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kinda annoying tbh - 46%

RapeTheDead, December 23rd, 2016
Written based on this version: 2010, CD, Season of Mist

I'm going to try gloss over the band's history as quick as I can. It is somewhat necessary for context's sake, but I have no doubt you've probably heard it a jillion times before if you're reading this. Just in case you haven't: Atheist released a few tech-thrash albums in the 90s which weren't huge hits due to the somewhat inaccessible jazz fusion, but they slowly gained more and more traction in the underground over the next couple of decades to the point where their first two albums are now considered to be classics. (Their third one is a bit more divisive, as it was written during a more tumultuous time in the band's history.) Because of this newfound success and interest, the band reformed after a long hiatus and put out Jupiter. Reviews were a bit mixed, but generally people seemed pretty glad that the long-forgotten legends of thrash had finally returned.

I was born a year after Atheist released Elements so my perception of the band's history might be somewhat inaccurate, as I can only piece it together from indirect sources. I was only around to witness the rebirth of Atheist as it was happening, and because I wasn't too familiar with the band it didn't interest me all that much. A bit later on, I did get around to checking out their early work, and my opinions of their first three albums reflect the popular consensus: they're great. Atheist is challenging, technical and unique, but they don't lose the metallic bite even amidst all the wankery, because it's perhaps some of the most purposeful wankery there has ever been. I listened to Jupiter out of curiosity a handful of months ago, and while it wasn't really what I expected, there was still plenty of abrasion and complexity within a thrash template. I wasn't totally sold on it, but the potential was there. A little while later I saw it used in a CD store, and I threw caution to the wind and bought it because I felt like splurging a bit that day. That brings us to the here and now. (Shit, I just spent two paragraphs on what was supposed to be a "brief" history. My bad.)

Because of the natural density and inaccessibility of Atheist's material, I figured that this would age gracefully and further listens would reveal additional nuance and depth I had not uncovered the first few times around. Unfortunately, the inverse has proved to be true: Jupiter actually gets more grating every time I listen to it. There's some intangible about this album that just sounds...annoying. Now, keep in mind I do have a proper frame of reference here; I get that I'm not listening to Nightwish. Catchy hooks and easy groovin' isn't the point of this band, and I can understand bands using dissonant or abrasive sounds in order to create atmosphere or to garnish certain riffs. It's not like this sound is inherently displeasing to me. Jupiter, however, is catchy in all the wrong ways. This is a little bit more streamlined and repetitious than previous Atheist works, which is to be expected after a 12-year hiatus, but combine that with the dissonance and you get riffs that aren't very enjoyable, but still get stuck in your head. Sure, older Atheist had its share of wacky dissonance as well, but it was presented in a way that was a lot more aversive and required more listens to understand. Modern production values (and perhaps conscious decisions on the part of the band in light of their delayed success) have pushed all of the heavy and aggressive elements of Atheist to the foreground of Jupiter, and the result is an album that mostly tends to be memorable in its unpleasantness.

This is still clearly the same band, and much of what is displayed on Jupiter isn't anything new for Atheist. The problem with Jupiter isn't that they've added a bunch of new stuff that's unnecessary, it's that they've taken away many of the things that made them engaging. The production is much more glossy and all of the little technical frills come through very easily, but the band loses a certain special something with the more raw and organic production of their earlier albums where everything was a little bit more subdued and fighting for dominance. The bass makes a few standout appearances here and there (for example, in "Third Person"), but it sounds rather...conventional compared to the maddening playfulness that you could hear all the time on Elements. Even with all of the filler present on that album, there was still a constant back-and-forth between the guitars, and the bass got a lot more time to shine than it does on Jupiter, where it only really makes a few select appearances. This connects back to the production quality, which leaves it a bit muffled when everything else is going on. Atheist has, at least, kept up with the times and incorporated some more modern death metal influences a la Gorguts and perhaps went back and listened to their old Voivod records, too, but even then, Jupiter falls into this weird catch-22 where the more palatable riffs aren't particularly noteworthy or unique, and the more unique moments aren't really palatable or enjoyable. They're throwing a lot of different shit at the wall, but none of it really seems to stick in the same way it used to. Gone are more reserved attempts to give the album a more well-rounded atmosphere; you're not gonna hear anything like the beginning of the title track of Unquestionable Presence. Jupiter focuses a lot on the harsh, technical aspects of the band's sound, and said focus causes the riffs to lose a lot of what made them special due to a lack of balance. This still sounds like Atheist, but these slight tweaks make Jupiter sound like a mere shell of the band.

What is perhaps the most grating of everything, though, is the vocals. Again, I do have a sense of perspective here; thrash vocals aren't supposed to have perfect timbre that fits the music all the time or anything, but there's still just something about Schaefer's vocals on this album that's really, really off-putting. They worked before when they were much more subdued in actual tone and presence, while still being a little more adventurous and outlandish. That's been replaced with a lot of uninteresting sneering and moaning on Jupiter . Maybe it's the production values, maybe it's that age has sanded down a bit of the raspiness from his voice, but the vocals are borderline cringe-inducing at times, especially when they try and do the "catchy thrash chorus" thing on songs like "Fraudulent Cloth", "Live and Live Again" and "Faux King Christ". Remember how I said these songs stick in your head for all the wrong reasons? The vocals play a huge part in that.

Jupiter still sounds like an Atheist album, in spite of all its shortcomings. They're still as heady and complicated as they've always been, and who knows, maybe I just need to give this more time to fully wrap my head around what makes it good. However, the "grower" argument only works if there's something drawing me in that I want to hear more of in the first place. It's not that I don't fully understand Jupiter. I get it, and I just don't really feel like listening to it again after I hear it. I suppose this can be viewed as a respectable comeback, but at the end of the day, Jupiter just isn't...fun. If nothing else, music should be fun to listen to, and when all is said and done Atheist appear to have tried so hard to make an album that could live up to their legacy in terms of extremity, technicality and uniqueness that they forgot to just relax a little bit and make something that was pleasant.

Well, at least they're back - 70%

absurder21, February 23rd, 2012

Atheist is a death metal band from Sarasota, Florida that rose to fame in 1991 with their sophomore record Unquestionable Presence. The album was a landmark for the genre. It infused chaotic death/thrash metal riffs and melodies with the technical skill and manic, odd-time signature drumming styles of jazz to create what would become “technical death metal.” With their debut being more reminiscent of regular death metal, this was a huge shift in style for the band and it would lead them to become one of the most influential bands in the metal genre.

Unfortunately for the metal world, Atheist’s lineup had quite the personalities, and the band found itself breaking up several times between 1993 and 1994 before putting out a follow-up to Unquestionable Presence. But the band was contractually obligated to make one more record with the label Music for Nations, so they finally came to grips and put together a follow-up album in the span of a month. The result was 1994’s somewhat disappointing and clearly rushed Elements. Although the record has its moments and is full of interesting ideas, it just feels like it lacks the catchy riffing and soul of the previous record, even with the jazz influence and technicality being increased. Despite that, the record still had generally favourable reviews amongst die-hard fans, but this wasn’t enough to mend the band’s relationship and Atheist disbanded in 1994.

Fast forward 12 years to 2006, and Atheist is still a really big deal. With the re-issuing of the band’s discography being extremely successful, Kelly Shaefer (guitarist/singer, mastermind of Atheist) decided to pull Tony Choy (bass) and Steve Flynn (drums) back together to do a tour, which proved just as successful. Finally, four years later and with a slightly different line-up, the band managed to record a long-awaited follow-up to Elements, and thus Jupiter was born.

The music found on Jupiter is definitely no far cry from the sound that defined the band. It is chock-full of enough maniacal, jazzy drumming and chainsaw-like riffing to please anyone looking for what would be the stereotypical Atheist album, but unfortunately that’s all it’s really good for. The thing that I did find different about this record were that it seemed a lot more layered when it came to the guitar production than previous records. For the most part this is a plus, as there are some heavy, low-note, gnarly death metal riffs that will harmonize with notes of a much higher octave. This creates a decently schizophrenic sound that works well with the older Atheist template, which admittedly has become noticeably comfortable for the band.

If I were to hone in on one particular problem, I would say that they sacrificed catchy riffs to show off technical prowess, the same mistake they made on Elements. Although, again, for die-hard fans this probably is not a problem. I just feel that they are capable of much better riff-writing, as there are songs such as “When the Beast” that demonstrate that they absolutely still do have the chops to write catchier, better riffs AND be technical, the aspect that made the band so popular in 1991. All in all, Jupiter isn’t terrible. But in terms of what I expected a follow-up to Unquestionable Presence to sound like had they recorded in a non-stressful environment, it did little to reach the mark. There are some good tracks here and there, but if they can’t pull up their riff-writing socks for the next disc, I’m going to have to start throwing around terms like one-trick pony.

Best songs: Second to Sun, Faux King Christ, Live and Live Again, When the Beast

Oh Atheist, you crazy mofos... - 90%

Angry_Citizen, August 25th, 2011

I'll come right out and say it: Atheist is the craziest band in metal, perhaps in music. When Morbid Angel was updating Death's and Possessed's versions of death metal with their seminal classic Altars of Madness, these guys were already inventing its subgenre: technical death metal. When Death and Pestilence finally got the hint and started putting out tech classics of their own, Atheist was still light years ahead with their completely off-the-wall masterpiece, Unquestionable Presence. Small wonder they were never appreciated in their heyday. It was only a decade later that they got the recognition they deserved as the gods of tech death. And with that recognition came the itch for more Atheist. As everyone knows, Atheist broke up after '93 after releasing only three LP's, and there's only so many times you can spin Piece of Time before you wish they'd put out more albums.

In response to this obvious desire, Atheist reformed and delivered Jupiter unto us mere mortals... and a collective WTF did rise into the air. Just look at the other reviews here. Production sounds like bumblebees infested the guitars? Check. Songwriting inferior to classics? Check. Fewer overt jazz elements? Check. But this isn't Atheist! ... right?

No. It most definitely is Atheist. But like every other bloody Atheist record, it was completely different from its predecessor. No sane metalhead can sit there and tell me that Unquestionable Presence is a clone of Piece of Time, or Elements of Unquestionable Presence, or Elements of Piece of Time... etc. Instead, while extremely different from one another (and therefore unique), they share a certain underlying style that is unmistakably Atheist. And while it's always funny that people expect clones of classics made two decades in the past, it is even more hilarious that people expect clones from ATHEIST of all bands...

With that said, Jupiter is very obviously not Unquestionable Presence, and rightfully so. Jupiter has an aesthetic that is just as interesting and unique as Unquestionable Presence. Jupiter seems to be an attempt to take modern tech death and fuse it to the Atheist style. You'll find intense and blistering speed that is the hallmark of the modern sound, but you'll also find amazing slow passages that are still technical as hell. There are a bazillion riffs - but unlike the modern sound, they're actually distinguishable from one another. And Kelly Schaefer sounds completely unlike the modern generic grunters.

This is the success of Atheist. They're so unlike their peers, so innovative, and so talented with their instruments that they make other bands seem like wayward and inferior stepchildren. Atheist plays the same tech death that everyone else does, but they do it so flawlessly and so uniquely that noone else can compare to them.

When I first played Jupiter, I was part of the chorus saying "WTF". Second To Sun I enjoyed, but then again it's the most straightforward song on the album. I kept trying to listen to it, but none of it really made sense. I took a break from the album for a few months... then on a whim decided to try it. Just like when I first tried to listen to Unquestionable Presence, there was a moment where it all 'clicked'. Everything fell into place, and I could finally enjoy this album. That, to me, is what makes this album a worthy successor to the Atheist classics of yesteryear.

Comfortably modern, musically relevant. - 80%

stonedjesus, April 6th, 2011

If I had assigned a rating score to Atheist’s fourth album upon my first listen I would have given it a generous 65/100. Much of that score was based on several “Je ne sais quoi” moments I had while listening, meaning I didn’t really know why I liked the music. Regardless, I was still offended that it didn’t sound like ‘Unquestionable Presence’ or ‘Piece of Time’. After about five months of spinning ‘Jupiter’ I believe it is on par with those earlier releases. Hey wait! Before you spit in my mouth like an angry Taiwanese grandmother let me make it clear that I accept this as a modern extreme metal album, not a retro Atheist fan service.

Get with the times, for a brief moment, and take a look at who is who in the realm of modern rock and ‘metal’. Bands like Mastodon and System of a Down are winning Grammy awards, people are still buying Avenged Sevenfold albums and calling them ‘progressive’. If you have not heard this album I feel it is best that you go into it realizing that ‘Jupiter’ is very much the modern collaboration of Flynn and Shaefer. Flynn’s writing here is very similar to the work he did in Gnostic, as some members of that band have tagged along since the reunion, listening to Gnostic’s latest album will give a good reference point as to where the style is coming from on this album. While many complain of Gnostic’s “metalcore” vocalist, the technical, slippery style of death metal they play is very similar to that found on ‘Jupiter’.

Anyone who doesn’t have any frame of reference as to what Atheist ever sounded like might actually be better off starting with this album. Why? It’s likely if you don’t know classic death metal ‘Jupiter’ will be the most interesting album in your catalogue. Calling this album technical death metal is fitting enough. ‘Jupiter’ is quite spastic throughout with few short breaks and many smart guitar riffs. As thrilling as the guitar and drum performances are it does seem like the bass presence is lacking that directional sense given to the first three albums. I liked how bass lines drove a lot of the transitions in the first three albums and felt this was needed to break up the constant guitar buzzing of ‘Jupiter’ more often. I won't go into great detail describing the vocals here, but Shaefer is appropriately slimy and shrill with his delivery and it works for me.

Why does this deserve to be the fourth Atheist album? It is clear the musicians choosing to call themselves Atheist were up for the challenge of meeting expectations. Shaefer and Flynn bring tasteful artwork and memorable lyrics to the table, characteristic of their past work. But what saves the day for Atheist, and makes ‘Jupiter’ valuable music it is the fact that these remaining members are still armed with a unique, technical and modern musical style.

Atheist's worst still means good - 77%

SadisticOrgasm, March 28th, 2011

Well, comebacks usually upset when there’s a whole lot of time enough for musicians to catch up different tastes and questioning the musical direction of their past. Even big names like Terrorizer and Cynic fell in this category, and we’ve got no smaller name than those here. Atheist, awaken to do some newer stuff after more than a decade with two new members and everybody had obvious doubts on this one. Could they be same after seventeen fucking long years – the time long enough you could replace your former band-mate with your newborn son?

Well, my affiliation with Atheist goes back to “Unquestionable Presence”, which was the first album of theirs I genuinely loved. Although “Piece of Time” had reached me first, it couldn’t click me well. It was UP that described the typical Atheist sound to me and I could regenerate the love for Piece… as well. The third album “Elements” couldn’t do much with me though. When you listen to enough good music from your favorite band, the expectations are obvious to rise and the other generic ones too seem to be lacking the punch, and same was the case. “Elements” was alright, but wasn’t as significant as the former two ‘masterpieces’.

Alright. The thing is – you just cannot judge an Atheist album on just few listens. When I had put my ears on this one for the first time, I was confused, disappointed but expectant, all at the same time. A little more listens and it was still growing on me.

Musically, the band appears to have leaned less towards the thrashy edge this time. It’s more technical death metal here, still retaining the typical Atheist fragrance. It’s cool that it still sounds like Atheist even after seventeen long years, and that’s an achievement in itself, considering the awful doubts that everyone (at least most of us) had when we first learned about the band recording their newer stuff. To speak, “Jupiter” sounds like a progressive technical death metal band (let’s say Gorod) giving tribute to Atheist.

So besides everything else, let me point out few of my discomforts here:

Firstly, one of the hugest objections is the bass being not free, which isn’t off the trail of guitars as it was before. Bass is there, yes it’s audible, but is just to follow the guitars. It’s a blasphemy in Atheist’s case if you ask me.

Secondly, there is zero to little chill-out jazzy portions, which could be found in their previous albums (which I really adore/d). Surely, Atheist were the first band to fuse extreme metal with jazz, and the decision to omit them might be cool, but it’s just me; not that it is hindering the songs’ eminence through it.

Thirdly, the lead guitars – whenever I listen to “Unquestionable Presence” and the solos are put on, I go [bow them]. But now, they’re not so remarkable at all. They’re decent, nowhere close to their past stuffs. I could also sense some riffs/solos filled here and there just to invoke their early-years’-sound, which I think are already lame.

Fourthly, the production is a bit oozy besides all, and the best sound output tends to be the drums. This instrument could be the finest and most satisfying in here, possessing some awesome variations and all… typically Atheist.

Fifthly, the vocals. Well, the band wasn’t pleasing me ‘vocally’ at all through any of their preceding records anyway, but let’s put it this way – Kelly’s shrieks here, I think, are the best to offer after their debut (I know many will disagree). So I’m not pushed away a bit by his throat performance here.

All in all, Atheist now sound more like many of other bands trying to follow their path of being a death(/thrash) band like Negativa, Gory Blister, Quo Vadis, etc. This is no way close to their first two records, but this doesn’t imply in anyway that it’s a weak album. “Jupiter” is still ‘decent’ in my book, but I would recommend to begin with “Unquestionable Presence” or “Piece of Time” if you already dig thrash metal.

Atheist - Jupiter - 85%

ThrashManiacAYD, February 7th, 2011

Atheist's triumphant return to the pinnacle of technical death metal has been a long and staggered one, but after reformation back in 2006 we finally have another of death metal's elder statesmen back and my have they come back to Earth with a bang. Three albums between 1989 and 1993, the first two in my opinion seminal classics, silence and then this. It's great to see them back.

The fully deserving respect and worth with which Atheist are held these days stands in contrast to that of their early days when in a scene headed by the likes of Deicide, Obituary and Death (before Death themselves headed into their own technical wonders) their OTT take on the thrash/death blueprint played into their own downfall while simultaneously injecting a new spark of life into the genre’s DNA that remains as restless and unwilling to compromise as ever even today. It takes approximately 0.1 seconds of opener "Second To Sun" to realise there are technical death metal bands…and then there is Atheist. Kelly Shaefer's strangled, yet instantly recognisable clean vocals, mixed with Steve Flynn's hyperactive drumming and some of the most fluid and tightest riffs to come from an any extreme album in recent times put to bed any suggestion a new Atheist LP was going to rest solely on the laurels of their past discography. "Live And Live Again" begins in sorrowful mood before the bands simmering self-control on the fretboard, recalling both Cephalic Carnage and Cryptopsy at their own lunatic bests, allows for constantly shifting dynamics, catchy vocal lines and the kind of insania that marks out such bands from the pack.

"Jupiter" is so chock full of damn heaving riffs that it will roll you over and beat you silly with the youthful energy still so evident in these Floridian veterans. "Fraudulent Cloth", "Fictitious Glide" and "Tortoise The Titan" rival anything of 1991's masterpiece "Unquestionable Presence" and "Faux King Christ" abounds with the flourishes of recent Megadeth (a compliment to each other I'm convinced) but really it is the all-out consistency across these 8 songs (or 32 minutes if you like) that earns "Jupiter" it's high mark. The production may be sharper and heavier, as would be expected against records released two decades ago, and guitarists and bassist may have changed in the meantime, but one thing remains the same: Atheist are technical death metal and they're back to show you just how it's done.

Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net

To Live And Live Again - 78%

GuntherTheUndying, December 22nd, 2010

I consider myself an optimist among the resurrections and reunions in metal. Sure there have been some major flops and some inexcusable letdowns, yet who can deny the inspiring insurrections created by some of metal’s finest legends and knights once again flaying the masses? Celtic Frost, Autopsy, maybe some Cynic? As the current fad sees waves of good and bad (however you feel, I suppose), Atheist, the pioneering progressive/ technical death metal professors whom have been completely absent for seventeen years, have returned. Of course, this isn’t news unless you’ve been on Mars or find Atreyu to “represent your threshold of heaviness and don’t like that growling shit,” which, in regard to each issue, makes you uneducated or unfathomably idiotic.

“Jupiter,” though, isn’t quite what many would have hoped for, although I feel it still induces those frisky reflexes in my neck and ignites an interest in philosophical revelations like these lads did once before. “Jupiter” is almost too intelligent for its own good and a long-shot away from the brilliance of Atheist’s youthful grace, yet definitely a solid record representing a plethora of wayward mathematics and the dynamic doldrums that once created some of metal’s finest trophies; only with a shade of such excellence I might add, perhaps in an effort to avoid what once was and create something new, or maybe some experiment testing whether or not 1991 can physically exist seventeen years later. Whatever the reason, “Jupiter” reeks of Atheist’s genetics in ways both and new; evolutionary in its own right, yet regressively defined.

Many of the band's old mannerisms play large roles, almost dangerously similar to their early work. "Jupiter" is a planet formed from awkward time-signatures, massive riffs, and nonsensical rhythms somehow tying together underneath Steve Flynn's wolfish percussion, which is so technical and maddening I can't even begin to say how great of a drummer he is. All eight tracks are in tune with technical death metal aspects, although Atheist bring a lot of light to the sound with a strange hint of melody and catchiness achieved through the harnessing chaos of their unique formula; it's something they've always had together, and it certainly makes them rise above the pack. Kelly Shaefer is perhaps the only anomaly I could detect: his vocal approach is gruff and more in touch with a natural singing voice and not a growl, yet he sounds great and well-aged nonetheless. Hell, I’m willing to say “Faux King Christ” (say it fast, LOL) and “Fraudulent Cloth” among most of the remaining album are definitely worthy of carrying the Atheist banner despite seventeen years of no new material.

However, let's be honest for a second, shall we? This isn't "Unquestionable Presence." This isn't "Elements." This isn't "Piece of Time." Notice a pattern? "Jupiter" is obviously beyond the prime of their accomplishments: there are new influences, characteristics, ideas, formulas, algorithms, techniques...I could go on forever. So here's the answer to your question if you haven't figured it out for yourself: No, "Jupiter" is not better than Atheist's older works. It is, however, certainly a well-written opus that runs train on technical death metal as a whole (or hole, haha) for two reasons: it's absolutely anarchic, yet ever so enjoyable. Lot of folks could learn from "Jupiter," actually.

The production, though, seems to be the center point of criticism among the many moons of “Jupiter.” I’ll be the first to admit the sound it has been given certainly does not justify a new Atheist album, their powerful legacy, or any metal band in general that holds a feasible amount of credit among metal’s overflowing stream of trends and flops, most noticeably the “wall-o-sound” feel it emits upon the album. The drum audio tends to have a lot more power than the guitars do, whereas the bass – of all things and bands – is given the shaft and left in the dark, unless there’s a quieter section or jazz-fluent transition, of course, where it shines and kicks total ass. I really can’t say anything bad about the vocals or guitars, although they seem roughly mixed or overproduced at times, but sheesh! Turn those pounding instruments down and TURN UP THE BASS! They could have at least gone for an old-school atmosphere of any class, maybe make the record a bit rawer in some parts or instruments, yet this is what “Jupiter” is, whether you like it or not. Despised Icon kiddies will love the sound; Atheist fans will most likely not.

Well, I guess you could say Atheist bend the rules of death metal once again on "Jupiter," although its impact isn't as strong or individualistic, obviously. Overall, I feel these gentlemen made an impressive return and crafted an interesting piece of technical death metal worth much more than the subgenre's current plods. They didn’t turn up a day late, nor a dollar short, but “Jupiter” still falls well below the line of conditions set forth from the dynamic “Elements,” the slaughtering fun that made “Piece of Time” thrive, and the mighty magnificence “Unquestionable Presence” holds, never to be dethroned from these pioneering engineers of mathematical madness. Still, Atheist trumped most old-timers giving the metal game another shot, which is quite the triumph in and of itself. Good work mates, good work.

This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com

Atheist - Jupiter - 90%

MindOverMetal, December 22nd, 2010

Thanks a lot, Season of Mist. I pretty much had my Best of 2010 list compiled, then Kylesa and Atheist drop two of the year’s critical releases within weeks of each other. I should have seen this coming, as they did this two years ago with Cynic‘s 'Traced in Air'—yet another lost legend of the formidable Floridian technical death metal movement in the early 1990s who had also not delivered new material in something-teen years. And in similar fashion, 'Jupiter' holds its own against classic material, and suggests creative new directions for not only the band, but the genre as a whole.

Although Cynic‘s Paul Masvidal and Sean Reinert actually played in the archetypal Death, the music they construct seems more deliberately beautiful, to say nothing of their clean vocals (an arguably mixed bag that I mostly love); but Atheist on the other hand, they have this ferocious streak running through them. Both bands wrote eight tracks on their latest output, though Atheist does not have an “intro/outro”, which is how “Nunc Fluens/Nunc Stans” feels. At around half an hour apiece, both beg replays for their infectious nature and sheer songwriting depth. But let’s stop comparing these these two bands and talk about the music on Jupiter.

Atheist maintains their anti-God stance from the get-go on “Second to Sun”, which is not so much a title track as it is about the planet Jupiter , and how “all atoms report to the sun” because “without all her fire there won’t be anyone”. Vocalist Kelly Shaefer still rocks range and timbre similar to Testament‘s Chuck Billy, and now that I think about it, Devy circa SYL. Listen to him explore this full breadth on “Live and Live Again”, which also has a warm cello lead-in.

Big ups to recording engineer Matt Washburn and Jason Suecof’s mix. This is the kind of album where you hear more every time you listen. Newest member, guitarist Jonathan Thompson, got bass duties when Tony Choy departed before writing began, and every jazzy journey is well captured. I also like how their circular artwork motif continues here, now courtesy of prolific Metal illustrator Eliran Kantor.

By the way, if you want to hear how to transcend an F-bomb, the chorus “Jesus Faux King Christ” is the way to do it and not “all of the boys and all of the girls are begging to if you seek Amy” (hopefully this is the first and last time you will see Britney Spears mentioned in the same review as Atheist …jfc!). The second half is replete with experimental ideas, like the groovy “Tortoise the Titan” which funnily speeds up to breakneck for the chorus of “Slow down!”—dense brevity is their strength, and their deft lyrical merging of traditional myth and fable alike is rare. I like how they appropriately bring back the guitar swipes to conclude “When the Beast” (they also appear in “Fictitious Glide”), and “Third Person” intriguingly posits “Historically it has been told, harmonically your soul is sold to old. I was the highest bidder, dripping blood on the dark side”.

Whatever natural or infernal means were used to get them here, I am thankful for the return of passionate yet coherent technical death metal—a balance attempted by few and achieved by fewer. Atheist have always been bar-setters, and 'Jupiter' is yet another defining chapter in their evolution.

FCC OK
Try 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8

Originally written for MindOverMetal.org

Unquestionable piece of elemental ass-kicking! - 90%

Xyrth, December 11th, 2010

Well, as I’ve seen and heard, a lot of metalheads were expecting the new Atheist album to be “Another Piece of Time” or “The Return of the Unquestionable Presence”. My dear metal brothers… you’ve got to grow up! Why’s it that people are always expecting the latest Kreator release to be a clone of Pleasure to Kill, or the newest Judas Priest to sound exactly like Painkiller? It just won’t happen, deal with it! Most of the “return to form” albums out there actually are new and a redefined incarnation of a band’s former magnificence and this is just what happens here with Jupiter. Bands keep changing, evolving and ageing, and most won’t return to their glory days, at least not in the same form.

In the case of Atheist’s new form, I’m glad is a rather strong and ass-kicking one. I found Jupiter to be a rather intense experience and a worthy addition to their brief albeit extremely influential discography. The band’s long-expected fourth record is challenging, balanced and has Atheist written all over it. Shape-shifting song structures, mind-blowing tempo changes, crazy jazzoloing and complex rhythms played with ease by these dexterous musicians. Trademark Kelly Shaefer rasps are the expected vocal approach that sounds as strong as ever, if not stronger. Original drummer Steve Flynn’s back behind the drum kit, and his performance here is a good as it was on Atheist’s first and second works. The more than capable Jonathan Thompson, who along with Chris Baker and Shaefer himself took care of the intricate guitar patterns and extreme riffing, handled the bass duties here. And while Tony Choy will be certainly missed, Mr. Thompson does a terrific job here.

It’s difficult to pinpoint the strongest tracks here, since most of them share more or less the same level of quality. “Second to Sun” is the opener, and it hits you so hard, it’ll leave wondering what planet just got thrown at you. Well, Jupiter is kind of big and heavy you know? After that initial massive attack, we get seven more mind-bending pieces of the finest quality technical progressive deathrash. Personal favorites include the cleverly titled and amazingly performed “Faux King Christ” with it’s spiraling melodies and jazzy conga-like percussion, “Fictitious Glide” with it’s liquid-guitar soloing replaced within a fraction of a second into speed-of-light riffing thrash, and “When the Beast” which starts with black metal-ish atmospheric riffs that evolve into a full prog metal attack with cool lyrics vomited through Shafer’s throat.

Jason Suecof production has been criticized a lot, but I need to speak up and defend the man. His work here might be his best so far, and I find Jupiter’s production thicker and meatier than any other Atheist release ever. It’s not perfect, I must admit. Sometimes the bass gets a bit buried beneath everything else, but it’s pretty audible most of the time.

Another thing to notice is the out-worldly cover artwork, which is by far the best in Atheist discography. Eliran Kantor’s amazing piece of work is enthralling and I find it truly at one with the music contained within, a perfect symbiosis of chaotic nature and mechanical perfection. For each color and shade on the cover there’s a sound and tone inside, and though Jupiter only lasts a bit longer than half and hour (in the tradition of the Atheist albums preceding it) you’ll discover so many excellent parts in it you’ll be begging for more. For that is its only flaw, it’s a bit short. Though asking for a couple of more songs would be too much, given the complexity and detail of the compositions. Take a single Atheist song and you’ll have all the ideas and material for a whole decent death or thrash metal album.

I’m not an Atheist fan-boy and never will. This album won’t change that. However, this is a band for which I feel a huge, HUGE respect. Along with Cynic, Death, Pestilence and a handful of other seminal bands, Atheist paved the way for the emergence of progressive death metal, particularly the jazz-bearing branch. Their enormous influence can be heard in the works of such varied outfits such as Meshuggah, Into Eternity or The Faceless. The extreme metal world owes a lot to this Floridian band. Jupiter won’t change that, neither add nor subtract, cos’ the genre has already been established and is now swarming with bands. But it just proves that Atheist has re-emerged to reclaim the crown they rightfully own.

Those who came before...still do it better. - 85%

ArnoldHablewitz, December 9th, 2010

Tech-death. It is a sub-genre that in recent years has virtually exploded with activity. A case can be made though that many of these new bands coming out have lost the spark of what originally set this genre ablaze 20-some-odd years ago. Don't get me wrong, I love The Faceless, Necrophagist, and Cattle Decapitation as much as the next guy and they do get me into that intellectually brutal mood, but this scene has become stale and oversaturrated so damn quick and on a level I haven't seen since metalcore about 5 years ago. Time to take a step backward.

Atheist is definitely one of the OGs of the tech-death scene. Certainly cut from the same cloth as Gorguts and Atrocity (first couple discs, anyway), but deeeefinitely from a different corner, Kelly Shaefer and co. always had a crazy streak to them. Although there ARE tons of riff moments in an Atheist song, what seems to be spontaneity is extremely prevalent in virtually everything they do. Right from the beginning of the whole CD, the band just goes crazy and kicks in with a passage that despite being in perfect sync, seems to be made-up completely on the spot. Add those great drum fills that Steve Flynn was always so amazing at and you really don't know what direction any of this is going. Speaking of Steve Flynn, I love how even though he truly is a technically gifted drummer, it comes off as more brute force than anything else. Sure, Sean Reinart is going to jazz it up and Gene Hoglan is going to through everything including the kitchen sink at us and we as fans are going to love it, but this guy just pounds and pounds away and throws in the occasional flourish just to remind us that he has dynamic range. Shaefer's vocals are stronger than ever on this effort...maybe all the active rock he threw at us with Neurotica paid off in that it's truly seasoned his death vocal ability. As for his guitar playing, truthfully it's hard to gauge who's bringing what to the table when there's 3 guitarists (one of whom also played the bass), but do I think it's all good, yes I do.

All in all, while Atheist isn't exactly reinventing the wheel here, they are making it good and well known that they fucking DID at one point and that even though they haven't put out an album in 17 years, they can still do it better than your typical sweep-picking marathon men in every death metal band on the planet right now. While there's other stuff I'd rather listen to, I think Atheist made the best attempt at creating THEIR perfect album to hold up to their legacy, and I think Atheist fans everywhere will enjoy it.

The Masters Give Another Lesson in Technicality - 95%

bayern, December 3rd, 2010

Well, well, well, do I see a pattern here? All the three specialists in death metal/fusion had come back in three consecutive years, with Cynic leading the pack with "Traced in Air", although their new effort had very little to do with death metal, if anything at all; then Pestilence followed with the excellent "Resurrection Macabre" last year; and finally we have the new Atheist. Fusion is a distant memory on the Pestilence's and Atheist's new albums (it's not very widely covered on "Taced in Air", either), and what we have in their case is a solid return to their roots. Although all the three acts did a great job, Atheist's comeback album seems to shine the brightest.

When approaching it, however, the fan may be a bit cautious in case of he wasn't very happy with the milder jazzy direction taken with "Elements". But as soon as the chaotic twisted riffs of the opener "Second to Sun" hit him, sounding like this track has, for some mysterious reason, been left out of "Unquestionable Presence", he could safely pack up his troubles and surrender to another sheer lesson in technical brilliance served by the "fathers" of technical death metal who here show that the modern bands walking in their shoes have still a lot to learn. An enormous sigh of relief will follow when the listener finds out that the hectic riffage and the twisted arrangements of the first track carry on unabated on every other one reaching blast-beat extremes here and there, but those moments never stretch beyond the desirable more aggressive digression.

Technicality, dynamics, and melody are seamlessly blended everywhere in almost equal dozes with the speedy parts never turning into mindless bashing for technicality's sake like it happens so often nowadays. A riff after riff comes piled up in dramatic spiral-like structures to overwhelm you the guys never overdoing it, a situation also helped by the songs' length (4-5min) which may even make you feel that there is something more to be added before the end. And this is probaly the only unmitigated flaw this album has: after nearly 17 years the band could have made it a bit longer; with only eight songs closing on a bit more than half an hour they literally leave the listener begging for more (well, the guys have never been fond of the epic size, we shouldn't blame them: remember "Piece of Time" and "Unquestionable Presence")...

The only reminder of "Elements" would be Kelly Shaefer's vocals which sound dry and mechanized very similar to the ones he used on the aforementioned album, and his characteristic apocalyptic semi-shrieks are very seldom heard. Steve Flynn, the other "survivor" from the original line-up, is simply stunning behind the drums even overshadowing his old exploits with his impeccable performance covering a wide gamut of rhythms and tempo-changes. The latter has brought two of his colleagues from Gnostic to help in the proceedings, but the guys aptly avoid the pitfalls along the way to produce a genuine Atheist sound without any borrowings from the other band's style, and kudos should be given them for that (havng in mind that Gnostic operate in a similar field music-wise, only more thrash-fixated).

The reunion vogue is still in full swing, and Atheist can easily be placed among the most successful ones. In an oversaturated scene like the technical death metal one nowadays, where one has heard almost anything that has to be heard, the veterans stand proud as still one of the finest practitioners after all these years, and this freshly unleashed masterpiece is more than a sheer testimony for that. This is probably the finest example of "comeback with style" of the past few years (or is it "... with vengeance"?).Thumbs up.

Yeah, it's... not good, really. - 35%

Steve08, November 9th, 2010

First off, I will say that I had no expectations of Atheist living up to the incredible legacy of their sublime first three albums. I did have a vague suspicion that this album would probably be bad, considering they kept talking about giving the fans what they wanted, which is never a good thing, especially with a classic band like this. You just can't recapture the magic that led to classics like Piece of Time or Unquestionable Presence, and while Elements is the worst of those it's also very damn good. To summarize, Atheist have released a stinker that only people who are fans of Decrepit Birth's Polarity will like-- I imagine most of the "truest" metal fans will turn their backs to Jupiter.

With that out of the way, we'll discuss the album on its own merits. The production, as has been noted by a previous reviewer, is pretty crap, honestly. It sounds like basically everything else that Jason Suecof has ever produced, which can be either a good thing (see The Black Dahlia Murder's Deflorate for a perfect example) or a bad thing, and in this case it is very much a bad thing. While the guitar tone is pretty good, and the drum sound is not bad, the toms are tuned really damn high and with the way they're mixed, they pop out like gunshots whenever Flynn hits them, and they're spaced widely throughout both left and right speakers, which makes any sort of fill played on them sound disjointed and even overpowering. The drums are very loud in general, and the cymbals stick out irritatingly. The bass is pretty much entirely inaudible, something it most certainly was not on the first three album, except in certain sections where the groovier basslines may stick out. This is a very high mid-treble oriented album with little bass frequencies overall. The vocals are kind of buried in the middle of all this.

The individual performances are solid, and the drums stick out the most with a decent amount of creative cymbal work thrown in as well as some of the fastest drumming Flynn has played yet, including a couple blast beats and some very fast tom rolls. The guitars are pretty technical, maybe even the most technical they've gotten, and are performed decently. The solos are okay as well, not really sloppy but don't have the potency or brilliance of the early ones played by Rand Burkey. The bass, from what I can tell (you can't hear it...) is also solid played, although the basslines lack most, if not all, of the ingenuity of Patterson or the subtle funk/Latin influence of Choy. They follow the guitars pretty much all the time, except for some slapped basslines which are, for the most part, shit. It's like Jonathan Thompson randomly decided to throw in some really irritating popped notes to mostly accent on the bass drum without any actual complimentary groove behind it, or more specifically, for melodic playing, which slap definitely is not. The lackluster electric bass thus makes this a decidedly guitar oriented album, which is a damn shame because Patterson was a god and Choy was no slouch himself, and both of them had none of these problems.

Now, the worst part of this is... well, the music. Atheist garnered a reputation for a reason back for crafting a sound that was entirely their own amongst death metal and having a lot of INTERESTING progression with their songs-- every riff was the natural consequence of another, and any given song would have a variety of themes that would be repeated and expanded upon through the composition. On Jupiter, there's little of this. As I said before, the riffs are certainly technical, but they trip head over heels into the abyss that is suffered by quite a bit of modern bands, in that there's no real reason for them. They're unmemorable, and they're just... there. Jupiter is quite generic and disjointed, like they wanted to remind you how technical they were and just mish mashed a bunch of riffs together with no thought to the actual composition of the songs.

Now, there are a decent amount of good moments on the album, but right when you start to get into it they just fly away like a kite in the wind, and to top it off, it's entirely unmemorable. A strong disappointment, ESPECIALLY considering the magnificent quality of their first three albums, which is why this review is a 35. If this were the debut of a new band, then it'd be better, though not by much, perhaps a fifty, but considering Atheist have spat on their old works, and have devolved instead of creating a logical progression of the style of Elements, as though there were a fourth album released only a few years after...

Ultimately, it's not really bad or good, just kind of in the middle, condemning a band like Atheist to a sort of mediocrity that they just don't deserve, but releasing something premature like this is shameful. If you'll listen to pretty much any album that isn't death or metalcore and say it rules, then by all means, go ahead and by this, but for those with a more refined taste or with an appreciation for older metal, stay far away.

In closing, Celtic Frost had Cold Lake, Bathory had Octagon, Cryptopsy had The Unspoken King, Carcass had Swansong, Metallica had St. Anger, and now Atheist has Jupiter.

Clipped Shit - 0%

__Ziltoid__, November 8th, 2010

After TNOTB was kindly given a promo version of the album from Season of Mist, I was going to be patient like any regular fan, but I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hear this long-awaited album so early before it’s release and give it the glowing recommendation it would undoubtedly deserve as the logical extension of the sound on Elements. Well, are you expecting love for Jupiter because it’s in this column, the one I pretty much devote to death metal that I happen to love? Too bad. Sadly, I regret ever wanting to listen to this jumbled mess of an album. Frankly, I can barely listen to this atrocity. Being one of my first death metal bands, I love all of Atheist’s old material, but this album just doesn’t cut it in any way. Consider this my disappointment of 2010.

Firstly, the biggest criticism I have with this album is with it’s production. It’s clipped worse than Death Magnetic! Sonically, I think that this is the worst, most sterile-sounding album I’ve ever heard. Of course, I half-expected this when it was revealed that Jason Suecof (i.e., the dude who mixes/produces seemingly all of the sterile crappy mainstream metal these days) was mixing the album, but this is worse than I could have possibly imagined. This fucker is clipped to hell, and the entire mix is void of any dynamic range whatsoever, leaving each instrument as some lifeless layer of loud noise. Hell, clipping aside, the mix is still terrible, with the drums obnoxiously loud, the vocals kind of muddy-sounding, the guitars a little bit low for my liking, and the bass just existing, lacking the genuine feel it had on Unquestionable Presence.

As for the music itself, it’s really fucking boring. Atheist used to be innovators. Now it seems like they listened to a Necrophagist or The Faceless album and though, “Hey, now people want tech death to sound like this.” Sure, the technicality is still present, but it just seems to have no purpose. On all of Atheist’s older albums, the songs had a sense of direction–the technicality was there for a reason, and the complex song structures were natural progressions of the music. Here, it just feels like technicality for the sake of being technical, with parts just cut and pasted together. I think I need to go through this album track by track to really get all of my gripes out.

In addition, there are some attempts at being catchy (which Atheist used to be surprisingly good at, considering that they’re a death metal band), such as on ‘Second to Sun,’ but those fail miserably. That riff at 2:01 sounds like some shit I’d hear in a Lamb of God song! That section at 2:40? It sounds like some bad attempt at a breakdown. No, not like the awesome one in ‘An Incarnation’s Dream,’ but more like one you’d find in a Suicide Silence song. Yuck!

Surely things must get better, right? Well, no. ‘Fictitious Glide’ is next, and this is just getting more boring by the minute. The riffs at the beginning of this song are so bland it isn’t even funny. Then the “technicality” shows up for some reason, and it sounds completely out of place. It just gets worse when Kelly’s vocals join in the mess, making for a clusterfuck of tech-drivel. The solos are stale and forced, just like any modern tech-death that’s been released over the past few years. Hell, what the fuck is with that riff at 3:11? I could almost see some crappy groove metal band playing that. At the very least, the solo section starting at 3:45 is decent. It sounds a bit forced (especially due to the fact that it’s rather fast, considering that speed has never been a priority for Atheist), but at least it’s an interesting enough arrangement.

‘Fraudulent Cloth’ just starts with an obnoxiously boring riff, and Kelly’s vocals has never sounded so past their prime. I saw Atheist live last year, and they played an amazing show, so I really don’t know what happened to Kelly’s vocals between then and now. Well, this song is just more of the same. Sterile production, sterile riffs, and “tech-y” songwriting (and I mean that in the most negative way possible). When I hear the obligatory tech bits in these songs, I can’t help but be reminded of later-era (read as: boring) Dream Theater. It just feels like it’s now a contest of “Look what I can do,” and it fails miserably at sounding like a coherent musical structure.

‘Live, and Live Again’ continues with the boring, simple riffs that eventually transition into boring technical sections. The chorus on this song is just laughable, and the production here sounds especially botched for some reason. Oh well. The break at 1:50 had some potential, but Kelly’s Mudvayne-like vocals just make this section impossible to take seriously.

‘Faux King Christ’ starts with a rather boring intro. Kelly’s vocals sound pretty funny here too, with the chorus of “Faux King Christ” sounding like “FUCK-ING CHRIST.” Oh, how clever! If you want some lifeless guitar wankery, then jump straight to 1:53 and hear the solo. Really, it’s getting pointless for me to keep describing these songs, since they’re practically indistinguishable from each other and completely unmemorable aside from a few silly vocal lines.

‘Tortoise The Titan’ might just be the dumbest title I’ve ever heard for a metal song. Sadly, the title is pretty much the only interesting thing going on here. These tremolo-picked riffs that are appearing all over Jupiter are just so utterly stale, and this song has a particularly boring one. Otherwise, just skip on to the next track.

The intro from ‘When the Beast’ is a perfect example of another gripe of mine with Jupiter. Whenever Atheist try to mix the death metal elements of their music with the jazzier, more technical drumming, it just sounds like a mess. On their older albums, Atheist did this with ease, so I’m just left here wondering what the hell happened. But none of that is as bad as the fucking nu-metal riff at 0:55. But wait, now there’s one of the fucking laziest breakdowns I’ve ever heard in my fucking life at 3:39! WHY?????? This is nothing like the Atheist of old. Instead, it’s a mockery of what used to be one of the best death metal bands in existence. I honestly can’t fathom how this is even Atheist.

Thankfully, ‘Third Person’ is the last song here. The intro was decently enough–a hell of a lot better than most of this album–but the vocals again make this laughable. This song has more of that chugging failure that has ruined some of the other songs on Jupiter, and by now, I can’t believe that they ever let such lazy riffing bear the Atheist name, a name which used to guaranty quality and originality.

Ever since I heard the first rumors about this album, I’ve been excited for it. Sure, reunions sometimes fail miserably, but hey, Cynic’s recent reunion turned out wonderfully. Traced in Air isn’t Focus, but it feels like a Cynic album, a definitively logical progression from their older material. Jupiter, unfortunately, feels like a rushed mash-up of bad ideas that were formed based on what the modern perception of technical death metal is, not the perception that Atheist pioneered for the genre back in the day. I hate to write such a negative review for a band I that used to be one of my favorites, but all I can say is that this is a genuine response from a genuine fan. I went into this wanting it to be my favorite album of the year, and it ended up being one of the most disappointing albums I’ve ever listened to. No joke, I actually shed a tear when I finished my first listen of Jupiter. Sorry, Atheist, but I can’t honestly recommend this album to anyone in good faith.

Written for http://thenumberoftheblog.com/

To your shattered bodies go - 83%

autothrall, November 8th, 2010

I was a firm enough follower of Atheist for their first few albums, the vicious Piece of Time and the more interesting sophomore Unquestionable Presence, but I've never attributed the same level of praise upon them that others have so insisted upon. They were a potent, competent contribution to a generational genre clash that unfortunately would not bear enough fruit, plagued with the early death of profound bassist Roger Patterson and then the uneven train wreck of 1993 known as Elements. I never found their schizoid flights of unrest quite as compelling as the Cynic debut Focus, or the early 90s efforts by Holland's mighty Pestilence, but they had their place, and like those acts, they have been reborn to a new century with an impeccably crafted comeback album.

Jupiter will have its naysayers, of course, void-like murmurs and mouth breathers that will naturally reject the band's course despite the fact that it retains surprisingly loyal to their earlier trajectory. But had the tables been turned, this album arriving as their third in the mid 90s, it would likely be heralded as a classic for all time. It's amazingly acrobatic and aggressive at the same time, and unlike the diminishing hipness of a Dillinger Escape Plan, it somehow evades the blinding din of technicality over structure. Each track is a fascinating experiment in twisting thrash/death psychosis that bleeds ambition, breeds intuition, and never once insults the eager audience. Kelly Shaefer's at his arguable best, creating a gnarled dementia through his strangely offsetting nasal barks, and the three guitarists (Shaefer himself, and Jonathan Thompson and Chris Baker of Gnostic) explode with ideas. Thompson is also an adequate bassist, covering for the band's alumni Patterson and Tony Choy, and Steve Flynn returns to the drum position he left after the second album.

We should also extend some credit to Jason Suecof, who to this point has engineered a slew of over hyped albums that bounced between technical death metal and the trendier metalcore climes. Jupiter is by far his best and most important contribution to date, and through his own technical death background, he really knows how to capture the band's spastic fretting and the 'bounce' of the jazzy, fusion-based rhythmic fundamentals. "Fictitious Glide" and "Fraudulent Cloth" are two of my favorites here, with enough frenetic mass to keep me enthralled through many repeated listens, incorporating the precise, clinical surgery so inclement to the success of this style, manifest through paranoid patterns and looping labyrinths of miasma. Then exists the more atmospheric dementia of a "Live and Live Again", or the thrusting discord of "When the Beast", or the writhing narcotic death of "Tortoise the Titan".

This has been a crazy few years for bands returning from a career coma with renewed ambition, and like most, Atheist seem sincere in a desire to get 'back on track'. Had bands like this persisted through the dead spot of the 90s, who knows what the form might have evolved into this past decade, but sometimes you've gotta stretch your wings before you can fly again. Jupiter is not perfect; in my opinion, no Atheist record ever has been, but it's a tight and terrifying experience which retains its luster even after the initial shock of the band's stylistic flexing wears down into their rapt attention to atmosphere and nuance, and this is arguably their most devious and delicious child of love and hate to date.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com