1989 and the U.S. in 1990, "Piece of Time" joins the "death metal" elements with "progressive". The outcome is exquisite. The sound is surprising because until then I had only learned of bands of "death metal" that did not have great rhythmic variation. The band's name already exposes the ideological issue in their letters. With "Kelly Shaefer" on vocals and guitar, and primary lyricist, and also "Rand Burkey" on the other guitar, "Steve Flynn" in the sticks and finally bassist "Roger Patterson", the band showed quality work unquestionable and with a vision beyond his time. "Roger Patterson" stands taken by the sound of your bass, the guitar riffs are the bridge between "death metal" and "progressive", and rhythmic changes made ​​by the drummer. In fact the strong point of this album, the band itself is innovation. "Piece of Time" is an album of short tracks, but full of quality and musicianship. If at times the sound exposes his side "death metal" on the other side so complex exposes more "progressive".

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 Elements by ATHEIST album cover Studio Album, 1993
4.19 | 205 ratings

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Elements
Atheist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by 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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 Unquestionable Presence by ATHEIST album cover Studio Album, 1991
4.16 | 220 ratings

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Unquestionable Presence
Atheist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Unquestionable Presence is not an album which will yield its secrets on a single listen - but one listen will be enough to convince anyone that it's a groundbreaking moment in death metal, taking the technicality of the genre to the next level by including far more jazz-inspired time signatures and motifs to the music than the preceding Piece of Time (which was hardly simple and straightforward itself). At points, the music resembles the work of the Minutemen, whose work in fusing avant-jazz in hardcore punk was another great example of shoving some jazz in a genre which didn't seem built for it and coming up with brilliant results.

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 Piece of Time by ATHEIST album cover Studio Album, 1990
3.64 | 98 ratings

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Piece of Time
Atheist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Atheist's debut album is an intriguing hint at what was to come. Though incorporating a wider range of influences and a tricker variety of time signatures than typical death metal groups of the era, the band's sound was at this point still rooted in the genre's typical sound (the more technical end of it, at any rate) and hadn't yet brought their avant-garde jazz influences to the fore as they would on Unquestionable Presence. What you get on Piece of Time, then, is a bizarre mixture of well-performed death metal with the occasional jazzy or proggy interjection inserted here or there.

Blink and you'll miss 'em, and might be left thinking "Wait, did Roger Patterson just play a Chris Squire bassline or am I just hearing things?", but pay attention and Piece of Time will unveil more and more signs that it's more than just another response to Possessed. Still, even more experimental territory was coming up.

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 Unquestionable Presence by ATHEIST album cover Studio Album, 1991
4.16 | 220 ratings

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Unquestionable Presence
Atheist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Venusfly91

4 stars An album loaded with some jazz fusion segments and some heavily busy rhythmic workout that sometimes tends to toss some pointless things at you. Some of it includes a bass line on "Incantation's Dream" that just feels tacked on or some riffs. Other times, there's some chugging riffs to fill some time.

Fortunately for a majority of this album, these problems are rather few and doesn't get in the way of the stellar song writing. Some well placed jazz fusion segments adds some nice atmosphere to the music too and flows with the music.

By the way, the lyrics are quite interesting, covering things like the worsening future

"And so the psychic saw meaningful ends Become the meaning of it all To set the stage for the fears that will be To pull the curtain for the whole world to see" - from "The Psychic Saw"

psychology

"Insecurity is merely your fear Of maybe the outside Hearing what you hear Don't let 'em see, can't let 'em hear" - from "Brains" (you thought it was going to be about gore didn't you? Don't lie.)

and the environment

"What man creates man will surely destroy The rule of thumb In the mouths of little boys Earth spins delight We kill everything in sight To serve the needs And all purple skies will bleed

And a bird flies weak Against polluted skies Before it dies And nature becomes illegal According to rules Made by fools"

So yeah, it's overall not your typical death/prog metal band.

8.5/10

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 Elements by ATHEIST album cover Studio Album, 1993
4.19 | 205 ratings

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Elements
Atheist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Time Signature

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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Thanks to Retrovertigo for the artist addition.

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