|Review: Atheist - Unquestionnable Presence|
Label: Metal Blade Records
Year released: 1991
Genre: Death Metal
Review online: July 7, 2009
Reviewed by: Larry Griffin
Rated 4.54/5 (90.83%) (48 Votes)
Can it be? An environmentally aware album that is not only plausible, but actually good? Actually really fucking good at that? Yes, Atheist's second effort is quite a spectacle, being the first extreme metal album I truly fell in love with and also an all-time metal classic. Having gotten bored with rallying against politics and religion on the debut, the band turned here to a more spiritually aware and indeed environmentally aware mindset, and the music followed suit, becoming more esoteric, more jazzy and more progressive, but all without losing its metal backbone.
The music here is quite aggressive, really; not at all the spacey, laid back drone you'd expect when you hear "jazz and metal fusion." The band never forgot their thrashy roots and never forgot to remain compelling and interesting. The songs are short, but they're fucking jam-packed with chugging metallic riffs, out-of-this-world guitar harmonies and solos, drumming that is fast, complicated and filled with flare and bass playing that is quite simply...insane; I have no more similes or adjectives to pile on. This whole album is exhausting, but you can't stop yourself from listening because it's all just too good. This is very melodically rich stuff. Every song has something that will pull you in, no exceptions. I can't even pick favorites this time.
I mean, the debut was frigging awesome, but Unquestionable Presence makes that one look like kiddy stuff in comparison. The band is always confident, always endearing and every moment on this disc sounds like they're playing their hearts out. The lyrics are excellent, maybe even better than the ones on the debut, concerning the fragility of life, one's self knowledge of his place in the universe and the massive scope of humankind's and nature's relationship. You won't find an extreme metal band with better written lyrics, no matter how hard you try. I have been playing this album for years now, and each spin reveals new things that I like about it, new layers to be digested, as well as restating the brilliance that I already knew was there. That's the mark of a great album on any count.
Unquestionable Presence is a record that transcends its genre and all expectations. There's nothing I can really point out that's wrong with it. Every song gets right to the meat of things, is short and manageable and also super memorable. The musicians are doing what they do best here in spades, and if you let this layered, complex work sink in a little, soon you will not be able to stop playing it either. From the first note of "Mother Man" to the last ones of "And the Psychic Saw," Unquestionable Presence is a metal classic for the ages that anyone who even remotely likes the genre should hear. Mandatory, just fucking mandatory. I've said that before, but here it really rings true more than ever. This truly has no equals.
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Interview with vocalist Kelly Shaefer on April 18, 2014 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)
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