Review

ATHEIST Piece of Time

Album · 1989 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
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 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.
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aglasshouse wrote:
2 months ago
I've watched/listened to a few interviews with Flynn and his explanations behind the percussion are fucking fantastic. It really goes to show how complex they are even if it was the product of improv.
Vim Fuego wrote:
2 months ago
Great album, and a great band. It would have been interesting to see what Roger Patterson would have come up with after this if he hadn't been killed. The band reckoned the jazz influence was almost accidental, and it was just Flynn and Patterson fucking about when they got bored which led to the incredible rhythms.
siLLy puPPy wrote:
2 months ago
I love this one and love the Hellwitch too. All Atheist is good!
UMUR wrote:
2 months ago
It´s a great album for sure, and a very groundbreaking one too. If you enjoy this one I can highly recommend that you check out "Syzygial Miscreancy" by Hellwitch, which has a similar sound.

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