Tuesday, 26 June 2012

ATHEIST - Elements (1993)


01  Green
02  Water
03  Samba Briza
04  Air
05  Displacement
06  Animal
07  Mineral
08  Fire
09  Fractal Point
10  Earth
11  See You Again
12  Elements

'Elements' is the third album released by the progressive / technical death metal band Atheist. It was released on August 30, 1993 by Music for Nations in Europe and by Metal Blade Records in the US. The album was written, recorded and mixed in forty days in Pro Media Studios. The band wanted to dissolve but they were required to finish their third album in order to fulfill a contract to their record label. 'Elements' features the addition of a third guitarist, Frank Emmi. Initially, Rand Burkey was not going to appear on the album, and as Kelly Shaefer had developed carpal tunnel syndrome, (preventing him from playing anything but rhythm guitar) a new lead guitar player was needed. Before recording, Burkey rejoined the band, and thus the band ended up with three guitarists. Shaefer plays rhythm guitar, while Emmi and Burkey share responsibilities for leads and solos.

'Elements' is an album upon against which an army of adjectives could be deployed, only for the appraiser to later find each one lying broken before it. Appropriately, given its lyrical theme, the album might best be described naturalistically. It is the creative spark bursting into flame, the muse swept into flight by the wind, a spirit-quenching drink, a seed breaking terra firma. In no uncertain terms, I reckon it to be a masterpiece. More importantly, it is a masterpiece that might only be possible within the anti-social realms of death metal.

The song structures here are all over the place, definitely not following a verse-chorus-verse strucure but rather layering patterns and musical passages in forms shapes and colors rather than formal song arrangements. "Earth" is a great example of this. It has some killer riffs mixed with an almost R&B breakdown only to blow out with metal rampage towards the end of the song. There are even some interludes which are a lot of fun. "Samba Briza" is particularly entertaining. This track is a little piece of latin jazz music with some funky congas and some killer piano and guitar interplay during the short leads.

The whole record feels revelatory in the same way that the albums which altered the course of the genre's development did upon release, but unlike most of these, it is a sensation independent of the idea of 'influence.' If you're a fan of Cynic, Spiral Architect, late period Death and Pestilence then this should be a tasty treat for your ears. Highlights include; "Green", "Water", "Air" and "Mineral".

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