1991, Music

Unquestionable Presence (1991) by Atheist

Oh my science, YES! Where has this been all my life?

I have no idea why it took me so long to listen to Atheist but this si so up my alley I wish someone had convinced me to get around to them sooner. This is, like, exactly what I want in a metal record.

The riffs are nuts and they transform into new riffs constantly. The playing is about as good as I’ve ever heard on a metal record from this era:

  • the riffs but also the solos (which are blazing fast),
  • the drumming, which pummels sure enough but is far more astute, rhythmically interesting and dexterous,
  • and the bass (which you can actually hear!) which is funky (there’s some slap, because it’s 1991) and which is impressive as anything else.

Shaefer screams with enough of a growl (and does occasionally actually growl) that it’s death metal (and the distortion and riffs and drums make it so, too) but honestly this music is too musically interesting to just be death metal. You could throw another singer over top and people would be lining up to call it something else.

Each track is full of so much invention – most of it rhythmic – that you never get bored of the showy musicianship. (Honestly, each track is basically a suite of riffs, rather than a conventional metal song.) This isn’t music for people who like melody but then death metal probably isn’t music for people who like melody anyway.

The production is fine, it might be even better than average for a time when metal production was pretty uniformly bad. As I noted before, you can actually hear the bass! (Though some of that has to do with the fact that the guitars drop out so you can hear him play his fills.) The one nitpick I have is Shaefer’s voice is fairly deep in the mix. I’m not sure that’s actually a problem for me, given how much I like the musicianship, but it could be a problem if a key component of your enjoyment of death metal is the vocals.

Just a fantastic record and better than the vast majority of “technical” or “progressive” metal albums I’ve ever heard.

9/10

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