Sound: Yes, the kings of technical metal are back! 17 years after their supposed swan song, Atheist has come back to a world of metal which wouldn't have been the same without them. Much like the group of pioneering progressive/technical death metal acts of the early 90's (Death, Cynic, Sadist and of course Atheist) who released a few albums then totally disappeared (apart from Cynic, who could only manage one, the lazy-.. Anyway) and then came back with a roaring crash, Jupiter is perhaps one of the most anticipated albums of the new decade. After being faced with numerous member changes (and the parting of Jedi master Tony Choy) it almost looked like we wouldn't be hearing from Shaefer and the mob ever again.
So... how is it? In short: It's like they never left us. Immediately from the off you can hear the disjointed and erratic rhythms which made Atheist such an underground hit. Along with the complex and refreshed riffing comes some of the best balancing between heaviness and melody within pure death metal and there are some moments which feel more uplifting than the short solo to 'Heartwork'. Along with the Atheist's original sound comes the use of Latin rhythms combined with the bass/guitar which still feel like they're sounding as original as they did in 1991. Shaefer also makes his own guitar contribution here and there despite being known to have carpal tunnel syndrome and hence only performing vocals. His contribution is some signature solo's that are featured throughout the album.
Arg, so much to say. As well as being the material we were all expecting (and not something 'surprising' like Traced in Air) the modern production quality makes it sound up to date rather than like it was recorded in a basement in 1985. But really, Atheist sounded way ahead of their time in the 90's and bands today still miss the point entirely when it comes to 'technical death metal' hence still making Atheist ahead of the crowd. Is it flawless? Not quite... perhaps including one of their instrumental Latin jazz tracks such as on 'Elements' it would have been a complete Atheist album but who's to say, it has everything we could have wanted anyway. // 9
Lyrics: Who the hell listens to technical death metal for the lyrics? Even though they may seem relevant to the genre, seeing as Death and Cynic are/were known for good lyrical content, Kelly Shaefer's vocals and lyrical content are not really something that a person would listen to Atheist for. Even though Shaefer sounds as though he's losing his aggressiveness, his voice still as stinging and biting as it was on Piece of Time and in all honesty, having those vocals as they are is something that makes Atheist the band that it is. Besides, his 80's proto-death metal bark is at least recognisable and a change from mindless death growling. // 7
Overall Impression: As part of what I'd call the big 4 of 90's progressive death metal (Well, it's true, there's 4 of them) Atheist had and still have their own distinct sound which separated the influence they shared among the scene. Jupiter is definitely an Atheist album and definitely worthy of the praise it gets. For fans old and new of any extreme metal, this album is a must-have release because there might not be anything like it again.
Songs to look out for: 'Second to Sun', 'Fictitious Glide', 'Fraudulent Cloth', 'Faux King Christ', 'When the Beast' and the entirely epic 'Third Person'. // 10