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 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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Piece of Time (deluxe reissue)Piece of Time (deluxe reissue)
Season of Mist 2016
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Unquestionable PresenceUnquestionable Presence
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Season of Mist 2015
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JUPITERJUPITER
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Season of Mist 2012
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ElementsElements
Season of Mist 2013
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Unquestionable PresenceUnquestionable Presence
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Season of Mist 2017
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Unquestionable PresenceUnquestionable Presence
Warner Bros / Wea 1991
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Piece of Time (Ltd. Ed. ultra-clear vinyl)Piece of Time (Ltd. Ed. ultra-clear vinyl)
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ATHEIST Discography

ATHEIST albums / top albums

.. Album Cover 4.13 | 44 ratings
Piece of Time
Technical Death Metal 1989
.. Album Cover 4.33 | 58 ratings
Unquestionable Presence
Technical Death Metal 1991
.. Album Cover 4.07 | 47 ratings
Elements
Technical Death Metal 1993
.. Album Cover 3.79 | 34 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
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Best of Atheist
Technical Death Metal 2017

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 Unquestionable Presence

Album · 1991 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
voila_la_scorie
Yes, I'm a bit of a music history buff, particularly when it comes to early heavy metal. Recently, though, I have become fascinated by the development of the heavy metal subgenres in the 1980's, many of which reached full fruition by the late eighties and early nineties. Death metal, or at least the American take on death metal, strikes me as originally being the Floridian interpretation of Californian thrash metal. Most American death metal recordings I've recently acquired either originated in Florida or the bands were from other eastern parts of the country but moved to Florida.

Athiest were one of the Florida scene bands to emerge in the eighties. Though formed in 1984 under a different name, they became Athiest as death metal was coming into its own in the late 80's and released their debut before the decade was spent. Their sophomore effort, however, is held in particular high regard for its bold steps toward technical death metal. While some bands I have heard remind me of Slayer/Possessed/Kreator, Athiest's sound on this album mostly suggest a more traditional thrash metal root, with early Metallica and Exodus frequently coming to mind. The guitar sound and riffs, as well as the lead solos, are closer to the early thrash sound to my ears; songs like "Your Life's Retribution" and "Enthralled in Essence" suggesting the guitarists honed their chops on "Kill 'em All" and "Ride the Lightning". The vocals too are more aggressive, thrash-like shouting than death metal's gravelly growls.

Thrash metal connotations aside, the more interesting aspect of this album is the giant leap toward technical death metal. Athiest' second album is said to have pushed the technical envelope further and it is very obvious that the band were out to succinctly combine aggressive speed with technical agility. In a way, I find this album to be a perfect bridge between thrash and technical death metal, at once being reminded of Sacrifice's "Soldiers of Misfortune" and Metallica on the thrash side and Cynic and later Death on the death side.

One key element to Athiest's sound was the bass playing prowess of bassist Roger Patterson, who brought incredible technical skill and composition-writing ability. Tragically, he suffered the fate of too many band members when his tour van crashed on the way back to Florida from California in the wee hours, yet another case of the driver pushing himself too far and dozing off at the wheel. The liner notes to the CD's re-release say that had the band been higher profile, Patterson's death would have been as shocking to the metal community as Cliff Burton's.

For the music on this album, Patterson had already come up with all the bass parts, and being the highly skilled player he was, it was not easy to find someone who could play his parts. The band called in Tony Choy of Cynic, perhaps not a surprise as Cynic were another band eagerly pursuing the technical death metal gauntlet. The results are stupendous as the bass playing stands out amidst the intense guitar and drum work. I feel, though, that the bass and guitar levels are rendered a bit louder over the vocals and drums, at least on the re-issue with bonus tracks.

And how about this re-issue? It includes several pre-production versions of songs, which sound as good as the album tracks on my ear buds, and some demos and instrumental versions. Though not essential for appreciating this album, the additional tracks are one of the better bonus collections I have heard.

It seems most consider this a highly important album in the annals of death metal history and I won't be one to disagree. It's an impressive piece of work!

ATHEIST Piece of Time

Album · 1989 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
aglasshouse
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 the era, 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 them. Of this totem, Atheist's 1989 debut is generally thought of as 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 technically proficient and most sophomoric of Atheist's discography.

With this there should be something understood amongst all- more complexity does not always equal a better release. What I believe to be the folly of many metal bands 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 is blurred, a world which Atheist creates, it is quite hard not to step over this line. However because of this I believe that Piece of Time is overall the best album that they've recorded, because it lacks them tripping over themselves for the sake of creativity, and it has a whole lot of heart.

Piece of Time is filled with elements of what Atheist would go on to do, albeit with a much more juvenile 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 percussion. The album can slip at the speed of light from a crunching thrash-gallop easily to a grueling groove, as the band seems to act like a hive mind that can shift and change it's direction at will without sacrificing individuality. The sheer speed of each member, especially late bassist Roger Patterson and guitarist Rand Burkey, adheres particularly well to the album's overall quality. Some particularly good tracks on here include 'Piece of Time', 'On They Slay', and 'I Deny', all of which are prime examples of the aforementioned attributes Piece of Time has.

I think album is a masterpiece, and although saying so is polarizing, I feel that if you think it is lackluster I urge you to take a second look.

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
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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
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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.

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