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Atheist is a Technical Death Metal band from Florida. Indeed, a pretty good argument could be made that they are the Tech Death band, along with Death and Cynic, the latter being frequently compared to Atheist. In a sub-genre obsessed with brutality and authenticity, it may be surprising that one of the most acclaimed bands is a difficult, jazz-influenced band, but nevertheless, Atheist is one of the few bands that is regarded by almost all metalheads as genuinely great.
Atheist formed in 1984, first as Oblivion, and later as R.A.V.A.G.E. At this point their sound had a great deal more in common with Thrash Metal than Death Metal, which didn't even really exist yet. Nevertheless, traces of their Jazz influence could still be found in the music of that era. They released their first album, Piece of Time, in 1989. By this point, they had established their signature style of Death Metal/Jazz Fusion. While they were critically acclaimed and highly influential, early audiences expected them to sound more like Cannibal Corpse, which they toured with at least once, and they were frequently booed by said audiences.
While they were recording their second album, Unquestionable Presence, their bassist, Roger Patterson, was killed in a car accident. While they had a number of demos already recorded, the album was far from complete, and they needed another bassist. They had no choice but to recruit Tony Choy, who had also worked with Cynic, in order to record this album. Widely regarded as a classic, both the original recordings and the new ones, Unquestionable Presence is arguably their best-received album, in which the Death Metal and Jazz influences were roughly equal.
Before finally breaking up in 1993, Atheist recorded one last album for contractual purposes. Elements, released in 1993, was perhaps even more important to Technical Death Metal than their previous albums. Released alongside Death's Individual Thought Patterns and Cynic's Focus, it made 1993 a very good year for Tech Death. Upping the Jazz influence, it even contained an instrumental with no metal influence (Samba Briza), though it still managed to rock every bit as hard as anything before it. The band broke up after releasing it, by this point widely regarded as one of the finest Metal bands of their day, both by old-school purists and fans of the emerging technical/experimental genres that would develop during the 90s and beyond.
Lyrically, Atheist had little in common with their contemporaries, and anticipated many more contemplative Metal bands. By Unquestionable Presence, their lyrics looked to the future, to ethereal and esoteric imaginings no doubt influenced by marijuana. Elements, on the other hand, focuses on nature, and specifically, on descriptions of various so-called elemental forces, though not limited to traditional ones. In this respect, they are perhaps more similar to ambient Black Metal bands such as Wolves In The Throne Room or Drudkh, which deal quite often with nature, than they are to other Death Metal bands, which focus on gore and brutality far more than natural elements.
The band has gotten back together, and released a new album in 2010, called Jupiter. It's noticeably heavier than their older albums, but other than that, nothing's really changed.
Their Discography Includes:
- Rotting in Hell, (Demo) 1985
- On They Slay, (Demo) 1987
- Hell Hath No Mercy (Demo) 1987
- Piece of Time, 1989
- Unquestionable Presence, 1991
- Elements, 1993
- Jupiter, 2010
Not to be confused with, well, Atheism.
Atheist provides the following trope examples:
- Author Appeal - Aside from nature, Atheist generally loves transcendental lyrics that focus on life, the universe, and everything, with "Enthralled in Essence" being a good example.
- Crowning Music of Awesome - While most of the band's output since Piece of Time qualifies, a few songs in particular stand out, such as Mineral, Enthralled in Essence, and Your Life's Retribution
- Contemptible Photo - While the covers have aged well, most of the band photos (including the one at the top) are better suited to a Glam Metal band than any death metal band.
- Fandom Rivalry - While very few people dislike either band, Atheist vs Cynic wars are not unknown. They're pretty tame compared to most fights over metal, but they can get fairly heated at times.
- Fridge Brilliance - Atheist's second album is called Unquestionable Presence. Think about it.
- Green Aesop - While most of their nature songs avert this, "Mother Man" plays it straight, which is a bit odd for death metal.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness - Either a hard 9 or a soft 10.
- Religion Rant Song - "No Truth", "Fraudulent Cloth", "Faux King Christ". Really, what did you expect considering the band's name?
- Replacement Scrappy - Decisively averted with Tony Choy. While most fans liked Roger Patterson better, Choy isn't disliked by many of them, partially because he was just a session member, but also because he happens to be a really good jazz fusion musician.
- Seinfeld Is Unfunny - Compared to Gojira, Meshuggah, or Obscura-era Gorguts, it's hard to see just how innovative and unusual Atheist was at the time, though even in that context it's easy to like the band.
- Tear Jerker - Kelly's account of the night of Roger's death; it can be read in the remastered Unquestionable Presence album booklet.
- Technical Death Metal - One of the first bands of the genre, possibly the first.
- Trope Maker
- Viewers Are Geniuses - In order to even begin to understand what Atheist plays, one would need a working knowledge of thrash metal, jazz, progressive rock, funk, and latin music. Try listening to "Mother Man" from Unquestionable Presence, for example.