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ATHEIST

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal • United States


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Atheist picture
Atheist biography
Founded in Sarasota, Florida, USA in 1987 (as Oblivion since 1984) - Disbanded in 1994 - Reformed in 2006

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

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ATHEIST Videos (YouTube and more)


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Buy ATHEIST Music


Unquestionable Presence (Ltd. transparent Blue vinyl)Unquestionable Presence (Ltd. transparent Blue vinyl)
Season of Mist 2019
$24.78
An Original Album CollectionAn Original Album Collection
Season of Mist 2018
$17.20
Elements (Ltd. Purple vinyl)Elements (Ltd. Purple vinyl)
Season of Mist 2019
$18.02
JUPITERJUPITER
Limited Edition
Season of Mist 2012
$9.56
$5.89 (used)
Piece of Time (deluxe reissue)Piece of Time (deluxe reissue)
Season of Mist 2016
$18.58
ElementsElements
Remastered · Extra tracks
Relapse 2005
$12.31
$8.00 (used)
Piece of Time (Ltd. transparent Sun Yellow vinyl)Piece of Time (Ltd. transparent Sun Yellow vinyl)
Season of Mist 2019
$14.84
Unquestionable Presence: Live at WackenUnquestionable Presence: Live at Wacken
Relapse 2009
$16.72
$44.20 (used)

More places to buy ATHEIST music online Buy ATHEIST & Prog Rock Digital Music online:

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)

3.77 | 136 ratings
Piece Of Time
1990
4.22 | 318 ratings
Unquestionable Presence
1991
4.21 | 273 ratings
Elements
1993
3.32 | 108 ratings
Jupiter
2010

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

3.53 | 13 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 | 4 ratings
Atheist - The Collection
2005
5.00 | 3 ratings
The Best of Atheist
2017
3.67 | 3 ratings
Original Album Collection
2018

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

3.04 | 9 ratings
Beyond
1988
3.07 | 7 ratings
Second to Sun
2010

ATHEIST Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Unquestionable Presence by ATHEIST album cover Studio Album, 1991
4.22 | 318 ratings

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Unquestionable Presence
Atheist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by progtime1234567

5 stars I made a huge list of essential albums that I got off this website. I overlooked this album along with a couple of other ones I also overlooked. I approached this album with a progressive mindset rather than a death metal one, mainly because it isn't cliche like other death metal albums I have heard. The drumming is more jazz influenced than extreme metal influenced. The vocals are not ugly and guttural like other death metal vocals. The bass uses slapping and popping techniques along with high register notes. Finally, the guitars are not distorted to the point of not being melodic anymore. Unquestionable presence is similar sounding to Focus by Cynic, but not too similar. This album is a treat to listen to and I give it a listen every once in a while. Tony Choy's bass lines on this album are incredible, along with his playing and techniques. If you want a great sounding progressive metal album with lots of jazz influence, then this is for you. I consider this a essential album in progressive music. If you want to explore the heavier and more jazzy side of prog rock, then try out this album.
 Unquestionable Presence by ATHEIST album cover Studio Album, 1991
4.22 | 318 ratings

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Unquestionable Presence
Atheist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Second Atheist effort and a true classic of the tech-extreme metal subgenre!

The band repeated with the producer Scott Burns to travel further into their fusion between the death metal of the 90's with jazz elements, avant-garde and progressive metal, all that played at an incredible speed and with an outstanding technique.

Nevertheless, though I admire the expertise of these musicians with their respective instruments, I find this album a bit dry and repetitive in the long term. It's much more evolved that Piece of Time, which was more straightforward death metal despite having also tons of fusion elements, but it's not catchy enough for me to resist a regular listen out.

Maybe it is because all the songs sound very similar despite their thousand changes and different rhythms, or maybe the boring vocals, but Unquestionable Presence is just not my cup of tea.

Best Tracks: Unquestionable Presence (incredible syncopated bass), Enthralled in Essence (very good initial guitar melody and great guitar solos) and And the Psychic Saw (the most progressive and positive song of the album)

Conclusion: it's obvious that this album is a technical wonder and it contains an incredible interpretation from every member of the band, especially Choy and Fynn in bass and drums respectively, but in my opinion it lacks something to be really catchy and thrilling.

Nevertheless, Unquestionable Presence is interesting enough to make me want to hear the posterior Elements and the much more recent Jupiter.

My rating: ***

 Elements by ATHEIST album cover Studio Album, 1993
4.21 | 273 ratings

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Elements
Atheist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars What?! A jazzier, moodier, more BLACK SABBATH- and TOOL-like version of Atheist? (I know the Tool reference is unfair as this band predates Maynard's breakthrough. But the music has at times a strikingly similar sound to it.) I happen to like the production of this album less than its predecessor, "Unquestionable Presence," but appreciate the growth that the instrumentalists have done in terms of diversifying/broadening their stylistic influences and sonic choices. Though the bass and drums maintain their prominent places in the sonic mix (though neither of these newcomers, Choy and Greenbaum, impress in the way that their predecessors did), the voices and high end sounds just feel murkier (especially when you listen to "UP" before or along side "Elements." The new, Latin-ized Atheist is indeed interesting but I think the previous version of the band was more impressive.

Favorite songs: the proggiest ones, which happen to be the final three, "Earth," "See You Again," and "Elements."

Still, this is without a doubt a solid four star album, just not on the same par as their previous (albeit short) album.

 Unquestionable Presence by ATHEIST album cover Studio Album, 1991
4.22 | 318 ratings

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Unquestionable Presence
Atheist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Funk Bass! Sustained power chords (a la RUSH). Growl/scream vocals that can be understood! Where Unquestionable Presence fails for me is in its homogeneity: one song seems to seamlessly bleed into the next with little or too little change in sound, pace and style. Songs 2 & 3 seem to be the same song (though songs 5. "An Incarnation's Dream," 7. "Brains," and 8. "And the Psychic Saw" feel like pure death metal updates of THIN LIZZY songs). Plus, with a length of only 30 minutes, this can hardly be considered a complete album.

For me what makes this album and band stand out is the clear presence and outstanding musicianship of the bass player. The drummer is also quite impressive. He is very quick and possesses uncanny precision, and is not prone to over-fill or overdo.

Favorite song: the intro of the BLACK SABBATH-like 6. "The Formative Years" (8.5/10)

Four stars. It might not be your cup of tea but the instrumentalists alone make it worth checking out.

 The Best of Atheist by ATHEIST album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2017
5.00 | 3 ratings

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The Best of Atheist
Atheist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by aglasshouse

5 stars Ever wanted to own a major chunk of Atheist's discography without needing to purchase 2005's The Collection for upwards of $60? Fear not, a solution is here!

After seven long years following Atheist's last studio album Jupiter, the band finally decided to digitally release their first ever compilation album to date- and what a compilation it is! In true-to-form fashion Atheist grab the most sonically insane and cosmic songs from their studio albums (as well as a live version of 'Mother Man' from Live At Wacken 2009) in a massive 22-track corpus. Forthright this puts The Best Of leagues ahead of other death metal contemporaries' works like Death's Best Of in '92 or Nile's Legacy of the Catacombs in '07, granted both rather good releases, simply from the vastness of the song selection. Especially considering Atheist's relatively small discography, 90 minutes of pure action may seem a bit hefty at first, but for only $10 (roughly ?8.50 for you Europeans) from Bandcamp it is a fairly free-and-easy deal compared to another compilation that would front you the same price but with half the content.

This album is a perfect introductory release for beginners and also a good pickup for familiars. The only gripes I have with it are the fact that there's no physical release, because I prefer lending actual tangible material to a hypothetical beginner depending on the circumstances, and the fact that my favorite song 'Why Bother?' from Piece of Time is not present. Maybe they took the title a bit too literally?

 Piece Of Time by ATHEIST album cover Studio Album, 1990
3.77 | 136 ratings

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Piece Of Time
Atheist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by aglasshouse

5 stars Musical intuition and technical prowess catapulted Florida's Atheist into cult status shortly before the 1980's, a decade which was perhaps the most prolific for housing the best metal bands of all time, came to an end. It's not hard to see how Atheist achieved a following so quickly, as the band's influence from both thrash metal and elaborate jazz fusion were quick to differentiate them from their peers.

However with a band with such high quality there comes heavy scrutiny. It's, for the most part, a consensus that out of Atheist's current four releases not a single "failure" exists, but a general hierarchy is constructed for the lot nonetheless. Of this totem, Atheist's 1989 debut is generally thought of as being at the bottom. Not only was Piece of Time a preceding to the band's often-thought-of masterpiece Unquestionable Presence in 1991, but it's often cast aside as the least creative and most sophomoric of Atheist's discography.

I guess I feel that, with this particular album, something should be understood- factoring in more complexity does not always equal a better output. What I believe to be the folly of many metal bands (and tech death bands especially) is their inability to put themselves within boundaries, directly distancing themselves so far from a familiar structure that they alienate themselves from the listener, and just become not fun to listen to. Some jazz fusion bands of the 70's experienced this, and sometimes Atheist does too. Just not on this record.

In a world where the barbarism of death metal and the maturity of jazz fusion is blurred, a world which Atheist creates, it is quite hard not to step over this line. The lack of this overstepping though is what makes Piece of Time the overall best album that they've recorded, or at least on par with following work. Anything but lowest on the totem.

Piece of Time is filled with elements of what Atheist would go on to do, albeit with a much more juvenile and rowdy attitude. Each element of Atheist's sound is a multi-layered shell, with each peeling away to reveal another hidden complexity. The fusion of influences the band takes in gives way to duplicitously intricate time signatures, aided by the zealous syncopation of Steve Flynn's constantly morphing drumming. The album can slip at the speed of light from a crunching thrash-gallop easily to a grueling groove (see 'Why Bother?), as the band seems to act as a singular metal entity that can shift and change it's direction at will...all without sacrificing individuality. I for one believe that is an inexorably great feat that not many other bands have managed to replicate. This is without mentioning the inclusion of the sheer speed of each member, especially the insane pluck-age of late bassist Roger Patterson (see 'Unholy War') and guitarist Rand Burkey (best when combined with frontman Kelly Shaefer's guitar), adhering particularly well to the album's overall quality. Some particularly good tracks on here include "Room With a View', 'On They Slay' and 'Why Bother?'- all of which are prime examples of the aforementioned attributes Piece of Time has.

A masterful debut from a masterful group.

 Unquestionable Presence by ATHEIST album cover Studio Album, 1991
4.22 | 318 ratings

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Unquestionable Presence
Atheist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

5 stars And then in 1991 one of the landmark tech death metal albums in history was unleashed onto an unsuspecting public. ATHEIST was already a veritable metal act even with their demos and released a gem of a slightly tech death album with "Piece Of Time" with extremely high achievements in both the speed and songwriting department. One of the stars of the show was undoubtedly Roger Patterson whose virtuosic bass playing skills shot the band into a realm above and beyond what anyone else was producing at the time. It was a huge loss when Patterson was killed in a car accident in the midst of recording the second album UNQUESTIONABLE PRESENCE. Any lesser band may have called it a day with such a stress factor suddenly rearing its ugly head but ATHEIST had the tenacity of a post-nuclear holocaust cockroach and stuck to their guns and recruited Cuban bassist Tony Choy to replace the seemingly irreplaceable.

While ATHEIST was already in the midst of upping the technical aspects of their highly aggressive death metal, it was, in a way, fortuitous to land Choy as a bassist, for he found a home with his slap and pop and two-handed tapping playing techniques that allowed him to fully exploit what all those frets are capable of. Because of Choy's involvement not only did they get a more than capable bassist to fill Patterson's shoes, but they got a whole other culture of influences including the Latin rhythms to battle it out with the jazz-tinged time signatures. Because many of the tracks were written with Patterson, this album has the distinct attribute of having one bassist active in the creative birth pangs of the album while another picks it up and adds his different interpretations. The result is one of the most demanding and outstanding tech death metal albums to ever come out.

While the complexity of this album is undeniable, so is the accessibility. The seamlessness of it is the brilliance. It has enough to hook you in instantly but more than enough to continue to lure you deeper and deeper into its seductive grasps. Kelly Shaefer really grows as a vocalist and the dual guitar assaults that he and Randy Burkey pummel the senses leave the progressive headbanger in a steady state of bliss. Each track is diverse and takes the listener on a roller coaster ride of tech death aggressive fury that only ratchets up the luxuriation on subsequent spins. This is one of those growers. It didn't blow me away on first listen by any means but certain has since. The perfect marriage of progressive jazz-fusion and the most extreme metal can be found on UNQUESTIONABLE PRESENCE, one of my all time favorite albums of any musical genre.

 Piece Of Time by ATHEIST album cover Studio Album, 1990
3.77 | 136 ratings

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Piece Of Time
Atheist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars ATHEIST released their debut right at the time when death metal was sufficiently distancing itself from thrash to become a distinct subgenre and here on PIECE OF TIME it sounds like a bridge between 80s thrash metal and the emerging tech death metal from the 90s. For the most part we get more of a tech thrash sound than a true death metal album, however Kelly Shaefer's vocals on verging on the death style and ATHEIST was one of the major transitory acts to usher technical death metal into the 90s along with acts such as Death, Cynic and Nocturnus. This album was actually recorded in 1988 and was released in Euroope in 1989 but not until 1990 in the US due to the label Mean Machine Records going bankrupt. With relentless gallops and sudden progressive time signature changes, ATHEIST proves from the getgo that they had what it took to stand out from an ever increasingly crowded room of Morbid Angel clones.

Although nascent in the tech department there are signs of more complex jazz-fusion and progressive learnings of the next two albums coming into play. This album means business as far as bombastic and fast played riffage goes. The music is brutal with high tempos but exhibits the high quality songwriting that was inspired by Rush. The album flows well from beginning to end with no songs ever outstaying their welcome. In fact by the time the album is finished I want MORE!!! Despite the excellent technical skill of all the musicians involved I have to say that it is Roger Patterson's bass playing that really knocks my socks off. It is he in fact who is the backbone of the band's highly skilled sound for he can pound those four strings like no other. Sadly he was killed in a car crash while recording the next album and his loss may be one of the main reasons that ATHEIST opted to pursue the more progressive route since Patterson's technical bass skills were impossible to replace in terms of both skill and speed.

 Beyond by ATHEIST album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1988
3.04 | 9 ratings

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Beyond
Atheist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

3 stars There are demos and then there are ATHEIST demos! BEYOND is one of those rare demos that shows how proficient this band was from the start. The material on here is so strong and of album quality that three out of the five tracks made it onto the debut album "Piece Of Time." "Brain Damage" also appeared on the "On They Slay" demo leaving "Choose Your Death" the only track to never go any further. The music on here is just superb! I just love the raw and unfiltered sound that this demo exhibits. I find that this raw sound works so well with a naturally talented metal act like ATHEIST with their passion burners turned up full blast. This demo has been remastered and is available as bonus tracks on the remastered version of "Piece Of Time." This is so excellent I actually prefer these versions to the better produced album versions!
 Unquestionable Presence by ATHEIST album cover Studio Album, 1991
4.22 | 318 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.

Thanks to Retrovertigo for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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