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Atheist - "Jupiter" (CD)

Atheist - "Jupiter" CD cover image

"Jupiter" track listing:

1. Second to Sun (4:04)
2. Fictitious Glide (4:53)
3. Fraudulent Cloth (3:24)
4. Live and Live Again (3:39)
5. Faux King Christ (4:02)
6. Tortoise the Titan (3:40)
7. When the Beast (4:57)
8. Third Person (4:08)

Reviewed by on October 7, 2010

" 'Jupiter' quite firmly plants the flag of no nonsense technical metal into the soil with little regard for melody, hearkening back to 'Piece Of Time' sans the thrash influence."

Atheist is the stuff of legends. The band was one of the single biggest inciters of the technical metal movement and produced three legendary albums before evaporating into the 90s alongside their brethren. But now it is they who are following in the footsteps as one of the last greats of the era to reunite and produce a new album of which I now possess - "Jupiter."

So in a nutshell, lets get out of the way the fact that this is another great piece of work to add to the collection. Yes, in fact this first paragraph could have just as easily been made up of descriptions of a range of riffs that I thought were cool. But, under the surface I'm having trouble not relegating it to the status of the "Death Magnetic" of Atheist albums.

How about lets start out with mastermind and vocalist Kelly Schaefer because he is the incarnate of the rabid lions displayed on the magnificent album cover. His vocal style is less raspy than it used to be like on "Piece of Time" but has such a twisted semi-melodic ring it remains spell-binding. When he switches to the growl there's no force lacking, and if I had to describe his style to anyone I'd say he perhaps sounds a little like Chad Gray from Mudvayne. Great range, great dynamics, full marks.

Musically, however, this makes Mudvayne look like Nickelback (that's the band everyone hates, right?) - hell, with the sheer amount of riffs bursting out of all 17 corners of this abstract beast, "Jupiter" make Mastodon look like Led Zeppelin. While Atheist's career saw a gradual shift from death-thrash to technical jazz metal, "Jupiter" quite firmly plants the flag of no nonsense technical metal into the soil with little regard for melody, hearkening back to "Piece Of Time" sans the thrash influence. Despite Rand Burkey's absence on guitar, the speed rarely ever drops and this is some of the most aggressive stuff Atheist has ever laid down, the musicianship (as if it needed to be said) being flawless.

So what were those lingering feelings expressed earlier about then? Mainly, the production. There are few times when an album's production gets on my nerves, but here I can't help but feel there is total lack of dynamics due to the volume and general noise going on everywhere, all of the time. Atheist is a technical band with plenty more nuances than most, so it is a shame we get a production approach that means instruments are so overwhelmingly in your face there's not enough breathing room to appreciate most of it. This is not solely the production however, as there are less musical dynamics here than are present on "Unquestionable Presence" or "Elements," which is unfortunate.

If you're an Atheist fan, you won't be disappointed with the effort of "Jupiter." Kelly has stuck to his word; It looks like Atheist, it smells like Atheist, it's a brutal Atheist album that laughs in the face of ideas of changing direction or selling out. If you can handle the handywork of producer Jason Suecof, then feel free to bump it up a skull, but otherwise I'll have to sit this one in the unquestionable shadow of "Unquestionable Presence."

Highs: Classic brutal Atheist riffs, Schaefer's brilliant vocals

Lows: Lack of dynamics in both the music and the production

Bottom line: Great album worth picking up for for Atheist fans, marred by sheer volume and noise.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)