Piece of Time was the debut album from the pioneers of technical death metal, Atheist. Chaos aplenty mixed in with crazy rhythmic structure seems to be the formula Atheist were striving for with the release of this album. The death metal elements of this album are relatively light in comparison to some of the more brutal bands that came out of Florida at the same time (Obituary, Death, Morbid Angel) but the technical, jazzy rhythms on this release are the real gem in it.
After the brief introduction with use of violoning from the guitars we are hit with a funky bass and then the guitar joins in all in some crazy rhythm (alternating bars of 3/8 and 5/8 perhaps?). The riffs are excellent, very technical, very heavy and totally insane. Obviously the whole band has a great deal of technical talent, in particular the Steve Flynn on drums seems to me to know his kit very well. A rather common feature of this album is an ascending or descending guitar runs in sequences whilst the drums and bass hit on the first beat, which has a really nice effect and obviously is a way for the guitarists to show off. Although this album is highly technical, it isn't a prog album - there aren't five minute solos (in fact there isn't even a five minute song!) as the band plays more than enough technical music in their riffs and their short solo breaks. The vocals are good enough, although it's obvious they aren't the main attraction of this work.
Perhaps my favourite song on the album (it's hard to say, I love them all), Room With A View, starts off with a relatively simple riff on guitar worthy of a headbang (although the drums are still pretty complex) and after the first vocal section we have a totally unmelodic, Reign in Blood type solo. The solo following the next vocal section is more melodic which shows the guitarists are capable of a certain amount of versatility in their solos; also, the sequenced runs following this solo sound amazing. However the real highlights is the rhythmic aspects, for example at 1:58 all instruments drop out except the bass which holds a stacatto riff before the drums come back in hitting everything in perfect time (it's totally syncopated) with the bass while the guitar plays something totally different. The execution of such complex pieces is astounding - if played wrong it would be a disaster but play correctly, it sounds amazing.
There's plenty of other great moments on this album though, plenty of highly technical solos and interludes. There's the minute and a half long classical introdution to the closing track, "No Truth" which then kicks into one of the greatest technical songs ever written. High paced technical riffs and the vioce of a madman layered over the top is most definately a winning formula in my book (and the chorus could almost be considered melodic!). Another part that always sticks in my head is when Kelly shouts "It's God's way says your horrid wife" before the band launches into one of the craziest sections on the album that is rhythmicly complex as such that it is remeniscent of Meshuggah.
The one things I hate about this album is it was so damn difficult to review! There is just so much going on that once you go into a little bit of detail, you find yourself having to explain a great deal to try and describe it. In short, it's one of those albums that you just have to hear to believe, there's so much going on that every time you listen you will hear something new going on.
It might not be the most technical release ever (Obscura anyone?), but after listening to this album, you know that Atheist were the pioneers of the genre and they done it damn well. They might not get the recognition they deserve behind bands like Cynic and Meshuggah but they sure as hell deserve some. Atheist were the pioneers of the genre and they taught the bands that followed them how to play this music. Although it's perhaps slightly primitive and repetitive after a while, Piece of Time is a bible to be worshipped by all fans of technical death metal.