Unquestionable Presence: Live At Wacken

Written by: EW on 23/07/2009 19:02:51

Disclaimer: I may sound slightly biased in this forthcoming review. Infact I'll lay my cards out now: Atheist are fucking amazing. "Piece Of Time" and "Unquestionable Presence", even 20 and 18 years after their respective releases, are still two benchmarks for the entire technical death metal genre and sound as brilliant today as they were misunderstood back in the early 90's in their native Florida and beyond. They split after 1993's "Elements" record before reforming in 2006 and starting off with a show at Wacken Open Air - a show I witnessed and remember as if it were yesterday. Well this live album, recorded that very day, and attached best of, is something I never expected to have the pleasure of reviewing so forgive me if I sound a little over-excited.

Now it seems all technical DM/deathcore bands these days claim that they propagate a style that helpfully combines 'technical' and 'listenable' in to one digestible package. Well I'm good to tell you now that that is complete bollocks. You may at this point disagree but listen to Atheist for yourself below and see for yourself why Kelly Shaefer, Tony Choy, Steve Flynn and pals are held in such high regard. Songs like "On They Slay", "And The Psychic Saw" and "Piece Of Time" are technical metal tour-de-forces, each travelling between moments of bass-led wonder, sonic riff heaven and the ultimate reason for Atheist's unarguable brilliance: downright catchy, listenable and enjoyable METAL songs.

The eight tracks comprising the live part of the album are taken wholly from "Piece Of Time" (3) and "Unquestionable Presence" (5), with the sound powerful and clear, heavy and concise. Diagrammatically dissecting their sound for you seems a bit silly when you could watch excellent footage of that show yourself - find here "Piece Of Time" and "And The Psychic Saw" as just two delicious examples. Convinced yet? I hope so.

The 'best of' portion of the package (disc 2) covers 11 songs including three from "Elements", a record that was so ahead of it's time I'm not sure even Atheist knew what was going on in it! Six of these eleven tracks are to be found on the live disc, making me wonder their selection slightly but thankfully the songs chosen are of such a spectacular quality only a death metal scrooge can find many arguments with it.

My initial experimentation with this band came when I bought their vinyl boxset (never the cheapest of items) before having heard a single second of their music, such is their reputation in the genre. It is now one of my most prized musical possessions. Anyone who claims to carry the flag of any strand of heavy metal has a duty to research the genres major footnotes, especially so for fans of more recent styles of (extreme) metal. Without the likes of Atheist and Death the 'technical death metal' world would be a radically different place, and short of vinyl boxsets for the complete nerds like myself, this release represents the best chance for everyone to discover a vital band in metal's history.


Download: Piece Of Time, On They Slayer, Unquestionable Presence, Unholy War, Mother Man, And The Psychic Saw
For The Fans Of: Death, Cynic and all technical extreme metal
Listen: Myspace

Release date 21.07.2009
Relapse Records

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