Wow! That is the word that came to mind when I heard this. Unquestionable Presence came out in 1991, the same year as Death-Human and Meshuggah-Contradictions Collapse. Clearly, change was in the air at this time. Bands were trying new things, and metal was becoming more complex and sophisticated. Though sometimes overlooked, Atheist was a pioneering force in this movement. Each song on this album is like a festival of great riffs, alternating between harmonized twin guitar parts and utterly delicious thrash/speed metal sections. The vocals are primitive screams that vary in intensity, sounding like a full-fledged snarl most of the time, but almost like a speaking voice in some parts. Forget all the arguments about pointless technicality with no direction, because this is technical music that really takes you somewhere. Complex arrangements, stop and start riffing, dual guitar harmonies, fluid solos, technical drumming, integral bass guitar action. The songs seem to evolve naturally, with each new riff sounding like the most logical progression from the last.
Metal Album Reviews[RSS]
While their first album was an interesting design in how to make extreme music more progressive, this album was like the holy grail of relevations in progressive metal.
Atheist’s movement to Death Records (division of Metal Blade) turned out to be worth it because they got to have their album produced by death metal mastermind Scott Burns. Burns is a great producer and it shows on this album. Some of the other albums he produced at the time were Obituary’s “The End Complete”, Death’s “Human” and “Individual Thought Patterns”.
Atheist had an incomparable sound, and they were definitely more fusionistic than Cynic who kept a Death Metal structure as thier base and peppered the music with other forms of music. Atheist had more of the blend going for them.
Patterson wrote some good bass lines and I suppose Tony Choy performed them with a lot of slap on the bass. What other metal bands had slap bass besides Faith No More? Burkey and the guitars switch off between the heavy and the cool interludes. Flynn drumming goes from exceptable to annoyning and then to great -its schizophrenic at best. Contrary to what most people labeled this band “death-jazz”, the music is more apt to being called progressive death metal with funk overtones. Flynn’s drumming has little if nothing to do with anything remotely jazz based -it’s still good though. (These guys probably couldn’t tell you anything about Jaco Pastorius, Tony Williams, Wayne Shorter or Herbie Hancock…let alone listen to their music. Not to take anything away from Atheist’s playing it is just that half my music collection is about every form of jazz and this ain’t jazz.) Schaefer’s vocals have a shrieking nature to them but are inoffensive and blend well with the music. The song writting and the accompaniments are good, they screw with time signatures a little bit too which is good. Most importantly it is BOTH heavy and progressive -something which Atheist’s contemporary followers couldn’t do.
Fear not this is still a heavy album and is much heavier than Cynic’s 1993 album Focus. Unfortunately for Atheist’s last album they would not repeat the formula as they did on this 1991 masterpiece. And now they remastered it and you don’t have to spend $80 on getting it. (I got lucky, I bought when it came out.)
The second effort from Atheist. “Unquestionable Presence” was released after the tragic death of bassist Roger Patterson. The band went on to release another album that was not nearly as good. This, in my opinion, is one of the best heavy metal releases of all time, period!!. It’s a shame we never got to see the full potential of this band as the musicianship and originality of Atheist is unmatched. I am still looking for this CD, fortunately I still have the cassette. If you can’t find this one, check out “Piece of Time”, its awesome as well.
first off, you need to find this album SOMEWHERE!!! very hard to find! Atheist is a band that plays Technical death jazz style metal and the album illustrates all the abilities that this band has to offer. If you like technical Metal or progressive Metal…. if you like bands like Death, Nocturnus, Cynic, Watchtower, Spiral Architect, or Sceptic,, you must pick this up if u can find it!!
Unquestionable Presence is without a doubt one of the best pieces of music I’ve ever heard. The music is so amazing that I found myself to be mesmerized the entire way through. Each song is a heavy, complex masterpiece that will make your jaw drop every single time. No doubt Atheist’s best album, and quite possibly one of the best albums ever by any band in history. Sadly, you will have a hard time coming across this rare gem. I paid big bucks to get my greedy little hands on this CD, but it was worth 3 times as much as I paid. It’s really that good. This album is long out of print, which is really a shame considering what a treasure it really is. My advice to anyone reading this is to scour record stores(not major chain stores, but small independent stores,) and check amazon, half.com, and ebay daily for someone selling this, and pay whatever price necessary. However, you will never catch me selling my copy, I promise. Good luck to you.