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Album Reviews : Atheist – Jupiter

By on October 3, 2010

Atheist haven’t released a studio album since 1993. What are we to expect when the members together as a band haven’t written in 17 years – could be anything. Maybe they’re a bunch of total wash-ups that are a former shadow of themselves. Maybe they’ve still got a spark left of that bizarre, chaotic dissonance and piercing sound that made such a colourful mark in the evolution of Death Metal and technical death metal with albums like 1991’s Unquestionable Presence. If you ask me, with the caliber of albums Atheist released around the late 80s and early 90s, they were far ahead of their time. Sure technical death metal can seem a dime a dozen, but it would be a big stretch to brand this band with that genre label. They don’t really sound like anyone else. They were part of a context and may be privy for fans of bands like late era Death, Cynic and Coroner, but to say this band sounds similar to the other bands I just listed would be wrong.

This is all background though – for a band that seemed to transcend status quos in death metal for their time – where do they go and where do they fit now? A lot has happened in metal in 17 years. The answer is that if you still want eerie, unpredictable metal that is completely off the wall and seems to shock you like a fire poker jabbed at the base of your spine as soon as you become comfortable with a particular section of a song, look no further. If you’re already familiar with just what it is Atheist do, then I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

Jupiter is pretty much what Atheist covered 17 years ago. I mean this in a good and a bad way, but by no means does it sound recycled. They don’t seemed to have fallen into a pit of mediocre predictability, and it would be unfair to say Jupiter just sounds like all their other albums, and that they have no new ideas. But they, very clearly and confidently, seem to make a blunt statement that this variety of metal they played back in the early 90s is what they are all about and continue to be.

Fortunately, Atheist’s sound carries wonderfully into the 21st century, while I really enjoyed the huge “80s” reverb, clean guitars with more than a healthy amount of chorus and various early digital effects, and warm boomy bass that seemed to be on Unquestionable Presence and Elements, there is a sheer clarity, aggression and polished precision that rings strongly with the type of metal these guys are churning out. Kelly Shaefer’s vocals are crisp, piercing and I’m not going to rule out that in the 17 years he hasn’t been doing Atheist he was working in the film industry whenever they needed a convincing scream when someone falls off a bridge or something in a movie. Much better than their previous albums, everything comes together so tightly but still maintains a clear and aggressive cohesive sound throughout the album.

Amidst all this chaotic quirky surface sound of Atheist lies the occasional deeper moment that tends to really strike a more profound chord within oneself. There are some deep, aggressive moments that really seem to ring strongly throughout the album. Songs transcend from intricate riffs that storm along into outright chaotic sections that well distance themselves from generic riffs and sections, and all of this happens in the blink of an eye. The lyrics might seem at times to be, well, a little standard “hey guys, lets offend religious institutions and conventions” but they are always sung with such conviction that I don’t seem to mind that and find them quite interesting and enjoyable, thrown in with the occasional non-religion related odd ball.

The only negative I can say about this album is that, in the context of the rest of Atheists discography, it isn’t entirely new. There isn’t a whole lot on this album that wasn’t on their earlier releases. It’s more of the same, and they seem very adamant about sticking to their guns. But it’s not too similar, by no means does it sound recycled or generic.

This is a great release and I hope this marks the beginning of more albums as a band, because these guys are really making fantastic music. 8/10

Band: Athiest
Album: Jupiter
Year: 2010
Genre: Progressive/Technical death metal
Origin: USA
Label: Season of Mist/Riot
http://www.myspace.com/kellysatheistwebsite

Track listing:
1. Second to Sun
2. Fictitious Glide
3. Fraudulent Cloth
4. Live and Live Again
5. Faux King Christ
6. Tortoise the Titan
7. When the Beast8. Third Person

About

Mitch Booth is the owner, designer and grand overlord of Metal Obsession. In the few seconds of spare time he has outside of this site, he also hosts a metal radio show over on PBS 106.7fm in Melbourne (Australia) and organises shows under the name Untitled Touring. You should follow him on Twitter.