Man, I’d been waiting to get this album for a damn long time, but it proved to be worth the wait. (Good thing I just don’t have it in me to pay 60 frickin dollars for a used cd) Atheist are inevitably mentioned in the same breath as Death and Cynic when they talk about the roots of the modern tech-metal and jazz-metal movements. Atheist often seem to be considered the least of the 3, but listening to this album, they predict modern musical trends better than either of those bands. Both Death and Cynic could be exceedingly technical, and displayed plenty of jazz influence, but they are more melodic and less chaotic than modern tech bands(and Atheist). Simply put, while listening to ‘Unquestionable Presence’ you can hear something closer to ‘Calculating Infinity’ or `The Design’ than you’ll here in anything from Death or Cynic. (This is still definitely death metal, however, not metalcore)
Still, the Death and Cynic comparisons are appropriate, with this album sounding somewhere between ‘Human’ and ‘Individual Thought Patterns’ but, again, jazzier and more chaotic than either of those albums. Unsurprisingly, this album can take a bit of effort to get into, as there isn’t much to latch onto at first. Frankly, I was a bit disappointed in this album initially, but after about 10 repeated listens it’s definitely living up to it’s reputation. Now quite a few things stick out: The somewhat more mellow, bass-driven instrumental section at the end of ‘Mother Man’; the title tracks memorable chorus; The stunning solo around minute 2 of ‘Retribution’; the atmospherics and brief acoustic workin ‘An Incarnation’s Dream’; the more melodic trem riffs of ‘The Formative Years’ and the swirling, memorable licks that fill ‘And the Psychic Saw’. Of course, this sorta album isn’t about catchiness or memorability, but it’s always best to have somethings that stick out. And, there are plenty of ultra-tech metal albums out there that sound really good while you’re listening to them, but which you don’t come back to as much as you’d think, simply because it’s hard to remember anything in particuarly about it, other than that you like it. (Well, that happens to *me*, anyway.)
The instrumentation here is impeccable, especially considering how young these guys were. The bass is of particular note, with credit going both to Tony Choy, who actually laid down the tracks, and Roger Patterson, who wrote the material. I wish more metal bands would actually allow the bass a prominent role, like here. On top of the remarkably complex, rumbling basslines they get a lot more sound out of the bass than you’ll usually here, with lotsa cracking and pinging and whatnot. The guitars are almost equally impressive, with a very wide variety of riffs, never letting one particular flavor dominate. The lead guitar is less impressive. Sometimes it’s excellent, but about as often it’s just kinda formless and uninteresting. Still, it’s no great problem. Steve Flynn’s drums are some of the jazziest you’re ever likely to hear on a metal album, with a very jazzy sound to the snare, and plenty of ultra-quick snare rolls. Good stuff. The vox are a deathly shriek. Not bad, not particularly interesting.
Having not heard the original, I can’t compare the sound of the album. It’s sounds pretty good considering when it was made, though it’s so dense that you can’t help but with for a little more clarity. The bonus tracks are just a bunch of demos, and are of no particular interest to me, but others may disagree.
Yeah, check it out.