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3.99 | 61 ratings | 9 reviews
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Album · 1993


1. Green (3:22)
2. Water (4:28)
3. Samba Briza (1:58)
4. Air (5:34)
5. Displacement (1:25)
6. Animal (4:11)
7. Mineral (4:33)
8. Fire (4:37)
9. Fractal Point (0:44)
10. Earth (3:53)
11. See You Again (1:17)
12. Elements (5:35)

Total Time: 41:40


- Kelly Shaefer / Guitars (rhythm), Vocals, Lyrics, Songwriting (tracks 1, 2, 4, 6-8, 10, 12),
- Frank Emmi / Guitars (lead), Songwriting (tracks 1, 2, 4, 6-8, 10-12)
- Rand Burkey / Guitars (lead), Songwriting (tracks 1, 2, 4-10, 12)
- Tony Choy / Bass, Songwriting (tracks 1-4, 6-8, 10, 12)
- Josh Greenbaum / Drums, Congas (track 3)

- David Smadbeck / Piano on track 3

About this release

Release date: August 30, 1993
Label: Metal Blade Records
Recorded: Pro Media Studios, Gainesville, Florida in May, 1993
Producer: Atheist, Mark Pinske

Rereleased in 2005 by Relapse Records.

Thanks to CCVP, Time Signature, UMUR, siLLy puPPy, diamondblack for the updates


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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.
"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.
Atheist continued in their jazz-metal direction on Elements, which is a fairly well-executed album that will be of interest to to any fan of their earlier albums - though I would say I think it's a mite bit less good than Unquestionable Presence or Piece of Time.

Part of this is due to the fact that the album is a little bit unfocused, whereas its predecessor seemed to be a bit tighter - possibly due to the band's desire to pay tribute to the late Roger Patterson that time around - and part of this is down to the vocals, on those tracks where they crop up, just being a little half-hearted, as though the band really wanted to do an all-instrumental album. (The production on the vocals, in particular, seems a little off to my ears.) Still, these are quibbles: it's a decent jazz-tech-death hybrid, and if you liked the earlier Atheist albums you will probably find something to enjoy in it, though personally I don't see myself giving it as many spins as their first two.
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.
Right off the bat, you notice the incredible skill of all musicians involved more so than any other Atheist release. The band has evolved as musicians, and have expanded their personnel with the addition of guitarist Frank Emmi, while drummer Josh Greenbaum replaces Steve Flynn.

There are several instrumental pieces that help to break up the album nicely. Some cover metal territory familiar to Atheist fans, but others deviate from what Atheist was known for at the time, and dives head first into full blown jazz and latin music at times (“Samba Briza”). Many of these pieces are among my favorite moments on Elements.

Sometimes, the material on this album suffers due to a slight muddying of the sound, especially in parts that feature vocals and more aggressive drumming. I also find more than their first two albums, that vocalist Kelly Schaeffer’s style sounds more out of place on these songs. This is mainly because the music allows for little room for the vocals, or that the material isn’t always as heavy as it was in the past, but I don’t think the material as it is on the album would work as well just being instrumental.

In terms of the songs with vocals, some standouts include “Water”, which is an overall melodic but mostly aggressive song with a few interesting acoustic guitar interludes. “Air” features a great intro and rather interesting guitar playing throughout. “Earth” really strikes me with the rather groovy riffing in the chorus, and an odd electronic hip-hop percussion break that works surprisingly well. Pretty much every song on it has something that peaks my interest, be it a major or minor part.

Overall, this is an excellent and highly influential release that fans of progressive metal and technical death metal should enjoy.
The Block
The elements of awesomeness!

This was my first ever Atheist album, and boy is it a good one. Coming right after their Unquestionable Presence album, it is definitely their most progiest so far. All their other albums are death metal including their newest one, Jupiter, which followed this album. When I went to buy it I was looking for an album that was metal, but had some jazz elements to it, too. If you are looking for jazz this one is definitely the right choice since it has more jazz, in my opinion, over the rest of their albums.

The song “Earth”, “Air”, “Fire”, “Water”, and “Animal” are highlighted as the elements and are longer than the rest of the songs. What’s weird is that after each “element” song there is a very short song that averages out a about a minute in length. The jazziest song on the album is one of these very short songs.

As you might be able to tell from the name, “Samba Briza”, is a very jazzy tune. It is completely instrumental with Congo drums from Josh Greenbaum and a pretty good bass line by Tony Choy. It has a very upbeat feel to it, played in the major key while most of the rest of the album is played in minor, like normal death metal. It also features great guitar solos from Rand Burkey and Frank Emmi.

As you can tell from the names, the “element” songs all have to do with the element they are named for. I think that by doing so they made the album more enjoyable because there is a definite point to all the songs. One of these songs is “Air” which features some great solos, and some very nice, groovy licks and riffs. Another good song is “Elements” which again features some great solos.

Overall this album includes many good instrumentals and very good drumming. One thing that I am not totally crazy about is the singing. I enjoy it a lot, but it just isn’t exactly my type of singing. It seems a little to high pitched to be growling, but just not right to be singing. But, despite this, Atheist’s third album still deserves 4 stars.
The Angry Scotsman
I have always liked Atheist and their technical/jazzy/progressive Death Metal style. I think they are all great musicians. However, "Elements" ups it to a whole another level. This was one of the few albums I have that I can call a masterpiece without any thought. This album ended up with 3 guitarists, Kelly Shaefer handles rhythm guitar, (and vocals) while the other 2 swap lead and solos and I think this gives the album a wild sound. It is almost a non stop attack throughout. Tony Choy may not be Roger Patterson but he superbly on bass, and drummer Josh Greenbaum I do not like as much as Steve Flynn but he holds his own, and his drumming style fits the music well.

"Elements" is a lot more jazzy then its predecessor's, A LOT more. However, it does retain its metal sound in its guitars, some solos, and Kelly's vocals are the same as the first 2 albums, which I personally enjoy. His vocal style is not the "death growl" and I really can not put my finger on it. It is a snarly yell, and I love the way he sounds. This whole album has technical, odd, guitar riffs. Time signature changes throughout, jazz fusion-esque dueling solos, some great bass work, (heavily jazz inspired of course) and jazzy drumming with some strong Latin influences. As I said earlier I think the drum work on this album is less technical then before, but that is fine because pure technical prowess is not what this album is about.

My problem with a lot of Technical Metal bands is they try to hard I think. They go over the top/to the extreme to display their technicality and mastery of time signatures, etc (Meshuggah comes to mind). It can be very overwhelming even to hard line fans like myself. "Elements" though is truly jazzy, (do not want to over use that word) and while technical it has a great feel to it. Just like in pure jazz, when I listen to this album I can not help but tap my feet, swing my body, all without even noticing. Every song just has a great, catchy feel to it and each song is different, (while still the same style of course). I really do not how Atheist did it!

My favorite songs on the album: Samba Briza: This song is pure Latin Jazz. Not metal in the least, and I love it! Air: For some reason I love the vocals on this song a little more then the rest. So much emotion in some of the screaming. Also, the technicality, groovy riffs, and some great solos! Elements: Great intro, and breathtaking guitar work throughout. The solo at the end is beautiful sounding. However, every song is gold and I can not pick one favorite. Few albums are out there where I like every song, and even fewer of those I LOVE every one. "Elements" is one of them. Also one of the few where every musician on it is PERFECT. They all mold together wonderfully.

A true masterpiece. Without a doubt: FIVE STARS
Phonebook Eater
The extreme prog metal band reaches maturity with their second album, "Elements", considered an unbelievable masterpiece, absolutely breathtaking and mind blowing. It is no doubt a great album, almost all the songs have a perfect balance between extreme metal and progressive metal, with also very noticeable funk metal influences ( A lot of bass slapping and rhythms typical of the genre). We also find many unusual elements for metal, like the spanish guitar, the few brief tracks, which are all concentrated on the second part of the album; if an album has many brief songs in the end, it usually reminds of a sort of epilogue to the first part of the album, which is a lot more dense than this second part, just like this case. It's not boring not even for one minute, and the musicians give impressive performances. However, I'm not crazy about the production of the album: This kind of production, in fact, doesn't really go on traditional standards with prog metal , which is very refined sounding usually. I recommend this album to whoever loves metal, but not prog.
Time Signature
Metalla briza...

Genre: progressive jazz metal

"Elements" is probably one of the most original releases on the weird and wonderful world of heavy metal music.

However, it is also one of the most underappreciated ones. One reason is probably because it's hard to get one's head around with its blend of progressive metal, fusion-like jazz, and Latin rhythmic patterns. Another reason is probably that it's less metal than its predecessors in the sense that, for instance, there's not a lot of double bass drum action and fast-paced guitar riffage as on the two previous releases... and I'm sure that the inclusion of "Samba Briza" (which is really a bossa nove, I think) probably scared a whole bunch of metalheads away. But this is also what makes "Elements" a very interesting and enjoyable listen. The different approach to making metal music is interesting - and that's typically also what makes metal music evolve as a genre. Also, there is plenty of heavy riffage and distorted guitars and heavy drumming (and, it's refreshing to hear metal drumming without machine gun drums). What makes it different is what makes it a masterpiece.

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