"Piece of Time" is the debut full-length studio album by US, Florida based death/thrash metal act Atheist. The album was released through Active Records in August 1989. The band was formed under the R.A.V.A.G.E. monicker in 1985 and released a couple of demos under that name before changing their name to the current one in 1988 (they released the 1988 "Beyond" demo under the new monicker before being signed). Atheist are widely considered a seminal act on the early Florida death/thrash metal scene, and further down the line a seminal technical/progressive death/thrash metal act.
On "Piece of Time" the band play a technical death/thrash metal style with more than a few nods toward fusion in the drumming and bass work. Technical thrash metal was nothing new at this point, but fusion influenced rhythms and bass work in metal was not exactly the order of the day. Watchtower and a few other progressive inclined acts had pioneered the use of fusion rhythms in metal, but applying the fusion elements to a more extreme form of metal was pretty new.
All that talk of fusion rhythms shouldn´t be misunderstood as if Atheist went all in on that style on "Piece of Time" though, because that´s not exactly true. The music on the album is predominantly a really aggressive and at times nicely brutal type of death/thrash metal, and it´s mostly on the title track and especially on "I Deny" that the fusion influences shine through. Both are among the highlights of the album (the short a capella part of "I Deny", where lead vocalist/guitarist Kelly Shaefer shouts "It's god's way, says your horrid wife", is quite brilliant, and features a nice touch of sarcastic humour), but tracks like "Room With a View" and "No Truth" also deserve a mention. Even the least remarkable tracks on the album are still highly powerful aggressive death/thrash tunes played in a frenetic pace and with great technical skill. Shaefer has a rather distinct sounding snarling vocal style, which provides the music with an even more unique sound. Sometimes the lyrics feature too many words and he almost stumbles on them having to sing them so fast, which makes him sound a bit like an angry goblin gone bezerk, but once you get used to it, it´s quite a treat.
"Piece of Time" was recorded in November – December 1988 at Morrisound Recording with producer Scott Burns, so it´s one of the early Burns production jobs and it´s audible. The sound production is raw, unpolished, and especially the guitars don´t always feature the most pleasant tone, but on the other hand the raw production job provides the music with a nice organic and authentic sounding touch, which suits the music pretty well.
Upon conclusion "Piece of Time" is a very promising debut album by Atheist. It was obvious these guys had something unique to offer, and while it´s not fully developed here, "Piece of Time" still at the time stood out on the scene as something fresh and new which defied catagorization. They were often included when people spoke of the Florida death metal scene, but it´s not fair to call the music on the album "straight" death metal, but on the other hand there are several death metal elements on the album, so it´s not completely wrong either. Personally I think technical death/thrash is a pretty valid description of the core style on "Piece of Time". A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.