Review : Atheist - Jupiter
SputnikmusicFor most, Elements is the one Atheist album that's never sat right. Kelly Shaefer himself calls it the band's 'red headed step-child'. There's a reason for this: for the first time, the songs weren't as written by Shaefer, Flynn and Patterson. With two key songwriters taken out of the pot, Elements was bound to taste a little different. Jupiter isn't quite a full-fledged return to form, but fuck if it isn't close. It brings Steve Flynn back into the mix, and with Tony Choy out of the picture, Jonathan Thompson does a more than admirable job on the bass (oh, and he plays guitar, too), blending Roger Patterson's attack with Choy's intricacy. Jupiter isn't just a return to a scene they helped create, but also a revisiting of the band at its most relentless. Blending Piece of Time's aggressiveness with Unquestionable Presence's frenetic energy, Jupiter is an album whose sound sits somewhere in the middle. It doesn't compare to the quality of either but that's forgivable, given that so few albums can.
A real sign of Jupiter's success is how it manages to sound exactly like an Atheist album should, something that's probably harder than you'd think after such an extended leave of absence. Throwing much of the noodling and extended dynamics found on Elements to the wayside, Jupiter is 40 minutes of all but incessant relentlessness. Were it any longer, the all out attack would probably grow tiresome, but with such a short run-time, it's tailor made for a quick run-through. Doing so, you'll probably notice that amidst Flynn's disjointed-but-precise drum work and Shaefer's dry, pissed off delivery there are a few new dynamics this time around. From the spiralling grooves in “Second to Sun” and the tremolo picked down-winding intro of “Fictitious Glide” down to the twisting rhythms of “When the Beast” there are pinches of modernity strewn throughout the band's decidedly old school brand of tech death. You could even make the argument that the opening moments of “Third Person” are unabashedly uplifting and, dare I say eerily reminiscent of power metal; of course, the song quickly transitions into yet another atonal, spiralling circle of technicality and anger.
Really, the album's biggest flaws are its strengths. Though it may be their first album in 17 years, it sounds like one that could have easily come out between Unquestionable Presence and Elements. It's not dated by any means, but it insists on being so familiar that when paired with its modest run-time, Jupiter does threaten to blur by to the unconscious listener. As far as their trademark technicality goes, Jupiter doesn't disappoint. Far from being an all out shred-fest of tech-death's dick-measuring contemporaries, the Floridian four-piece still find ways to test their limits, doing so with their unique penchant for throwing structures and syncopation into a blender without having the music sound like total ass. For the first time in the band's four album career, Kelly Shaefer's contributions are almost exclusively vocal and lyrical. While Shaefer did write much of the album's guitar-work, and his influence is immediately noticeable, he only played on one track, sharing soloing duties with Jason Suecof on “Faux King Christ”. Because Jupiter was written with the idea of Shaefer performing exclusively as a vocalist, his vocals are more noticeable than ever. For those not sold on his unique delivery, this could cause problems. Of course he's still Kelly Shaefer, and his voice, while perhaps a little worse for wear, is just as it always was. If you liked it on Piece of Time, you'll be fine with it now. More polarizing might be the lyrics themselves. Perhaps the only remnant from Elements, Shaefer's views on spirituality (and near-obsession with the Sun) and the occasional stabs at organized religions (like the juvenility of “Faux King Christ”), mean his lyrics are far from a sure-thing. Then again, I'm not sure anybody listens to Atheist for the lyrics. Or the vocals, really....full text
Forbidden-magazineFormed in Florida in 1984 (originally under the names Oblivion and R.A.V.A.G.E.), the progressive death metal crew Atheist unleashed their sound combining vicious, technical death metal with hints of jazz fusion upon the world. Through time, Atheist have survived many trials and tribulations such as the tragic passing of bassist Roger Patterson in 1991, and enough line-up changes in general to kill most bands. In that journey, they have managed to release some of the most influential death assaults ever, such as the classic Unquestionable Presence. Marking a much-anticipated reunion, the latest record, Jupiter (Season Of Mist), is the first Atheist release in seventeen years and has a firm grip on the band’s trademark sound, undoubtedly holding its own among today’s death metal outfits that are trying their hardest to emulate the greats of 80’s and 90’s death.
Jupiter hits full-force from the start with opener “Second To Son” complete with blasting percussion and guitar work, as well as Kelley Shaefer’s raspy, tormenting howl (an approach virtually unseen in today’s newer death metal ensembles). Shaefer’s vocal attack alternates throughout the record from the above mentioned screech to more gutteral slivers of throat-shredding death growls. Meanwhile, the twin guitar attack of Chris Baker and Jonathan Thompson rips through the mind like a guillotine and drummer Steve Flynn brings the hammer down with crushing precision from start to finish. Mid-record numbers “Live and Live Again” and “Faux King Christ” are easily the highpoints. The former takes the listener on a thrashy, razor-sharp death metal hell-ride to the abyss, while the latter introduces them to a scorched, godless oblivion. Closers “When The Beast” and “Third Person” follow suit in an insanely technical prog-death barrage that will leave heads spinning....full text
MetalinjectionATHEIST has a history that is both triumphant and frustrating. Triumphant due to their glorious artistic feats and enormous influence. Frustrating due to their all-too-short run as technical death metal visionaries. Aside from various early demos, their catalog consists of three genre-defining classics: the raw, blistering debut, Piece of Time; the brilliant, essential masterpiece, Unquestionable Presence; and of course the mind-blowing jazz-metal of Elements. They only went on a few tours, and lost founding bassist Roger Patterson relatively early in their career. Misunderstood in their own time, ATHEIST has since become a favorite for many fans who never had the chance to see them in their original form. However, in 2006, Kelly Shaefer and Steve Flynn reformed the band for a few shows and soon enough, they began work on a new album.
So here it is: Jupiter.
Chug…Chug…Chug: Second to Sun starts out riding on a fast drum beat, with a slow palm-muted chug every few beats, alternated by dissonant guitar screeches (if you don't know what I mean, listen to 43% Burnt by DILLINGER and you'll catch on real quick). I was a little surprised at first, and from what I saw on a few forums, many listeners where outright alarmed. Now I know what you're thinking- but give it a chance. Besides, if you don't like chugging- then I guess you don't like Enthralled by Essence do you? Of course you do. Anyway, after listening to the song, it seems ATHEIST is still ATHEIST, but with a higher amplitude and a few new elements thrown in. The song contains plenty of ATHEIST trademarks and immediately reveals Shaefer's intentions: to make a very heavy, updated ATHEIST record. The record contains plenty of sudden breaks and time changes, keeping with ATHEIST's progressive foundations. Listening to Steve Flynn's drumming remains a privilege all its own, and Shaefer's slightly- aged voice retains the same unmistakable grit that defined the high-end of the band's sound.
Highlights include the symbol-laden gallop in the middle of Fraudulent Cloth, a song clearly written about the child molestation scandal in the Catholic Church; and then there is the enormously heavy INCANTATION-style riff in Live, and Live Again. The song has a nasty drum break in the middle which is then joined by a snarling vocal burst, all leading into a storm of riffs played by newcomers Chris Baker and Jonathan Thompson. Faux King Christ sounds like a cross between the jazzy tones of Elements with the sheer power of Piece of Time and fits comfortably with their best material (it has a cowbell in it!) My other favorite arrives at the end with the blistering, Third Person. It lunges towards a modernization, but when you listen to it, you know you're listening to ATHEIST and you know it kicks ass....full text
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