Back in the early nineties death metal was booming, with bands like Morbid Angel, Deicide, Cannibal Corpse en Suffocation leading the charge. Chuck Schuldiner and Death embraced progression and technique, thus paving the way for bands like Pestilence, Atheist and Cynic to experiment with fusion and jazz. That didn’t go well with the death metal crowd and thus signalled the end for Atheist and their peers. The musical climate changed over the years and people suddenly discovered and appreciated the technical prowess of albums like Piece Of Time (1989), Unquestionable Presence (1991) and Elements (1993). Due to their increasing popularity the band decided to reform again with a brand new album, entitled Jupiter, being the fruit of that.
Unlike their peers in Cynic the guys in Atheist stick to their trademark sound as forged on Piece Of Time and Unquestionable Presence, but without sounding dated. That is quite a feat in itself. People who hoped for a progressive release in the vein of Elements will be disappointed. It would be a powerful artistic statement, but commercial suicide, since Elements was the least succesfull record of the bunch.
So what does Jupiter have to offer? Primarily a barrage of technical guitar riffs, bizarre time changes, beautiful guitar leads and solos and thick bass lines in the spirit of Roger Patterson, their late bass player. It’s not completely over the top like Cryptopsy in their prime, but it gets pretty close in some moments. Another great thing about this album is the fact that Kelly Shaefer and Co managed to capture their technical prowess in actual songs, thus enhancing the overall listening experience. Second To Sun, Fraudulent Cloth, Faux King Christ and Third Person are great examples of that.
The vocals by Kelly Shaefer aren’t Jupiter’s strongest point. Although they’re delivered with a lot of vim and vigour they don’t hold much water compared to the vocal delivery by Patrick Mameli (Pestilence), Frank Mullen (Suffocation) or Ross Dolan (Immolation). Production wise Jupiter is decent, but the somewhat mechanical sound isn’t my cup of tea either.
Jupiter by Atheist shows a confident band who can hold their own against tech meisters like Necrophagist, Gorod, The Faceless and Obscura. Despite the somewhat weak vocals and ditto production I still find Jupiter a very enjoyable effort from a band who deserve a lot of credit and recognition for their past achievements.
written by Raymond Westland