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15 tablatures for Atheist

Atheist - Unquestionable Presence (9,5/10) - USA - 1991

Genre: Death Metal
Label: Death
Playing time: 32:24
Band homepage: Atheist


  1. Mother Man
  2. Unquestionable Presence
  3. Your Life's Retribution
  4. Enthralled In Essence
  5. An Incarnation's Dream
  6. The Formative Years
  7. Brains
  8. And The Psychic Saw
Atheist - Unquestionable Presence
To put it plainly, this is one of the most influential Technical Death Metal albums of all-time...and I don't think many fans of the genre would disagree with me here. For the year 1991, this was about as "out there" as any Death Metal band had taken things in terms of psychotic riffs, stop-start unison breaks, odd meters, and time changes. The obvious jazz/fusion interweavings in the riffs and occasional mellow interludes was also another rare commodity in the Death Metal scene as far as influences go, as in 1991 more bands were worried about how well they could imitate DEICIDE or CANNIBAL CORPSE. The only other band I know of which took such an overtly jazz-infused approach to songwriting at that time was CYNIC, whose album "Focus" would not be released for another two years. Therefore, ATHEIST were pretty much the forerunners of the Jazz/Death genre in terms of exposing it to the Metal public...

Stylistically, "Unquestionable..." is centered around the band's trademark "notes galore" riffs. Using this philosophy as a foundation, ATHEIST venture into a myriad of experimental rhythmic, melodic and harmonic terrains, each musician utilizing an almost reckless degree of artistic freedom in connecting with the rest of the band musically. Steve Flynn's chaotic drum flurries, meshed with (the late) Roger Patterson's 29-fingered slap-bass assault, pretty much render useless the term "rhythm section". Rather, the duo opt for a more integrative approach to their contribution to the whole of "Unquestionable...". This truly is the work of a BAND, each member exploring his instrument with a youthful zeal, all in the name of experimentation. The end result is brilliant - and not nearly as pretentious as this paragraph!

Each song gracefully morphs from Thrash to Latin/Jazz to odd-metered insanity to stop/go/stop/stop/go band hits at seemingly random intervals, yet with enough listens one will realize that it is not random at all. Each song is like its own unique, precisely calculated Technical Death symphony, communicating to the brain on a much higher and more advanced level then what can readily be ascertained by the average listener.

Simply put, this is mind-expanding stuff! This is the very definition of thoroughly demanding musical indulgence. In the course of eight songs, the listener undergoes a complete paradigm shift in what he or she had once thought was "music". Where once existed impermeable boundaries in the creative subconscious, now there are only vast fields of musical discovery.

With "Unquestionable...", we have a thing I like to call "pure art", next time I'll try not to sound like a psychoanalyst when describing it. (Online September 24, 2002)

Gabriel Gose

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