ATHEIST

Technical Death Metal / Death Metal / Technical Thrash Metal • United States
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Atheist is a death metal band from Sarasota, Florida, USA and regarded as one of the main developers of Floridian death metal. Their music is highly technical and sometimes reminiscent of jazz fusion, combining brutal riffs with subtle latin music arrangements. They were founded in 1984 under the name Oblivion by guitarist (and later vocalist) Kelly Shaefer and drummer Mark. Mark was later replaced by drummer Steve Flynn because Kelly and Steve had similar musical tastes. Roger Patterson would later join as their bassist.

By early 1985, Oblivion changed their name to R.A.V.A.G.E. (Raging Atheists Vowing A Gory End). As R.A.V.A.G.E., they recruited a singer that is only known by the name of Scrappy. He did not participate on any of the R.A.V.A.G.E. recordings. The first demo was released in 1985 and it was called Kill or Be Killed (also known as the Rotting in Hell
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ATHEIST Discography

ATHEIST albums / top albums

ATHEIST Piece of Time album cover 4.09 | 54 ratings
Piece of Time
Technical Death Metal 1989
ATHEIST Unquestionable Presence album cover 4.32 | 81 ratings
Unquestionable Presence
Technical Death Metal 1991
ATHEIST Elements album cover 4.00 | 61 ratings
Elements
Technical Death Metal 1993
ATHEIST Jupiter album cover 3.69 | 40 ratings
Jupiter
Technical Death Metal 2010

ATHEIST EPs & splits

ATHEIST live albums

ATHEIST Unquestionable Presence: Live at Wacken album cover 3.86 | 3 ratings
Unquestionable Presence: Live at Wacken
Technical Death Metal 2009

ATHEIST demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

ATHEIST Hell Hath No Mercy album cover 3.50 | 1 ratings
Hell Hath No Mercy
Technical Thrash Metal 1987
ATHEIST Beyond album cover 3.58 | 4 ratings
Beyond
Death Metal 1988

ATHEIST re-issues & compilations

ATHEIST The Collection album cover 5.00 | 1 ratings
The Collection
Technical Death Metal 2005
ATHEIST The Best of Atheist album cover 5.00 | 1 ratings
The Best of Atheist
Technical Death Metal 2017

ATHEIST singles (1)

.. Album Cover
3.38 | 4 ratings
Second to Sun
Death Metal 2010

ATHEIST movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

ATHEIST Reviews

ATHEIST Beyond

Demo · 1988 · Death Metal
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UMUR
"Beyond" is the second demo recording by US, Florida based technical death/thrash metal act Atheist. The demo was independently released in April 1988 and it was recorded at Morrisound Studios, Tampa, Florida, USA, in April 1988. Atheist formed in 1984 under the Oblivion monicker but didn´t release anything under that name before changing their name to R.A.V.A.G.E. in 1985 and releasing the two demos "Rotting in Hell" (1985) and "On We Slay" (1987). In late 1987 they once again changed their name to Atheist and soon after released the November 1987 "Hell Hath No Mercy" demo. Since the release of the "Hell Hath No Mercy" demo lead guitarist Rand Burkey has joined completing the quartet lineup, who would subsequently record and release Atheist´s debut full-length studio album "Piece of Time" (Active Records, May 1990).

Stylistically the five tracks on the 17:34 minutes long demo is technical death/thrash metal delivered with great technical skill, speed, and a furious intensity and aggression. The demo features three tracks ("No Truth", "On They Slay", and "Beyond") which would make it unto "Piece of Time" in re-recorded versions, but also the tracks "Choose Your Death" and "Brain Damage", which didn´t. "Brain Damage" had already appeared in early versions on the two R.A.V.A.G.E. demos while "Choose Your Death" is exclusive to this release, although parts of the song would be re-arranged into "Life", which does appear on "Piece of Time".

"Beyond" features a raw, aggressive, and savage soundind production job, but it´s still detailed enough for all instruments and vocals to stand out in the mix. Atheist´s unique way of playing and their original sound are both audible here, and it´s no wonder that Active Records signed the band on the grounds of this demo. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

ATHEIST Hell Hath No Mercy

Demo · 1987 · Technical Thrash Metal
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UMUR
"Hell Hath No Mercy" is the first demo recording by US, Florida based technical death/thrash metal act Atheist, released in November 1987 after the band changed their name from R.A.V.A.G.E. earlier that year. They had already recorded and released two demos under the R.A.V.A.G.E. monicker so "Hell Hath No Mercy" is effectively the band´s third demo release. Lead guitarist Mark Schwartzberg´s tenure with the band was short and he only appeared on R.A.V.A.G.E.´s "On We Slay" demo from early 1987. On "Hell Hath No Mercy" the band is down to a trio again as future Atheist lead guitarist Rand Burkey didn´t join until the material featured on this demo was recorded.

The demo features three tracks and a total playing time of 9:56 minutes. Although "Hell Hath No Mercy" doesn´t appear on Atheist´s debut full-length studio album "Piece of Time" (Active Records, May 1990), it actually does...but the lyrics have been changed on the subsequent studio version and it was re-titled "Why Bother?". As both "Beyond" and "On They Slay" were also re-recorded and included on "Piece of Time", you won´t find any forgotten demo gems on "Hell Hath No Mercy", but what you do get is early, raw, and unpolished versions of three of the songs, which would subsequently appear on "Piece of Time".

Stylistically this is a continuation of the technical death/thrash metal style and sound of the 1987 "On We Slay" demo, but the band have obviously grown and have become even better musicians since the last demo. The sound quality is pretty good, considering that this is a late 1987 extreme metal demo, and upon conclusion it´s no wonder that R.A.V.A.G.E./Atheist are considered one of the seminal proto-death metal artists on the Florida music scene along with artists like Mantas/Death, Massacre, Morbid Angel, Executioner (later Xecutioner and even later Obituary), and Hellwitch. A 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is warranted.

ATHEIST Elements

Album · 1993 · Technical Death Metal
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SilentScream213
Elements is, without a doubt, an incredibly fascinating album. Atheist retain their insanely technical and progressive style of playing, but traverse even further into progressive music, reaching the avant-garde. The music itself isn’t too bizarre, but the amount of styles crammed into any given song quite frankly is. There’s a lot of jerking around here, start-stop techniques and rapid changes not only in tempo, but also style and mood. The instrumental prowess of every member is nothing short of mind-blowing; the songwriting is hard to judge because it seems to purposely subvert expectations and go to odd places, but this doesn’t always work to its benefit.

Another interesting factor is the concept undertaken, focusing on the 4 traditional elements throughout the album. The album seems to loosely document the introduction and evolution of life on Earth via introducing the elements. This adds another layer of entertainment and intrigue for anyone willing to read along, and makes the songs more than just platforms for showcasing instrumental ability.

Unfortunately, the end result is far weaker than the previous two albums for me. First off, there is an abundance of interludes that offer nothing to the album, neither musically nor thematically. Along those lines, there are many passages in certain songs that are similarly shoved in there seemingly just to surprise the listener or do something “different,” but this usually takes away from the songs rather than add anything. Lastly, the music seems, on the whole, unrelated to the themes. When writing a song for each of the 4 elements, you’d think you would at least try to evoke the elements musically, but overtly this is not the case.

The title track is iconically a perfect combination of everything done right on this record, and one of the best songs of the band’s career. A fitting final track for their (at one time) final album.

ATHEIST Unquestionable Presence

Album · 1991 · Technical Death Metal
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SilentScream213
As far as pushing progressive themes like technicality, odd-time signatures, and intensely difficult musicianship, Atheist pretty much took the crown when they dropped Unquestionable Presence. They took elements from Watchtower in general and Death’s most technical moments and shot it all up to 11. Every song is one of those multi-movement marvels where so much is going on and it changes so often that your mind is constantly struggling to grasp it. People say there’s a Jazz influence here – maybe, but I don’t think that was intentional. Atheist never stray into chaotic or improvisation territory, as everything is so exact it’s almost the antithesis to Jazz.

The mind-boggling music of the album does have a weakness though. Personally, I prefer Atheist’s debut, Piece of Time, for one simple reason; it was riff-focused. It still had a ton of extremely technical work, but first and foremost they had awesome and memorable riffs. Unquestionable Presence, for all it’s power and might, fails to grab me with any significant moments. Over 20 listens on and I still couldn’t tell you one song from another. At least this complexity assures the album will always be enjoyable front to back, never in danger of burning itself out.

ATHEIST Elements

Album · 1993 · Technical Death Metal
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UMUR
"Elements" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US, Florida based technical/progressive metal act Atheist. The album was released through Music for Nations in Europe and through Metal Blade Records in the US in August 1993. It´s the successor to "Unquestionable Presence" from 1991 and features some lineup changes since the predecessor as original drummer Steve Flynn has been replaced by session drummer Josh Greenbaum. Lead vocalist/guitarist Kelly Shaefer had problems with carpal tunnel syndrome (and could therefore only perform rhythm guitars) and as guitarist Rand Burkey had quit, new guitarist Frank Emmi was brought in. Burkey ended up changing his mind though and returned to the fold for the recording of "Elements". "Elements" was therefore recorded with three guitarists in the lineup.

The many lineup changes, the death of bassist Roger Patterson in early 1991 (who was an integral part of the songwriting process on the first two albums), and financial issues actually meant that Atheist had planned to disband after touring in support of "Unquestionable Presence (1991)" but they were bound by their record contract to deliver one more album. Not exactly the most fruitful conditions under which to write and record material for a full-length release but the band soldiered on and delivered "Elements" and even ended up touring in support of the album.

So does "Elements" sound like a rushed swansong album? The answer to that is a resounding no. Nothing could be further from the truth, and "Elements" is another bold and adventurous technical/progressive extreme metal release by Atheist. The jazz/fusion influences have increased and Atheist have also opted to include latin/samba rhythms to their already unique extreme metal sound (most prominently on the fully fledged instrumental latin/fusion track "Samba Briza"). The music still features death- and thrash metal riffs and rhythms, but those are just elements in the soundscape, and it´s almost impossible to correctly label the sonic experience of "Elements". It´s slightly more atmospheric and varied than the material on "Unquestionable Presence (1991)" and less frantic and technically less complex too. The last statement should of course not be read as if this isn´t very technically well played and complex music, but just that the music is a bit slower, a little more vers/chorus oriented, and not as relentlessly fast-paced and energetic as the case was on the predecessor.

Atheist are a very well playing act, and handles everything from multible tempo- and time signature changes, to breaks, to different rhythm styles, and seamlessly combine all stylistic elements into a sound that despite not sounding much like the first two releases, still sound unmistakably like Atheist. Shaefer still has a pretty raw high pitched vocal style, which is probably a bit of an aquired taste, but his performance is strong and unique, suiting the instrumental part of the music perfectly.

Another aquired taste is probably the sound production, which is also a bit different sounding. The band chose producer Mark Pinske (who worked as engineer for Frank Zappa in the 80s) to co-produce the album with them and the result is raw and organic, and sometimes the volumes in the mix on some of the instruments and especially the vocals, mean that the sound is a bit distorted, which is quite odd to hear on a professional sound production. Pinske also produced "Stillborn (1993)" by Malevolent Creation and "Promises Impure (1993)" by Demented Ted, and both of those albums feature a similiar sound production to the production on "Elements". In other words the odd sounding production job isn´t a mistake. The album is intentionally produced this way, which will probably not be to the tastes of all listeners, but on the other hand it´s arguably an unique sound production which go hand and hand with the uniqueness of the music.

"Elements" features 12 tracks and a full playing of 41:40 minutes, and all tracks are well written and intriguing. The above mentioned "Samba Briza", "Displacement", "Fractal Point", and "See You Again" are all shorter interlude tracks, while the remaining tracks are full-on Atheist style technical/progressive metal. I can mention "Green", "Mineral", and the title track as some of the highlights, but there´s not a weak track in sight on "Elements", which just reeks class and high quality in the songwriting department. If the story is true that the album was written, recorded, and mixed in just forty days, it´s a massive achievement by all involved. A 5 star (100%) rating is deserved.

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