ATHEIST
Technical Death Metal / Death 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, 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 demo).
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Piece of Time (deluxe reissue)Piece of Time (deluxe reissue)
Season of Mist 2016
Audio CD$10.74
$10.73 (used)
JUPITERJUPITER
Limited Edition
Season of Mist 2012
Audio CD$2.07
$2.70 (used)
JupiterJupiter
Season of Mist
Vinyl$32.99
Unquestionable PresenceUnquestionable Presence
CD+DVD · Remastered
Season of Mist 2015
Audio CD$9.58
$7.53 (used)
Unquestionable Presence: Live at WackenUnquestionable Presence: Live at Wacken
Relapse 2009
Audio CD$5.99
$5.36 (used)
Unquestionable PresenceUnquestionable Presence
Remastered · Extra tracks
Relapse 2005
Audio CD$11.39
$6.47 (used)
Piece of Time by Atheist (2005-09-13)Piece of Time by Atheist (2005-09-13)
Relapse
Audio CD$27.03
ElementsElements
Warner Bros / Wea 1993
Audio CD$12.99
$5.99 (used)
ElementsElements
Season of Mist 2013
Vinyl$17.48
$20.19 (used)
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ATHEIST Discography

ATHEIST albums / top albums

.. Album Cover 4.02 | 42 ratings
Piece of Time
Technical Death Metal 1989
.. Album Cover 4.25 | 55 ratings
Unquestionable Presence
Technical Death Metal 1991
.. Album Cover 4.05 | 45 ratings
Elements
Technical Death Metal 1993
.. Album Cover 3.76 | 31 ratings
Jupiter
Technical Death Metal 2010

ATHEIST EPs & splits

ATHEIST live albums

.. Album Cover 3.74 | 3 ratings
Unquestionable Presence: Live at Wacken
Technical Death Metal 2009

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

.. Album Cover 3.25 | 2 ratings
Beyond
Death Metal 1988
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Demo '89
Death Metal 1989

ATHEIST re-issues & compilations

.. Album Cover 5.00 | 1 ratings
The Collection
Death Metal 2005

ATHEIST singles (1)

.. Album Cover
3.02 | 3 ratings
Second to Sun
Death Metal 2010

ATHEIST movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

ATHEIST Reviews

ATHEIST Piece of Time

Album · 1989 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
UMUR
"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.

ATHEIST Piece of Time

Album · 1989 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Vim Fuego
Overshadowed by their more brutal peers, like Obituary, Death and Morbid Angel, Atheist were the most creative band to emerge from the alligator infested swamps of Florida in the Great Death Rush of '89. While they didn't have the grunt of the others, they had riffs that bordered on solos and one of the most twisted rhythm sections this side of the New Orleans jazz scene. Atheist were described more than once as "death jazz", which is a more than fair description - off beat, syncopated rhythms, unconventional time signatures, instruments often playing against each other. The only other band exploring similar ground in 1989 was Germany’s Atrocity, but while matching Atheist’s technicality, lacked the ear for a tune and knack of creating a groove from the chaotic. ‘Piece Of Time’ had the potential to fall flat on its face, but instead helped define a new sub-genre- technical Death Metal. The album is incredibly catchy and has an excellent clear production sound. Atheist's complex sound apparently arose from the rhythm section of drummer Steve Flynn and bassist the late Roger Patterson "getting bored". To alleviate the boredom, they messed about with unusual rhythm structures. Patterson’s bass pops and twists, while Flynn manages to combine syncopation and a driving groove with more traditional death metal drumming. Check out live favourite ‘On The Slay’ for Flynn’s most devastating performance on this album. The remarkable rhythm section was topped off by the double lead guitar attack of Kelly Shaefer and Rand Burkey, and Shaefer's raspy vocals. By not singing with a traditional death grunt, Shaefer was able to inject just a little melody, and it allowed space for a little vocal dexterity. Sadly for the band and death metal fans everywhere, Roger Patterson was killed when the band’s van crashed driving home from a tour supporting Candlemass in February 1991, before the stunning follow-up album ‘Unquestionable Presence’ was recorded. While ‘Unquestionable Presence’ is an undisputed death metal classic, all the elements which made it great were already present on ‘Piece of Time’. Atheist were well ahead of their time, and for that reason got left behind. Their ultra-technical Death Metal did not really catch on like the more brutal flavour, and the band drifted apart in mid-1992. However, a few short years down the track, the likes of Death, Pestilence, Cynic and Meshuggah were bored with straight brutality and picked up on Atheist-style technicality. Atheist were leaders, not followers.

ATHEIST Unquestionable Presence

Album · 1991 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
siLLy puPPy
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.

ATHEIST Piece of Time

Album · 1989 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
siLLy puPPy
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.

ATHEIST Beyond

Demo · 1988 · Death Metal
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siLLy puPPy
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 tracks to the better produced album versions!

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