Piece of Time, the debut album from death metal pioneers Atheist, remains one of the greatest musical journeys and truly the start of a new direction for the metal world. After Atheist recorded three demo tapes (one under the band’s previous incarnation, R.A.V.A.G.E.), they hit their stride with Piece of Time. Finally getting the production they deserved and finding a home with Active Recods, Atheist released the first of three highly influential albums that would shake the fundamentals of how music was written and the limits at which it was played.
Kelly Shaefer (vocals, guitar)
Rand Burkey (guitar)
Roger Patterson (bass)
Steve Flynn (drums)
Guitars: Shaefer and Burkey really did some amazing things here. Burkey (a left-handed guitar player that played a right-handed guitar) performs some blazing solo’s throughout and theirs plenty of them to be found here. Fast, insane, and chaotic are a few words that come to mind but not in a Kerry King kinda way. While they can be extremely fast and mind-blowing their still highly technical and well placed. The riffs on this album are the best that Atheist did in their career and never get boring. Tempo changes and perfect timing make this an ideal album for the aspiring guitarist. Through all the butality though, the less aggressive parts are what made Piece of Time really stand out in a crowded genre. Shaefer and Burkey will race along at breakneck speed and then, when you least expect it, go straight into a jazzy interlude and right when you’re used to it go right back into tearing it up. They can really stop on a dime spontaneously and you never know what to expect from these guys. Not that this isn’t death metal first and foremost. The bands later releases really delved into the softer parts but this album remains the heaviest and most brutal of their career.
Bass: Roger Patterson performed the bass duties for Piece of Time. Sadly it would be his last before dying in a car accident. Roger had a unique playing style that is always heard throughout every song. Shaefer and Burkey would write their guitar parts around Rogers bass which is usually unheard of in metal. His complex bass lines would include insane speed, popping and slapping, and pounding under the music, creating the Atheist sound. He’s truly a legendary bassist that should forever be remembered even if for this album alone.
Drums: Steve Flynn is excellent behind the kit and wraps up the trademark Atheist sound. Just like the rest of the band, he’s really good at doing soft jazzy parts or brutally heavy parts. Steve’s a skilled kick-drummer but doesn’t overuse the bass drum( like so many other death metal bands). He injects it at the right moment and it never takes over the other instruments but only makes them seem all the more brutal. All of the guitars are so crazy but Flynn keeps them all together perfectly. Although his performance on their next album, Unquestionable Presence, is awe-inspiring, his work on Piece of Time is still absolutely amazing.
Vocals: This is hands down the best vocal performance of Atheist’s career. Shaefer has a raspy, snarly growl that takes command of the music but doesn’t overpower it. Definitely the most death metal sounding vocals are found here, as on the next album it was toned down (but still great).
Lyrics: Piece of Time was the beginning of Atheist’s more thougtful and inspiring lyrics to come on Unquestionable Presence and Elements. Most of the topics deal with the band’s name and often times venture into politics. It’s not the typical “We hate God” or “We hate the government” crap though, their written very well to where you actually want to know what their saying. The topics fit the music well and offer perspective’s on life, death, social standings, and the after-life. Not that they don’t have a couple cheesy gore-filled songs (On They Slay and Life). While the lyrics are a step down from their later works they’re still miles above what the typical metal band was (is) putting out.
Production: Production here is top-notch. Scott Burns and Atheist did a great job on Piece of Time. With proper funding, they finally got the production problem straightened out that plagued them on their demo’s. All the instruments are heard perfectly throughout the record, which is one of the first things I look for. Nothing ever takes over the music, everything is equal.
Highly creative, totally original, and never gets repetetive or boring after numerous listens, the influential Piece of Time is an absolute masterpiece that should be in everyone’s collection.