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Tech/Extreme Prog Metal • United States

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Atheist biography
ATHEIST plays an extremely complex death-jazz. ATHEIST was founded in 1984 by vocalist/guitarist Kelly Shaefer and drummer Steve Flynn, later recruiting Roger Patterson and Mark Sczawtsberg. ATHEIST progressed into an extremely complex fusion death metal band. A few lineup changes later, "Piece of Time" was released, and they started to tour, where Roger Patterson was killed in a car crash. Cynic bassist Tony Choy filled in to create the "Unquestionable Presence" album, which was their pinnacle. Shaefer went on to form Neurotica, but the album "Elements" appeared later out of contract. The band has then split up. ATHEIST can be compared to the complexity of DEATH and CYNIC, playing a highly inventive fusion oriented, breakneck speed metal.

"Unquestionable Presence" is arguably the band's best album and a landmark in progressive metal and the Florida prog-metal scene.

Any fans of complex music, fast playing, and extreme metal should love ATHEIST.

Why this artist must be listed in :

Legendary prog-metal band, incredible chops and fusion-oriented playing.

Piece of Time (1990)
Unquestionable Presence (1991)
Elements (1993)

Atheist official website

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Limited Edition
Season of Mist 2012
Audio CD$3.48
$4.38 (used)
Season of Mist 2013
Unquestionable PresenceUnquestionable Presence
CD+DVD · Remastered
Season of Mist 2015
Audio CD$13.87
$17.31 (used)
Piece of Time (deluxe reissue)Piece of Time (deluxe reissue)
Season of Mist 2016
Audio CD$12.99
$22.19 (used)
Unquestionable PresenceUnquestionable Presence
Season of Mist 2013
Imports 2015
Audio CD$17.71
$21.09 (used)
Jupiter (Ltd. Ed. sun yellow vinyl + 2' x 2' alum cover poster)Jupiter (Ltd. Ed. sun yellow vinyl + 2' x 2' alum cover poster)
Limited Edition
Season of Mist 2018
$25.36 (used)
Unquestionable Presence (Ltd. Ed. ultra-clear vinyl)Unquestionable Presence (Ltd. Ed. ultra-clear vinyl)
Limited Edition
Season of Mist 2017
$25.46 (used)
Unquestionable Presence: Live at WackenUnquestionable Presence: Live at Wacken
Relapse 2009
Audio CD$10.90
$10.90 (used)
An Original Album CollectionAn Original Album Collection
Season of Mist 2018
Audio CD$24.98
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ATHEIST discography

Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help to complete the discography and add albums

ATHEIST top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.76 | 129 ratings
Piece Of Time
4.26 | 287 ratings
Unquestionable Presence
4.23 | 253 ratings
3.32 | 105 ratings

ATHEIST Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.51 | 10 ratings
Unquestionable Presence: Live At Wacken

ATHEIST Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

ATHEIST Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

5.00 | 2 ratings
Atheist - The Collection
5.00 | 1 ratings
The Best of Atheist

ATHEIST Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

2.98 | 7 ratings
3.09 | 5 ratings
Second to Sun


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Best of Atheist by ATHEIST album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2017
5.00 | 1 ratings

The Best of Atheist
Atheist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by aglasshouse

— First review of this album —
5 stars Ever wanted to own a major chunk of Atheist's discography without needing to purchase 2005's The Collection for upwards of $60? Fear not, a solution is here!

After seven long years following Atheist's last studio album Jupiter, the band finally decided to digitally release their first ever compilation album to date- and what a compilation it is! In true-to-form fashion Atheist grab the most sonically insane and cosmic songs from their studio albums (as well as a live version of 'Mother Man' from Live At Wacken 2009) in a massive 22-track corpus. Forthright this puts The Best Of leagues ahead of other death metal contemporaries' works like Death's Best Of in '92 or Nile's Legacy of the Catacombs in '07, granted both rather good releases, simply from the vastness of the song selection. Especially considering Atheist's relatively small discography, 90 minutes of pure action may seem a bit hefty at first, but for only $10 (roughly ?8.50 for you Europeans) from Bandcamp it is a fairly free-and-easy deal compared to another compilation that would front you the same price but with half the content.

This album is a perfect introductory release for beginners and also a good pickup for familiars. The only gripes I have with it are the fact that there's no physical release, because I prefer lending actual tangible material to a hypothetical beginner depending on the circumstances, and the fact that my favorite song 'Why Bother?' from Piece of Time is not present. Maybe they took the title a bit too literally?

 Piece Of Time by ATHEIST album cover Studio Album, 1990
3.76 | 129 ratings

Piece Of Time
Atheist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by aglasshouse

5 stars Musical intuition and technical prowess catapulted Florida's Atheist into cult status shortly before the 1980's, a decade which was perhaps the most prolific for housing the best metal bands of all time, came to an end. It's not hard to see how Atheist achieved a following so quickly, as the band's influence from both thrash metal and elaborate jazz fusion were quick to differentiate them from their peers.

However with a band with such high quality there comes heavy scrutiny. It's, for the most part, a consensus that out of Atheist's current four releases not a single "failure" exists, but a general hierarchy is constructed for the lot nonetheless. Of this totem, Atheist's 1989 debut is generally thought of as being at the bottom. Not only was Piece of Time a preceding to the band's often-thought-of masterpiece Unquestionable Presence in 1991, but it's often cast aside as the least creative and most sophomoric of Atheist's discography.

I guess I feel that, with this particular album, something should be understood- factoring in more complexity does not always equal a better output. What I believe to be the folly of many metal bands (and tech death bands especially) is their inability to put themselves within boundaries, directly distancing themselves so far from a familiar structure that they alienate themselves from the listener, and just become not fun to listen to. Some jazz fusion bands of the 70's experienced this, and sometimes Atheist does too. Just not on this record.

In a world where the barbarism of death metal and the maturity of jazz fusion is blurred, a world which Atheist creates, it is quite hard not to step over this line. The lack of this overstepping though is what makes Piece of Time the overall best album that they've recorded, or at least on par with following work. Anything but lowest on the totem.

Piece of Time is filled with elements of what Atheist would go on to do, albeit with a much more juvenile and rowdy attitude. Each element of Atheist's sound is a multi-layered shell, with each peeling away to reveal another hidden complexity. The fusion of influences the band takes in gives way to duplicitously intricate time signatures, aided by the zealous syncopation of Steve Flynn's constantly morphing drumming. The album can slip at the speed of light from a crunching thrash-gallop easily to a grueling groove (see 'Why Bother?), as the band seems to act as a singular metal entity that can shift and change it's direction at will...all without sacrificing individuality. I for one believe that is an inexorably great feat that not many other bands have managed to replicate. This is without mentioning the inclusion of the sheer speed of each member, especially the insane pluck-age of late bassist Roger Patterson (see 'Unholy War') and guitarist Rand Burkey (best when combined with frontman Kelly Shaefer's guitar), adhering particularly well to the album's overall quality. Some particularly good tracks on here include "Room With a View', 'On They Slay' and 'Why Bother?'- all of which are prime examples of the aforementioned attributes Piece of Time has.

A masterful debut from a masterful group.

 Unquestionable Presence by ATHEIST album cover Studio Album, 1991
4.26 | 287 ratings

Unquestionable Presence
Atheist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

5 stars And then in 1991 one of the landmark tech death metal albums in history was unleashed onto an unsuspecting public. ATHEIST was already a veritable metal act even with their demos and released a gem of a slightly tech death album with "Piece Of Time" with extremely high achievements in both the speed and songwriting department. One of the stars of the show was undoubtedly Roger Patterson whose virtuosic bass playing skills shot the band into a realm above and beyond what anyone else was producing at the time. It was a huge loss when Patterson was killed in a car accident in the midst of recording the second album UNQUESTIONABLE PRESENCE. Any lesser band may have called it a day with such a stress factor suddenly rearing its ugly head but ATHEIST had the tenacity of a post-nuclear holocaust cockroach and stuck to their guns and recruited Cuban bassist Tony Choy to replace the seemingly irreplaceable.

While ATHEIST was already in the midst of upping the technical aspects of their highly aggressive death metal, it was, in a way, fortuitous to land Choy as a bassist, for he found a home with his slap and pop and two-handed tapping playing techniques that allowed him to fully exploit what all those frets are capable of. Because of Choy's involvement not only did they get a more than capable bassist to fill Patterson's shoes, but they got a whole other culture of influences including the Latin rhythms to battle it out with the jazz-tinged time signatures. Because many of the tracks were written with Patterson, this album has the distinct attribute of having one bassist active in the creative birth pangs of the album while another picks it up and adds his different interpretations. The result is one of the most demanding and outstanding tech death metal albums to ever come out.

While the complexity of this album is undeniable, so is the accessibility. The seamlessness of it is the brilliance. It has enough to hook you in instantly but more than enough to continue to lure you deeper and deeper into its seductive grasps. Kelly Shaefer really grows as a vocalist and the dual guitar assaults that he and Randy Burkey pummel the senses leave the progressive headbanger in a steady state of bliss. Each track is diverse and takes the listener on a roller coaster ride of tech death aggressive fury that only ratchets up the luxuriation on subsequent spins. This is one of those growers. It didn't blow me away on first listen by any means but certain has since. The perfect marriage of progressive jazz-fusion and the most extreme metal can be found on UNQUESTIONABLE PRESENCE, one of my all time favorite albums of any musical genre.

 Piece Of Time by ATHEIST album cover Studio Album, 1990
3.76 | 129 ratings

Piece Of Time
Atheist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

4 stars ATHEIST released their debut right at the time when death metal was sufficiently distancing itself from thrash to become a distinct subgenre and here on PIECE OF TIME it sounds like a bridge between 80s thrash metal and the emerging tech death metal from the 90s. For the most part we get more of a tech thrash sound than a true death metal album, however Kelly Shaefer's vocals on verging on the death style and ATHEIST was one of the major transitory acts to usher technical death metal into the 90s along with acts such as Death, Cynic and Nocturnus. This album was actually recorded in 1988 and was released in Euroope in 1989 but not until 1990 in the US due to the label Mean Machine Records going bankrupt. With relentless gallops and sudden progressive time signature changes, ATHEIST proves from the getgo that they had what it took to stand out from an ever increasingly crowded room of Morbid Angel clones.

Although nascent in the tech department there are signs of more complex jazz-fusion and progressive learnings of the next two albums coming into play. This album means business as far as bombastic and fast played riffage goes. The music is brutal with high tempos but exhibits the high quality songwriting that was inspired by Rush. The album flows well from beginning to end with no songs ever outstaying their welcome. In fact by the time the album is finished I want MORE!!! Despite the excellent technical skill of all the musicians involved I have to say that it is Roger Patterson's bass playing that really knocks my socks off. It is he in fact who is the backbone of the band's highly skilled sound for he can pound those four strings like no other. Sadly he was killed in a car crash while recording the next album and his loss may be one of the main reasons that ATHEIST opted to pursue the more progressive route since Patterson's technical bass skills were impossible to replace in terms of both skill and speed.

 Beyond by ATHEIST album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1988
2.98 | 7 ratings

Atheist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

3 stars There are demos and then there are ATHEIST demos! BEYOND is one of those rare demos that shows how proficient this band was from the start. The material on here is so strong and of album quality that three out of the five tracks made it onto the debut album "Piece Of Time." "Brain Damage" also appeared on the "On They Slay" demo leaving "Choose Your Death" the only track to never go any further. The music on here is just superb! I just love the raw and unfiltered sound that this demo exhibits. I find that this raw sound works so well with a naturally talented metal act like ATHEIST with their passion burners turned up full blast. This demo has been remastered and is available as bonus tracks on the remastered version of "Piece Of Time." This is so excellent I actually prefer these versions to the better produced album versions!
 Unquestionable Presence by ATHEIST album cover Studio Album, 1991
4.26 | 287 ratings

Unquestionable Presence
Atheist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Prog Sothoth
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

5 stars A delirious fusion of jazz and extreme metal, listening to Unquestionable Presence is like playing a pinball machine with multiple balls at once, hyper powered bumpers and an unusually multitudinous amount of flashing lights. Crazy stuff. But it's also fun!

It's almost hard to believe this undeniably influential beast came out in 1991, an effort certainly ahead of its time in that its heralded status and vast amounts of technical death metal acts borrowing its ideas would only come into play years later. What really makes this release special to me, though, is that despite the lunatic time signature shifts, piles of riffs crammed into each tune and an absolutely psychotic rhythm section, these songs are not only entertaining, but even catchy and memorable to varying degrees. Yes, there's a fair degree of showing off involved (jazz and metal...what do you expect?), but the riffs and interplay of the instruments never cancel each other out to the point where one wonders what the hell they're listening to.

The way the band incorporated jazziness to their death-thrash sound was quite revolutionary, in that instead of the band playing straight-up metal before shifting into some quieter 'jazz moment', the jazz aspect is immersed directly into their wild heavy music, a true fusion so-to-speak. Violent guitar riffs are balanced by hyper swingy free-jazz beats along with a bass presence ready to noodle off into the stratosphere and toss in some slaps at will. Often the guitar riffs themselves morph into fluttering fusion-like melodies when you least expect it. There's still plenty of moments where a full on thrashy death assault occurs with flying locomotive tempos and quality guitar solos that shred but retain an appealing bluesiness, aiding the songs rather than trying to outshine them. Everything is played tight, and the production, certainly for its time, serves the album well enough with each instrument basically getting their chance to shine.

Vocally, Kelly Shaefer utilizes a mid-toned snarl that's seems like a bridge between Kreator and Death, being absolutely feral, but not of the inhuman grunting or shrieking variety that was becoming the standard regarding the various extreme metal scenes. His vicious delivery also adds an extra pulse to the rhythms, being exact and punctual over the busy instrumentation. Another noteworthy factor is the lyrics spouted by this voice, in that rather than waxing poetic about gore and Satan, they are actually well written prose pondering life, nature and the universe, topics not exactly par for the course concerning death metal at its early stages.

Everything is right about this thing, including its short length, as these tunes have so much going on that it might have become a bit exhausting if it were much longer. Atheist's prior and follow-up releases are also quite fine in their own right, but Unquestionable Presence is the band at its most bonkers and frenetic, and the wildest and most enjoyable roller coaster ride by the band for me. Worthy of a 'classic' status for sure.

 Jupiter by ATHEIST album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.32 | 105 ratings

Atheist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Sinusoid
Prog Reviewer

1 stars If you listen to music long enough, chances are that eventually you're going to attempt to understand a style or genre several times without breaking the ice. Ultra-technical death metal hasn't exactly been my best friend lately, and Atheist's reunion album JUPITER only further distances me from the genre. To be fair, maybe this wasn't the right album to begin with Atheist.

Many of the problems that I ran into on Death's final album (SOUND OF PERSERVERANCE) are here as well. For most of the songs, the band settles into a riff for only about a minute before shifting gears completely into another riff without smoothly transitioning. The few attempts at a ''break'' feel like braking at 85 mph and immediately punching the gas pedal; the stop-start riffs end up being aural whiplash to the point where it hurts.

It practically goes without saying that the members of Atheist have quite the technical chops. That unfortunately leads to another problem. The playing is constantly on loud and hyper-complex to the point where there's no straight line anchoring the music. Other technical based bands such as Meshuggah seem to have an anchor in their complexity so that the technicality of the music doesn't run away from them. JUPITER seems to sound clogged with so many riffs and solos that I can't remember what happened after the album is over.

There are two double-edged swords here. First, the production does a great job at bringing out how destructively good the guitars can be, yet the bass is practically buried save for a slap line at the end of the album. Second, the songs are relatively short (nothing exceeds five minutes here), so there's nothing too long. At the same time, these are the longest 4 minute songs I've heard in my life.

I feel like I got started on the wrong album with this group, especially give the platitudes of their heyday albums. JUPITER is a nice present to the hardcore fans, but newcomers might be put off with this.

 Elements by ATHEIST album cover Studio Album, 1993
4.23 | 253 ratings

Atheist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by zravkapt
Special Collaborator Post/Math Rock Team

4 stars Atheist were one of those extreme metal bands of the early 1990s that I was certainly aware of but never actually checked out at the time. When Elements came out I was moving away from metal and getting more into alternative rock and hip-hop. Had I heard this album at the time though, I'm sure I would have loved it. Atheist play a jazzy and even funky version of death metal. You can really hear the bass here which is great. Not until the Nu Metal bands of the mid/late 90s does the bass become important in most metal. Elements contains lots of complex musicianship pulled off flawlessly. The guitar solos are generally not that great or memorable. There is no growling but the vocals are in between shouting and screaming. Some of the lyrics and song titles are based on the elements (hence the title).

For such a great and even timeless album, all the drama that went into recording it does not show at all. For one thing the band's bassist Roger Patterson died in a crash. The only reason they stayed together was because they owned their record company another album. Eventually Cynic bassist Tony Choy joined and they recorded this album. Elements is more accessible and melodic than earlier albums but is still nowhere near being mainstream. Three of the tracks here are short instrumentals with no drums. "Samba Briza" is another short instrumental but this one is very Latin sounding with drums, great bass work and, uh, piano. Mostly a Choy song, you wouldn't find many death metal fans listening to this song outside of their closet. Apart from those instrumentals the rest of the album is mostly in slightly funky jazzified death metal territory.

"Green" starts the album like a metal band trying to play jazz. Then it gets more typical death metal sounding. "Water" has an almost Latin rhythm to it, maybe that's why they say "aqua" in the lyrics. This song just swings and sways like there is no tomorrow. Nice acoustic Spanish guitar at times. "Air" is the standout track. Starts out very jazzy with a guitar imitating a trumpet. Great rhythm to this song, makes me want to shake my booty. I like the Judas Priest -meets- Slayer style of guitar playing throughout this track. "Animal" is another standout song with it's vaguely royal marching theme, sounding equally regal and evil. Changes for the guitar solo into a more laid-back jazzy style. Some of the vocals sound studio altered.

After some jazzy drumming "Fire" goes into a blues-metal vibe. Then more typical death metal territory. Some dissonant playing with a short spoken word section. Basically the whole song just jumps back and forth to all these different parts. Featuring probably the best guitar solo on the album. Sustained guitar notes lead "Earth" into death style guitar playing mixed with very funky bass playing. Then some very danceable Latin influenced death-jazz. Out of nowhere you hear a beat on a drum machine and then it goes back to the song. This track along with "Fire" is the most complex song from a compositional point of view.

The title track has a very funk-metal riff typical of the early 1990s. This song is funky death metal at it's finest. Interesting guitar runs in this track. The guitar solo here isn't too bad. Overall this is a great consistent release with great sound. Fans of fusion who want to test the waters of Tech/Extreme Prog Metal may want to start here. Elements is certainly one of the best and most important albums in that sub-genre of prog. A solid 4 stars.

 Jupiter by ATHEIST album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.32 | 105 ratings

Atheist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Atheist's comeback album Jupiter finds the band injecting the death metal back into their sound to an extent not heard since Piece of Time, with the jazz motifs of Unquestionable Presence or Elements serving the metal rather than existing in their own space. On the whole, it's a good and enjoyable listen, even though the technical death metal world has moved on since the band's glory days; my major criticism of the album is that after the first few songs it begins to feel a bit samey, something which was never the case on their earlier albums; a few quieter spots or the inclusion of moments where the jazz outweighs the death metal, as on their previous two albums, might have gone a long way to keeping things varied here.
 Piece Of Time by ATHEIST album cover Studio Album, 1990
3.76 | 129 ratings

Piece Of Time
Atheist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Vobiscum

4 stars Recorded in 1988, released in Europe in 1989 and the U.S. in 1990, "Piece of Time" joins the "death metal" elements with "progressive". The outcome is exquisite. The sound is surprising because until then I had only learned of bands of "death metal" that did not have great rhythmic variation. The band's name already exposes the ideological issue in their letters. With "Kelly Shaefer" on vocals and guitar, and primary lyricist, and also "Rand Burkey" on the other guitar, "Steve Flynn" in the sticks and finally bassist "Roger Patterson", the band showed quality work unquestionable and with a vision beyond his time. "Roger Patterson" stands taken by the sound of your bass, the guitar riffs are the bridge between "death metal" and "progressive", and rhythmic changes made ​​by the drummer. In fact the strong point of this album, the band itself is innovation. "Piece of Time" is an album of short tracks, but full of quality and musicianship. If at times the sound exposes his side "death metal" on the other side so complex exposes more "progressive".

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