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
$14.54
Unquestionable Presence (Ltd. transparent Blue vinyl)Unquestionable Presence (Ltd. transparent Blue vinyl)
Season of Mist 2019
$34.45
Piece of Time (Ltd. transparent Sun Yellow vinyl)Piece of Time (Ltd. transparent Sun Yellow vinyl)
Season of Mist 2019
$18.42
An Original Album CollectionAn Original Album Collection
Season of Mist 2018
$17.49
ElementsElements
Reissued · CD+DVD · Remastered · Extra tracks
Season of Mist 2015
$14.43
JUPITERJUPITER
Limited Edition
Season of Mist 2012
$9.94
$5.89 (used)
ElementsElements
Remastered · Extra tracks
Relapse 2005
$12.31
$4.50 (used)
Unquestionable Presence: Live at WackenUnquestionable Presence: Live at Wacken
Relapse 2009
$14.61
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ATHEIST Discography

ATHEIST albums / top albums

ATHEIST Piece of Time album cover 4.08 | 45 ratings
Piece of Time
Technical Death Metal 1989
ATHEIST Unquestionable Presence album cover 4.27 | 62 ratings
Unquestionable Presence
Technical Death Metal 1991
ATHEIST Elements album cover 4.18 | 50 ratings
Elements
Technical Death Metal 1993
ATHEIST Jupiter album cover 3.68 | 36 ratings
Jupiter
Technical Death Metal 2010

ATHEIST EPs & splits

ATHEIST live albums

ATHEIST Unquestionable Presence: Live at Wacken album cover 3.86 | 3 ratings
Unquestionable Presence: Live at Wacken
Technical Death Metal 2009

ATHEIST demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

ATHEIST On We Slay album cover 3.50 | 1 ratings
On We Slay
Technical Death Metal 1987
ATHEIST Beyond album cover 3.27 | 3 ratings
Beyond
Death Metal 1988
ATHEIST Demo '89 album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Demo '89
Death Metal 1989

ATHEIST re-issues & compilations

ATHEIST The Collection album cover 5.00 | 1 ratings
The Collection
Technical Death Metal 2005
ATHEIST The Best of Atheist album cover 5.00 | 1 ratings
The Best of Atheist
Technical Death Metal 2017

ATHEIST singles (1)

.. Album Cover
3.14 | 3 ratings
Second to Sun
Death Metal 2010

ATHEIST movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

ATHEIST Reviews

ATHEIST Elements

Album · 1993 · Technical Death Metal
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UMUR
"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 Unquestionable Presence

Album · 1991 · Technical Death Metal
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UMUR
"Unquestionable Presence" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US, Florida based technical/progressive metal act Atheist. The album was released through Active Records in August 1991. It´s the successor to "Piece of Time" from 1989 and features one lineup change since the predecessor as bassist Roger Patterson sadly died in a car crash in February 1991 while on tour with the band. Patterson was not "only" the bassist in Atheist, but an integral part of the songwriting team in the band and most of the material on "Unquestionable Presence" was co-written by Patterson before his untimely death. He was replaced by former Cynic bassist Tony Choy, who recorded all bass parts on "Unquestionable Presence".

"Piece of Time (1989)" was a technical death/thrash metal release and definitely ahead of its time, but "Unquestionable Presence" makes "Piece of Time (1989)" sound like a pretty "normal" release, as Atheist experiment heavily here with jazz/fusion drumming and notes/chords, unconventional song structures, and loads of tempo- and time signature changes...all delivered with great technical skill at a predominantly frantic pace. "Unquestionable Presence" blasts the senses of the listener from the opening notes of "Mother Man" to the closing notes of "And the Psychic Saw". There´s not a second wasted and even the few mellow moments on the album are spend building up to another climax of technical wizardry.

There´s great flow in the music and despite of the focus on technical playing, there are still many catchy moments and even hooks and melodic sections on the album (and example of that is the opening to "And the Psychic Saw"). Not in the form of easy to sing along to choruses or melodic vocal lines, but in the form of killer riff sections, blistering yet memorable guitar solos, recognisable drum patterns, and catchy vocal phrases. Kelly Shaefer has a raw high pitched and almost hysterical vocal style, which is very unique and probably very much an aquired taste, but no one can argue the fact that his vocal approach is original and passionate too.

"Unquestionable Presence" is a demanding release, and it´s loaded with clever compositional details most listeners probably won´t discover unless they give the album many spins. So while it´s an instantly enjoyable listen because of the raw energetic power load unleashed upon your ears when you put it on, it´s also a rewarding listen in the long run. It´s the kind of release where you always hear new details with every spin. While the 8 tracks on the 32:25 minutes long album at first may appear almost linear in structure, most tracks on the album do feature some sort of vers/chorus formula...or at least returning elements, which means that there are recognisable hooks to hold on too in the midst of the busy ever changing technical riffs and rhythms.

While "Unquestionable Presence" was recorded and mixed at Morrisound in Tampa, Florida, and definitely features some of the similar type ultra heavy sound, which came out of that studio in those years, the album features a more detailed/defined sound production than many other contemporary Morrisound productions. It´s a very well sounding release with a perfect balance between heaviness and details in the mix. All instruments and vocals are heard very clear in the mix and every playing detail is audible.

Upon conclusion "Unquestionable Presence" is a high quality release in every way possible. The musicianship is strong/virtuosic, the sound production powerful and well sounding, and the songwriting intriguing and unique. Add to that some pretty interesting lyrics which span all the way from social/enviromental issues ("Mother Man" is a prime example of the latter) to the possibility of extraterrestrial life, and you have the whole package. Atheist are clearly influenced by other mid- late eighties fusion oriented metal acts like Watchtower and Voivod, but adding an extreme metal element to that sound was something new at the time (Death, Cynic, and Pestilence would soon follow with other fusion influenced extreme metal releases, but Atheist were the first true pioneers). It was a bold move and could possibly have sunk their career, had it not been well executed and promoted, but this is a shining example of not being able to deny quality. I can´t think of many other releases deserving a 5 star (100%) rating more than this one.

ATHEIST The Best of Atheist

Boxset / Compilation · 2017 · Technical Death Metal
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aglasshouse
Ever wanted to own a major chunk of Atheist's discography without needing to purchase 2005's The Collection for upwards of $60? Fear not, a solution is here!

After seven long years following Atheist's last studio album Jupiter, the band finally decided to digitally release their first ever compilation album to date- and what a compilation it is! In true-to-form fashion Atheist grab the most sonically insane and cosmic songs from their studio albums (as well as a live version of 'Mother Man' from Live At Wacken 2009) in a massive 22-track corpus. Forthright this puts The Best Of leagues ahead of other death metal contemporaries' works like Death's Best Of in '92 or Nile's Legacy of the Catacombs in '07, granted both rather good releases, simply from the vastness of the song selection. Especially considering Atheist's relatively small discography, 90 minutes of pure action may seem a bit hefty at first, but for only $10 (roughly €8.50 for you Europeans) from Bandcamp it is a fairly free-and-easy deal compared to another compilation that would front you the same price but with half the content.

This album is a perfect introductory release for beginners and also a good pickup for familiars. The only gripes I have with it are the fact that there's no physical release, because I prefer lending actual tangible material to a hypothetical beginner depending on the circumstances, and the fact that my favorite song 'Why Bother?' from Piece of Time is not present. Maybe they took the title a bit too literally?

ATHEIST Unquestionable Presence

Album · 1991 · Technical Death Metal
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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
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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 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.

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