Me being a big fan of Elements, I was a bit surprised to hear this. I was expecting the same thing but thatís not what I got. I expected a lot of jazz parts but this was more death metal than jazz. I could certainly pick out a lot of difference between this and Elements. One thing was the production, Elements was quite clear and well produced but this was typical death metal production. It was certainly quite tinny (especially for a band which have such a great bassist) and the production wasnít the best Iíve heard. The guitars played a bigger role using lots more riffs than Elements, which was also a surprise to me. Elements was more concentrated on Tonyís remarkable bass lines.
Kelly was a bit different to me from all the other death metal vocalists. Other death metal bands had a growl or a grunt. Kelly sounds more like the underground thrash vocalists from the eighties. His voice is rough but not enough to be a growl. He also has a deep voice and doesnít sing his vocals but it is usually deep and raspy. Rand is not a fast player at all but he does have a fair amount of talent. He has some weird, fascinating riffs and theyíre usually all over the place because of the strange time signatures Atheist use. His solos are quite neat and he uses them at appropriate times rather than putting them in to show off, a good all-round guitarist.
I would make it a law that if you say a bad word about this man then you shall serve a life sentence. In my opinion, he is the biggest part of Atheist. He has this incredible slap bass style and he shines even more so than the guitarist. His bass lines stick out the most in the mix and with good reason. His playing is pretty creative and he is probably one of the most technical bassists on the scene. The style he uses is a sort of jazzy slap technique
Steve is a great accommodation to Tony as they both use their jazz influences, Steve even more so than Tony. Steve uses a metal style and a jazz style in the same song. Steve doesnít blast beat like normal death metal bands though. With his metal style he obviously uses the double bass and fast fills while he can also do crazy time signature beats with a jazzy touch. Great drummer and he certainly fit the band.
Unquestionable Presence is not a long, epic album. It is only eight songs with over 30 minutes of music. If it was any longer then I couldnít listen to this since the songs never really drastically change. There is quite a lot of variance but it never really goes out that jazz death metal feel. Every track on here is essential and you can never really miss one out, as there are only seven tracks. It is brutal in a casual sense but within the death metal quarters, it isnít that head exploding. I also feel you have to be in a certain mood to listen to it. Sometimes when I listen to it I go, ďYuss! The bass is so sexy and look at Steve go on those drums!" and other times I go, ďoh yeah, a slap bass solo, oh, another weird time signature" and I act as if Iím half asleep. The first one is what gives this a high rating as you really do get an adrenaline feeling of it.
The tempo can vary a lot. There is a fast burst of energy at times and then it could just slow down to where a guitar chord could just ring out and the bass could do some slow mellow part. Itís quite astonishing. The instruments just play so well together and itís a great experience especially when the instruments work with each other. The bass could do some solo parts while the guitar plays simple chords and then the bass would play simple and the guitar would do a fast riff. The beauty of the jazz influence is when Tony and Steve go balls out. Steve would play this fast jazz beat while Tony would slap the strings off his bass. I honestly donít have many problems with the album but the thing about certain times pisses me off and that the songs donít go out the genre theyíre in. Also, why jazz? It would be out of this world if they tried a blues oriented song or even a folk or country. It is nice that a death metal band likes to use their other influences but the jazz thing does get a bit boring after a while.
Overall, Atheist are a creative and interesting band. They are original and they arenít afraid to use other influences, which I think is pretty admirable. I do find them to get boring but that doesnít distract from the times that I need to listen to them. What youíll find here is fast jazz drumming and some of the best bass lines I have ever heard. The guitars are heavy and donít fall into a lame ďchugga-chugga" state. The vocals are full of sneers. They are growls but not like any other death metal band. Atheist are original and that is their main ploy, they incorporate lots of stuff in their music and that makes them such a great band.
Mother Man starts off with a slow bass part and then it just goes all chaos. The guitars are mainly used on the upper register on the song while the drumming keeps to its jazz roots. It is quite a fast paced song and it is a damn fine opener. Near the end it just stops and mellows out. It is a total change from the song but it then progresses to get heavier and heavier with a nice guitar solo.
With this Your Life's Retribution, there is no ďintro" or beginning part. It just blasts in with Kelly shouting, ďyour lifeís retribution!" It is not particularly fast but it has its fast bursts. I really liked the guitar in this song and the way they put it out. It has a sweet finger tap solo (or at least, I think itís a finger tap solo) but straight after that, the direction changes again so itís faster and then another guitar solo. The song barely has vocals as most of the song is made up of guitar solos and the music.