‘Unquestionable Presence’ is pretty universally esteemed as the best Atheist album, but I easily prefer ‘Elements’. ‘Elements’ isn’t as wild and frenetic as that album, but it’s still pretty out there, with mind-boggling basswork from Choy, more powerful vox than ever before, and actual melody. Some people put a premium on complexity alone- I’m not one of them. What can I say, I like things that are, gasp, memorable with technicality and complexity underlying it to give it some depth. Well sure, there are plenty of albums I like a lot that are so unconventional that nothing whatsoever sticks for a great many listens, but I like balance better, and that’s what ‘Elements’ has got. Choruses are more prominent here than in the previous Atheist albums, and they are pretty great at times. (See the absolutely thunderous bass-driven refrain to ‘Water’ and the strangely ominous, repetitive ‘Mineral’.) This album is also probably the cleanest, purest blend of metal and jazz that I’ve heard, combining them smoothly rather than just throwing a bunch of jazzy interludes between the off-time, chunky metal riffs. This is also the most bass driven metal album I’ve ever heard, but it’s mixed loudly enough that it doesn’t diminish the intensity too much. Again, you just can’t say enough about Choy’s performance. Perhaps the most entertaining bass performance I’ve ever heard on a metal album. Of course, all the guys in Atheist are great instrumentalists, with tons of great leads and a strong sense of groove all thru the album.
On top of the absolutely great album this re-issue actually gives us some very good bonus tracks in the form of a 6-song live on the radio broadcast. 5 of the songs are from ‘Unquestionable Presence’, and they sound better and clearer here than they do on that album. I don’t how much better this re-master sounds compared to the original version, but these live tracks definitely make it worthwhile even if they sound basically the same.
Alright, that’s it. This is definitely one of the most underappreciated jazz-metal albums out there. Certainly worth a listen for all tech-metal fans.