Lately, I feel as though I have been in the mood for death metal. Ever since I became interested in more extreme styles of heavy metal, I have been inclined to prefer melodic death metal to other sub-styles of death metal. With that said, I still love me some technical death metal. I believe it was around four years ago that I stumbled across the contemporary tech-death juggernaut The Faceless. Unfortunately, being the obsessive compulsive type of metal head, I couldn’t just sit back and enjoy the music; instead I had to both research the band and the sub-genre of metal they played. Finally, after my research, I stumbled upon Atheist.
“Piece of Time”, the 1989 debut of Atheist. How would one describe this album? You take the shear brutality of Death’s “Scream Bloody Gore” and combine that with complex rhythm patterns, highly technical soloing, and an overall progressive metal mindset. At least that’s how it sounds to me. This was an impressive album for when it was released. Death metal was still a fairly young subgenre in 1989, so for a group of guys to take this new style and add elements of progressive metal and jazz to it is was incredibly forward thinking. For these reasons, “Piece of Time” was the birth of technical death metal. Sadly, this was the only album that bassist Roger Patterson was able to record with them before his untimely death, but fortunately he gave one hell of a performance on this release. His intricate style of playing bled through the mix perfectly and in many cases helped to add another layer of depth to the band’s overall technicality.
For the rest of their career, Atheist more or less followed the formula established on “Piece of Time”. Their second album, “Unquestionable Presence”, is also worthy of recognition. This album tied up all of the loose ends of their debut. Everything still was incredibly complex in arrangement, yet by this point most of the thrash metal influences still heard on “Piece of Time” were replaced by a style of riffing that was purely death metal. Also, the jazz influences were much more noticeable on this release, particularly in the drumming of Steve Flynn. Finally, the soloing was more diverse, the vocals were more guttural, and the atmosphere was much darker. “Unquestionable Presence” is the kind of album that could be released in 2013 and still sound original. This is a necessary release for all death metal fans.