ATHEIST — Piece of Time — the ultimate metal music online community, from the creators of

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4.08 | 47 ratings | 7 reviews
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Album · 1989


1. Piece of Time (4:32)
2. Unholy War (2:18)
3. Room With a View (4:05)
4. On They Slay (3:37)
5. Beyond (2:59)
6. I Deny (3:59)
7. Why Bother? (2:55)
8. Life (3:12)
9. No Truth (4:28)

Total Time: 32:10


- Kelly Shaefer / vocals, guitar
- Rand Burkey / guitar
- Roger Patterson / bass
- Steve Flynn / drums

About this release

Label: Active Records
Released: August 30, 1989
Recorded: November – December 1988
Producer: Scott Burns

Rereleased in 2002 by EMG Entertainment and later in 2005 by Relapse Records.

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


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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 all time, 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 the lot nonetheless. Of this totem, Atheist's 1989 debut is generally thought of as being 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 creative and most sophomoric of Atheist's discography.

I guess I feel that, with this particular album, something should be understood- factoring in more complexity does not always equal a better output. What I believe to be the folly of many metal bands (and tech death bands especially) 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 fusion is blurred, a world which Atheist creates, it is quite hard not to step over this line. The lack of this overstepping though is what makes Piece of Time the overall best album that they've recorded, or at least on par with following work. Anything but lowest on the totem.

Piece of Time is filled with elements of what Atheist would go on to do, albeit with a much more juvenile and rowdy 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 drumming. The album can slip at the speed of light from a crunching thrash-gallop easily to a grueling groove (see 'Why Bother?), as the band seems to act as a singular metal entity that can shift and change it's direction at will...all without sacrificing individuality. I for one believe that is an inexorably great feat that not many other bands have managed to replicate. This is without mentioning the inclusion of the sheer speed of each member, especially the insane pluck-age of late bassist Roger Patterson (see 'Unholy War') and guitarist Rand Burkey (best when combined with frontman Kelly Shaefer's guitar), adhering particularly well to the album's overall quality. Some particularly good tracks on here include "Room With a View', 'On They Slay' and 'Why Bother?'- all of which are prime examples of the aforementioned attributes Piece of Time has.

A masterful debut from a masterful group.
"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.
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.
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's debut album is an intriguing hint at what was to come. Though incorporating a wider range of influences and a tricker variety of time signatures than typical death metal groups of the era, the band's sound was at this point still rooted in the genre's typical sound (the more technical end of it, at any rate) and hadn't yet brought their avant-garde jazz influences to the fore as they would on Unquestionable Presence. What you get on Piece of Time, then, is a bizarre mixture of well-performed death metal with the occasional jazzy or proggy interjection inserted here or there.

Blink and you'll miss 'em, and might be left thinking "Wait, did Roger Patterson just play a Chris Squire bassline or am I just hearing things?", but pay attention and Piece of Time will unveil more and more signs that it's more than just another response to Possessed. Still, even more experimental territory was coming up.
Time Signature

Genre: progressive thrash/death metal

Back in the 90s death metal became so big in the underground that it degenerated into a generic mass of completely unimpressive bands who merely aped eachother and copied the leading death metal acts. But there were, thankfully, bands like Atheist, Cynic and Death that really stood out from the crowd.

On this, their debut release, Atheist succesfully integrate elements from influences such as Rush, Slayer and Mercyful Fate into their own progressive thrash/death metal style. Especially the basslines are interesting and complex, and a lot of the guitar riffage is based upon the basslines, and the combination of technical proggy riffs with simple Slayeresque thrash riffs make "Piece of Time" an interesting listen.

Fans of proressive metal and fans of thrash metal and early death metal should like this album, which, compared to later releases, still is quite accessible to the thrash and death metal audience.

Members reviews

Recorded in 1988, released in Europe in 1989 and the U.S. in 1990, "Piece of Time" joins the "death metal" elements with "progressive". The outcome is exquisite. The sound is surprising because until then I had only learned of bands of "death metal" that did not have great rhythmic variation. The band's name already exposes the ideological issue in their letters. With "Kelly Shaefer" on vocals and guitar, and primary lyricist, and also "Rand Burkey" on the other guitar, "Steve Flynn" in the sticks and finally bassist "Roger Patterson", the band showed quality work unquestionable and with a vision beyond his time. "Roger Patterson" stands taken by the sound of your bass, the guitar riffs are the bridge between "death metal" and "progressive", and rhythmic changes made ​​by the drummer. In fact the strong point of this album, the band itself is innovation. "Piece of Time" is an album of short tracks, but full of quality and musicianship. If at times the sound exposes his side "death metal" on the other side so complex exposes more "progressive".

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