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Unquestionable Quality. - 95%

Andromeda_Unchained, December 6th, 2011

Whilst thrash was peaking around the late 80's and early 90's everyone was getting their panties in a twist over all things death metal, and in 1990 along with Nocturnus' The Key Atheist and their sophomore effort helped shape up the technical branch of the death metal family tree.

Where as Nocturnus provided us with a blast of furious Sci-Fi infused death metal, shooting guitar solos out left, right, and center, Atheist presented us with a more natural, jazz infused release. Now whilst Unquestionable Presence is undoubtedly a heavy affair, I think that this album offered something a little more concise, without having to rely on the fancy keyboards and flamboyant lead guitar work of their counterparts Nocturnus.

Now Nocturnus isn't the best band to play Atheist off with, and I'll be leaving it there as far as comparing the two bands go. Merely a ploy to establish what Atheist offered as opposed to their other "technical death metal" partners in crime. Even acts such as Death, Cynic, and Pestilence who are usually uttered amongst the same section of Atheist couldn't draw many similarities, especially considering this was 1990. Death were still quite savage, although setting the pieces in the motion for Human, Cynic were bang in the midst of their demo stage, and Pestilence were still relatively pugilistic.

History lesson aside, as far as the time went Unquestionable Presence was quite a unique piece of music when it was first released, and arguably instigated the whole technical death metal thing. Although I hate that term, and especially when comparing this to the more modern ADHD technical death bands. In fact, I'm sick of typing that. Progressive death... Now that, feels a lot nicer.

Now veering back on track, as I said earlier Unquestionable Presence boasts a solid injection of jazz influence, the band utilized a bunch of odd time signatures, and even some almost Latin use of rhythm. The premature death of bassist Roger Patterson was a travesty, and it really is a shame he wasn't around to record the final versions of the bass lines he wrote. However, Tony Choy recorded the bass parts very well, and I'm sure Roger would have approved.

Rand and Kelly really push the boundaries as far as the guitar work goes, and it is no surprise Kelly came to have tendonitis and carpal tunnel. Steve's drumming is absolutely impeccable here, his performance is incredible almost putting to shame the work he laid down on Piece of Time, he really keeps everything together and everything from fills to cymbal work, to even the tasteful use of the double pedal is just great. Kelly's vocals much similar to the way they were on the debut, which is great, and the sleaze still hadn't cut through yet.

The whole track listing is an exercise in technically brilliant progressive death metal, and I really don't need to mention much in the way of standouts here. Atheist were really on the money, and I wonder how different things would have been had Roger not passed on. Regardless, nothing changes the fact that Unquestionable Presence is a great release, and worthy of the praise it receives.