ATHEIST — Elements (review)

ATHEIST — Elements album cover Album · 1993 · Technical Death Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
Conor Fynes
'Elements' - Atheist (9/10)

Although it may be their sophomore 'Unquestionable Presence' which has gained the classic status amongst most metal fans, Floridan death metal group Atheist seems to have found their trademark sound with the third, and- at least for almost two decades before the release of 'Jupiter' - final album 'Elements'. Helping to innovate the fusion of heavy metal and jazz music that so many bands have followed since its release, 'Elements' stands as being an essential album in the history of death metal, as well as an incredibly tight piece of music by any metal standard.

With 'Unquestionable Presence', I found myself incredibly impressed by the band's great musical capability and thrashy sensibilities, even if the sound was a little too chaotic for its own good. With 'Elements', I would tend to agree with the general consensus here; the technicality has been kept more or less intact, but there has been quite a bit more diversity and memorable hooks here. Not least among these is the marvelous jazz and latin segments the band throws in here and there. Especially for the time that 'Elements' was released, hearing a chugging technical guitar onslaught followed by a quirky latin rhythm and acoustic flamenco solo was fairly fresh, and still sounds unexpected today.

With the band's talents already hailed from the first record onward, the musicianship of Atheist cannot be held in question by this point. They take the 'technical' label and run with it, not just necessarily playing fast, but playing well together. Much like a jazz band might, each musician seems to play off of each other, creating a sound that is surprisingly organic for a metal band. Of special note is bassist Tony Choy, who was always a highlight on earlier releases for his great skill and interesting style, but here he really takes the spotlight. Each track is made even more impressive through his rapidfire and clever bass hooks. Luckily, he is also held highly enough in the production mix to hear his fantastic performance. The vocals of Kelly Shaefer are also very distinctive, although they are sure to be the point of derision towards many listeners. While they may have sounded tighter on 'Unquestionable Presence' and they can sometimes even detract from the musical power here, Schaefer's vocal diversity is scarcely heard in the death metal genre.

A great conceptual masterpiece from these talented Americans, and arguably the greatest thing Atheist has ever done.
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