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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2005
Man, I'd been waiting to get this album for a damn long time, but it proved to be worth the wait. (Good thing I just don't have it in me to pay 60 frickin dollars for a used cd) Atheist are inevitably mentioned in the same breath as Death and Cynic when they talk about the roots of the modern tech-metal and jazz-metal movements. Atheist often seem to be considered the least of the 3, but listening to this album, they predict modern musical trends better than either of those bands. Both Death and Cynic could be exceedingly technical, and displayed plenty of jazz influence, but they are more melodic and less chaotic than modern tech bands(and Atheist). Simply put, while listening to 'Unquestionable Presence' you can hear something closer to 'Calculating Infinity' or `The Design' than you'll here in anything from Death or Cynic. (This is still definitely death metal, however, not metalcore)

Still, the Death and Cynic comparisons are appropriate, with this album sounding somewhere between 'Human' and 'Individual Thought Patterns' but, again, jazzier and more chaotic than either of those albums. Unsurprisingly, this album can take a bit of effort to get into, as there isn't much to latch onto at first. Frankly, I was a bit disappointed in this album initially, but after about 10 repeated listens it's definitely living up to it's reputation. Now quite a few things stick out: The somewhat more mellow, bass-driven instrumental section at the end of 'Mother Man'; the title tracks memorable chorus; The stunning solo around minute 2 of 'Retribution'; the atmospherics and brief acoustic workin 'An Incarnation's Dream'; the more melodic trem riffs of 'The Formative Years' and the swirling, memorable licks that fill 'And the Psychic Saw'. Of course, this sorta album isn't about catchiness or memorability, but it's always best to have somethings that stick out. And, there are plenty of ultra-tech metal albums out there that sound really good while you're listening to them, but which you don't come back to as much as you'd think, simply because it's hard to remember anything in particuarly about it, other than that you like it. (Well, that happens to *me*, anyway.)

The instrumentation here is impeccable, especially considering how young these guys were. The bass is of particular note, with credit going both to Tony Choy, who actually laid down the tracks, and Roger Patterson, who wrote the material. I wish more metal bands would actually allow the bass a prominent role, like here. On top of the remarkably complex, rumbling basslines they get a lot more sound out of the bass than you'll usually here, with lotsa cracking and pinging and whatnot. The guitars are almost equally impressive, with a very wide variety of riffs, never letting one particular flavor dominate. The lead guitar is less impressive. Sometimes it's excellent, but about as often it's just kinda formless and uninteresting. Still, it's no great problem. Steve Flynn's drums are some of the jazziest you're ever likely to hear on a metal album, with a very jazzy sound to the snare, and plenty of ultra-quick snare rolls. Good stuff. The vox are a deathly shriek. Not bad, not particularly interesting.

Having not heard the original, I can't compare the sound of the album. It's sounds pretty good considering when it was made, though it's so dense that you can't help but with for a little more clarity. The bonus tracks are just a bunch of demos, and are of no particular interest to me, but others may disagree.

Yeah, check it out.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 2005
About 7 years ago I managed to find all the original Atheist albums in my good old home country of South Africa for the amazingly low price of only R100 (about $15) each. They soon became my favourite band, and started me on a quest to find the most technical metal bands in the world.

All these years later, after sampling the best from bands such as Death, Dream Theater, Spiral Architect, Andromeda, Cryptopsy, and Necrophagist, Atheist still ranks at the top. The only two of those others that even come close are Necrophagist and Spiral Architect, though the line-up on Death: Individual Thought Patterns is a truly formidable one.

The sound of these new remastered editions is truly remarkable; the original albums weren't perfect, but they had a rough element that I hold close to my heart, but now I possess the albums in the way that Atheist probably wanted us to hear them. Included are some great bonus tracks. I couldn't believe it when I heard the demos from 1990 featuring Roger Patterson. I think he must be the most talented musician that the metal scene has ever produced. Tony Choy is amazing, and did a capable job of filling Patterson's shoes, but I can only imagine what would have happened had Patterson not died and lived on to grace us with his musical ingenuity.

Thank you Atheist and Relapse for reissuing these albums so that more people can grow to appreciate just how influential this band really was. Here's hoping that a reunion tour comes around soon.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 14, 2005
These are long overdue re-issues. Hats off to Relapse for finally having the sense to finally do it. Haven't got Piece of Time yet but this one and Elements have undergone some major sound improvements. The original of this sounds fine, but the remaster seems to present everything much clearer and with more punch. The demos with Roger Peterson are a treat to hear. What an amazing bass player and writer, who knows where his career wouldv'e gone if he were still alive today. My only complaint is the printing job on this and especially Elements. Maybe it's just my copies, but the printing is horrible. I know most people probably think it's a minor detail, but being a graphic designer and somewhat of a anal critical perfectionist when it comes to printing, I'm pretty dissappointed with the reprinted artwork. Looks like it was just scanned from the original without any color correction, not reprinted from the original plates. The artwork on both covers lack the clarity of the originals and they seem much darker with a bit of blurriness to them. About the only people that seem to be able to get it right when it comes to printing is the Japanese. Anyway, that minor point aside, these re-issues are awsome. Essential for any prog rock/metal fan or simply fan of eclectic mmusic in general. Can't wait to get Piece of Time.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2007
Good lord, I love Atheist, they are truly one of the most unique, amazingly talented, and most influentual and original sounding technical death metal bands on the planet. Being a huge fan of technical death metal and all, I've heard from so many metal fans how amazing this band truly was, I knew at firsthand I had to get into them, and I did just that, and I sure didn't regret it one bit. I became a fan of Atheist over the summer when I bought "Piece of Time", "Unquestionable Presence", and "Elements" at FYE down in Eau Claire. I really had a rough time trying to decide which album to start out with, so I went and bought all three of them, and I was sure glad I did. So afterwards Atheist quickly became one of my all time favorite death metal bands as of right now.

I definately got to say, of all three albums, "Unquestionable Presence" is Atheist's all time best album, and it's also a landmark in technical death metal as well as jazz-fusion death metal. "Unequestionable Presence" is an amazing out of this world techical death metal assault loaded with out of this world techical guitar riffs and dazzling scorching solos, incredible odd time signatures, mindblowing tempo changes, awesome jazzy bass lines and fantastic drumming that can be fast and at other times downright funky as well. The lyrics on here deal with outer space, nature, politics, corruption, and other things like that.

Please keep in mind, that the bass lines here on Unquestionable Presence were all written by Roger Patterson whom I consider to be one of the most incredibly gifted, sickest, and most talented bassists in heavy metal. But on Feburary 12, 1991, fate would strike a cruel blow when Roger died in a tour van accident in Louisiana before the recording sessions for the album even took place. However his replacement on the album, Tony Choy (who was also in fellow Floridian death metallers Cynic) came and did such a fantastic job at nailing Roger's bass lines to absolute perfection. I applaud him for that. Kelly Shaefer's vocals are I would definately say very similar to Kreator and late-period Death. Together Kelly and Rand Burkey dazzle and amaze the listener with their out of this world guitar riffs and wild mindblowing solos. Steve Flynn's drumming on here is dare I say absolutely incredible whose beats can range from pounding fast to downright jazzy and funky.

Every song on Unquestionable Presence is just amazing. The opening track "Mother Man" is a very funky song which starts off with a snappy jazz-oriented bass groove, and has great riffs, a killer solo, and a neat bass-driven instrumetal at the end. The title track starts off with a cool intro which sounds like a windstorm and some mellow chords, and also features some fast drums, catchy headbanging riffs, another great solo, some funky bass lines and a memorable chorus to boot. "Retribution" is another memorable favorite that includes more great solos and some head smacking bass lines that would make Flea or even Les Claypool blush with envy. Track four "Enthralled in Essence" has some catchy riffs, some more great solos, and some nice solid double bass drumming as well. Antother classic track, "An Incarnations Dream" starts off with a nice accoustic number and features some weird time signatures. "The Formative Years" features some more solid fast drumming as well as some catchy aggressive riffing, bass lines, and some more jaw-dropping solos to boot, while track seven "Brains" has some more funky head smacking bass and fantastic drumming. Then we finally have the epic closer "And The Psychic Saw" which includes some powerful headbanging riffs and fast pounding drums as well as some nice tempo changes. As for the bonus tracks, we have some pre-production demos from 1990 featuring Roger Patterson which is definately a nice treat.
Jeremy's song ratings:
Unquestionable Presence album:
1. Mother Man (4:33) - 5/5
2. Unquestionable Presence (4:06) - 5/5
3. Retribution (3:17) - 5/5
4. Enthralled in Essence (3:37) - 5/5
5. An Incarnations Dream (4:52) - 5/5
6. The Formative Years (3:30) - 5/5
7. Brains (3:41) - 5/5
8. And The Psychic Saw (4:49) - 5/5
Pre-Production Demos 8/90 featuring Roger Patterson
9. Enthralled in Essence (3:32) - 5/5
10. The Formative Years (3:29) - 5/5
11. Unquestionable Presence (3:55) - 5/5
12. An Incarnations Dream (4:09) - 5/5
13. Retribution (instrumental) (3:19) - 5/5
14. Brains (instrumental) (3:40) - 5/5
Demo 1990 featuring Roger Patterson
15. Enthralled in Essence (3:44) - 5/5
Drums and Bass Track
16. Mother Man (4:43) - 5/5
Rhythm Track
17. And The Psychic Saw (4:37) - 5/5

I normally don't write long reviews, but since that this album is soooooo good, I thought that it deserved a long well thought out written review. Bottom Line: If you call yourself a fan of prog/technical death metal and you've not experienced the music of Atheist, then you are truly missing out. I'm sure glad I experienced it. Buy this classic album now, heck buy all their albums, I'm glad I did. Later dudes!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2006
My original review, written on April 21, 2006, was not written too good. I felt that this legendary band should deserve a better review for probably the best technical-death metal album out there. So, Atheist. I can't consider this band a true "death metal" band, mainly because they aren't straight forward brutality. They are more technical...with more jazz elements and more complex rhythms. Led by Kelly Shaefer on lead guitar and vocals, Rand Burkey on guitars, Roger Patterson on bass and Steve Flynn on drums, the band recorded their first album, the legendary "Piece Of Time", in 1990. But, tragedy fell after bassist Roger Patterson was killed in a bus accident. Roger was, in my opinion, and still remains the best bassist in metal. He implemented jazz into his funky bass lines and created something that was outrageous. He wrote the bass lines for "Unquestionable Presence", but since he died before recording, Tony Choy took over (who is also great). What they recorded here was perhaps the best technical-death metal album ever.

The album was produced and mixed by metal behemoth Scott Burns, and it was mixed perfectly. It's hard to explain, but you could actually focus on a particular instrument of your choice and hear it perfectly, or listen to the whole thing and it's sounds great. The bass is totally audible. The lyrics deal with outer space, corruption, politics and other stuff, and are pretty good for a death metal band. The vocals are done by lead guitarist Kelly Shaefer. They are...err...different. It's very hard to explain them, but it is not death metal grunts, and you could understand everything and it's a little more accessible then, maybe, late 80's Norwegian black metal. The bass, as stated above, is audible and amazing. Roger Patterson wrote the bass lines, and Tony Choy filled in the shoes and did them to perfection. They are very jazzy, but sound quite awesome backing up the amazing guitar work by Shaefer and Burkey. Both these guys deserve medals. Kelly's solos and riffage is out of this world, and Rand keeps rhythm to perfection. This is a band to model yours garage band after.

The album starts off with "Mother Man", a very funky tune with a snappy opening bass line, a great solo and good riffage. Following is the title track, the best song on the album and one of the best tech-death songs ever. It's got a great riff, a great solo and more funky bass lines. "Retribution" is good, with a standout guitar solo. "Enthralled In Essence" is great all-around, with another great guitar solo and more bass lines. The guitars are kind of underappreciated here because the bass is so great, but nonetheless it still kicks everyone's (...). The epic "An Incarnation's Dream" follows. Starting with an acoustic number with sound effects of your typical ghetto in the background (gunshots, sirens, etc.), it sets the mood for another one of the best death metal songs ever. The song has weird time signatures and has one of the best outro's to any song...ever. Yeah, it's that great. The last three songs had a lot to live up to, and started with "The Formative Years". This is the underappreciated song here. It is very good. I was never too crazy about "Brains", the next song, but it is good. The album ends with the near-perfect "And the Psychic Saw...", capping off a legendary tech-death masterpiece.

Atheist is one of the most underappreciated and underrated bands in the entire extreme metal scene. They had some rough times with the crowds in the United States back in the early 90's, specifically at a Cannibal Corpse and Gorguts concert, where the fans booed them off stage. Close-minded (...) I say, but it was probably the wrong bill for them. As they went on, they disbanded and their albums were long out of print. Until 2005. The day I heard Relapse was going to give us the three Atheist reissue's with added tracks, I (...) myself. But what Relapse gave us was more then anyone would of expected. They gave us 9, yes 9, bonus tracks. And what was the best was it was Roger Patterson pre-production demo material from August 1990. Oh, let's just say I (...) myself...twice. If it couldn't get any better, the songs were produced pretty descent, and Roger's bass could be heard perfectly. It sounds 10 times better than Choy's versions (which were still great...but you know) and they included the best tracks, most importantly "An Incarnation's Dream" and the title track. So, Atheist finally, after all these years, got their respect. They are currently doing a reunion tour all over Europe, and Steve Flynn's side project, Gnostic, is doing good. Atheist has just begun, again, to take what they were never given in the early 90's Florida death metal scene, and that's respect.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2007
Atheist is the most amazing metal band. You will never forget their songs after you listen to them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2012
Please note that this review is for the 2005 reissue released by Relapse Records.

I remember it being April of 2006, when I was on my way out of high school and eating up any good-looking thrash and death metal albums recommended to me. I got this album at the nearest FYE one Friday after school, and popped it in my car CD player. While I liked what I heard, the vocals were a little of a turnoff for me since at the time, I only wanted lower-pitched growls in my death metal. Just like with Atheist's first album, "Piece of Time," this would be another one of those albums that I would listen to in the near future after purchasing it and realizing just how awesome it really is. Even after digesting a ton of other superb extreme metal albums over the years, I still hold this as one of the best the genre has to offer.

After creating the masterful "Piece of Time," Atheist would tour for the album and in late 1990/early 1991, would start work on "Unquestionable Presence." This period is marked with intense sadness because in February of 1991, while the band was on the road, their van was in a bad accident, leaving Roger Patterson dead (not to mention the others were hurt as well). However, the band refused to let this stop them, as they got Cynic bassist Tony Choy to fill Roger's shoes, and Choy's contributions would have made Patterson proud.

STYLE

The music style in "Unquestionable Presence" is pretty similar to "Piece of Time," but with a stronger emphasis on jazz and progressive elements, though the band doesn't abandon their thrash roots. It's a perfect balance of evolution, complexity, and all-out metal aggression.

MUSICIANSHIP

As usual, Kelly Shaefer delivers excellent guitar and vocal work on this album. Shaefer continues the vocal style he mastered in "Piece of Time" with what sounds like a slightly more frenzied delivery, which is a good thing. His riffs and solos have improved as well (which is a surprise, since they were already amazing). Shaefer and Burkey deliver more jazz and progressive guitar riffs in their songs, all while still playing the thrashing metal mayhem they mastered in their previous album. Shaefer's solos have also matured as well, delivering a varied pallet of music while still being unmistakeably heavy f***ing metal. I think the best songs that reflect the evolution in guitars would be "Mother Man," "Retribution," "Enthralled in Essence," and "And the Psychic Saw."

Rand Burkey has also improved. Like Shaefer, Burkey has improved his riff construction and guitar solos. With the solos, instead of being the sporadic explosions of notes that they were in "Piece of Time," they show more maturity and development by playing longer, tuneful solos that perfectly display Burkey's and Shaefer's talents. I think the songs with the best guitar solos has to be in "Retribution" and "The Formative Years."

Tony Choy had a gigantic task to live up to Roger Patterson's masterful bass work. Thankfully, Choy not only filled those shoes, but evolved on what the band originally sought out. Choy's bass is not only very pronounced in the songs, but also shows more depth through good use of dynamics. Choy perfectly executed moments in the songs that assault the listener with frenetic bass while in some others, delivers more mellow bass lines that fit the songs like a glove. I think some of his best bass would be in songs like "Mother Man," "Retribution," "An Incarnation's Dream," and "And the Psychic Saw."

Steve Flynn, like the rest of the musicians here, has shown growth. Aside from perfectly delivering frenetic fills and beats perfect for a thrash/death metal album, he slows down with the rest of the band in the appropriate moments, and pulls it off perfectly.

SONGS

Like in "Piece of Time," picking out favorite songs is extremely difficult since all of them are so brilliant. If I had to pick out favorites, they'd be "Mother Man," "Unquestionable Presence," "Retribution," "Enthralled in Essence," "An Incarnation's Dream," "The Formative Years," and "And the Psychic Saw." "Mother Man" has some killer bass towards the beginning while being followed by a jazzy metal section, then followed by mid-paced thrashing intensity. The guitar solo in it will wow you like mad, and the bass around 3:21 excellently transitions into something more mellow. "Unquestionable Presence" has some excellent dynamics in this one as it starts off pretty mellow but gracefully changes into a metal monster. "Retribution" has one of the best guitar solos on the whole album, followed by nifty bass patterns that are really uncommon in metal circles. "Enthralled in Essence" has a really cool guitar solo near the middle followed by one of the coolest sets of riffs I ever heard in a metal album. I can keep going, but I want to save you some surprises in this album.

PRODUCTION

As usual, Scott Burns and Morrisound do a great job producing the album. Everything comes in crystal clear, including the bass. Despite the crystal clear sound quality, nothing sounds sterile. The sound quality helps enhance how full of life all the music is.

BONUS TRACKS

Relapse Records' reissue of this album also has nine bonus tracks. This includes a one track demo featuring Roger Patterson, a pre-production demo featuring Patterson, a "drum and bass" track, and a rhythm track. The pre-production demos with Patterson in them are neat to listen to since they serve a little as reminders as what the album might have sounded like had Roger still lived. The most interesting track on here is the "drum and bass" track of "Mother Man." Since Atheist is a band with excellent drum and bass players, it's neat to hear only these instruments do their work for this song. I actually would have liked to hear more renditions of others songs in this manner.

FINAL WORD

In a world where the term "masterpiece" is used too much, Atheist's "Unquestionable Presence" is an album truly deserving of such a label.

This album is the perfect successor to "Piece of Time." If you're a death metal fan, you owe it to yourself to pick up "Piece of Time" and especially "Unquestionable Presence." You won't be disappointed in either.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2009
I've listened to this album backwards and forwards, upwards and downwards, leftwards and rightwards. And from every angle, it still sounds freaking awesome.

This is atheist's sophomore release, and I'll go on record and say it is the strongest. Atheist was already a progressive band right from "go" with Piece of Time, so their second album is definitely able to fully let go and breath the sweet smell of success.

From the very beginning, Unquestionable Presence is obviously not your straightforward death metal group. They use complex chords, complex structures, and lyrics that tackle subjects besides senseless violence and people generally sucking. I love the style that Kelly Schaefer and Rand Burkey exhibit in both their lead and rythym work. They really stand out amongst a sea of people content with being typical and bland. The drumming work also deserves top marks. This guy (Steve Flynn) is not some schmo with marginal talent just playing fast to hide mistakes and lack of creativity. He knows perfectly how to lay down the beat whilst also each piece just perfectly to create his own style. And as for the bass? Roger Patterson is immensely skilled both in his technique and his creativity. He wrote truly original basslines. He wasn't just a guy who played bass and followed the guitars' root notes, he actually wrote his own parts to accentuate the guitars. And it is simply extraordinary.

Now with that in mind, let me remind you that atheist is not some simplistic Cannibal Corpse-ish band who know only blast beats or breakdowns. No sir, Atheist is way above that.

You see, this is a band that could, in another life, be a jazz ensemble playing at real upscale venues wearing nice hats; they really are THAT good. Seriously though, this is a band with true, genuine skill. You will find no flashy solos consisting of lots of whammy bars or huge bends or excessive pinch harmonics. What you get is jazzy death metal that never ceases to amaze me.

I wish I had been a fan of these guys longer, just so I could sit back and remember all the times I was remembering how great Atheist was.

Are they straightforward? No. Not even close. That may be their greatest weakness. But it could also, and probably is, their greatest strength.

By the way: I saw Atheist in concert on the 14th, and they were AMAZING.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 8, 2005
man,if their was ever a band whose back-catalog deserved another look it's Atheist...

they broke out onto the "scene" during the height of the grunge years,when many a metal fan jumped ship - a shame,as this was quite an innovative time for the genre as a whole.

anyway,the fine folks at relapse brought you an early Christmas gift in the form of re-mastered Atheist classics with bonus tracks,liner notes,etc."technical metal" doesnt quite give this justice,but i suppose it is a start.think Watchtower mixed with the classic Florida Morrisound studio vibe....
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 2009
Many times, even with good progressive bands, technicality overcomes soul and feeling. Atheist, however, never had a single song that came across as anything less than powerful, energized and inspired. Filled with awesome/baffling riffs, crazy time signatures and beautiful solos, Atheist's "Unquestionable Presence" is a milestone in prog death, and even metal in general.
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