Atheist - Elements (1993)
First off, I'm not too sure about the band history and members etc, I know now this is their third album, but for me this review is more about the music.
Ok, it's death metal mixed with somewhat jazzy styles. The guitarists, bassist, and drummer very proficient and technical with their instruments, and they don't hold back in showing what they can do. Lots of solos, tricky riffs, a fair few time sig changes, but they never go "over the top".
There are 8 "real" songs, the other 4 (Samba Briza, Displacement, Fractal Point, and See You Again) are short, non-heavy, instrumental pieces, which are nice little breaks.
Samba Briza is a rather energetic samba (no, really) piece with piano and some bongos added in for maximum flavour.
Displacement.. its still quite jazzy, but on the relaxing side of things, just really nice.
Fractal Point kind of goes nowhere.
See You Again - same as Displacement.
Heaviness and jazziness are about 40% and 60% respectively, for every low and chunky chord or riff there is a high pitched run or two. The vocalist almost always growls, but he is fairly easy to understand compared to other vocalists that use this style.
Each song has its own theme (obviously in the titles), the lyrics take different viewpoints or styles in each song, eg. in Water and Mineral, the element is personified, Earth and Animal take a different approach. Another common theme in here is human kinds lack of care and respect for the natural environment.
The music is so well written and appropriate (maybe a little cliche?) that you could probably match a song with its title without even knowing it beforehand. So the songs all have their turn, giving a bit of insight, then each one is brought in together in the last track, Elements, which does drag on a bit, but at least its consistent and ties everything together well.
Production isn't great, the drums distort often, and sometimes the guitar too (as in being recorded too loud). But maybe that was planned... environmental theme and all. Maybe not. At least its nowhere near as bad/distorted as some black metal recordings.
My Favourites: Water, Displacement, Animal, Fire, and Earth.
I Recommend: Air and Earth, both are fairly easy to listen to, and represent the overall sound of the album well enough.
Listen if you like technical metal bands such as Cynic and Spiral Architect, though if you listen to them you probably already know Athiest.
I rate it 4.5/5
It's not 5/5 because of Fractal Point, some bits in the Elements song, and the production.
It's not 0-4/5 becuase the music is so awesomely written, arranged, set out, and played. It's heavy without being too heavy, and the jazz stuff is a really good balance to make up the other side of the songs where the heaviness isn't. The lyrics are good, the subject is something I can relate to (as an environmental science student), and I have similar views as the band expressed, which makes it a good motivator for me.
once again, that's 4.5/5 party whistles