Atheist – Jupiter
Release Date: 2010Nov09 (US)
Label: Season of Mist
Thanks a lot, Season of Mist. I pretty much had my Best of 2010 list compiled, then Kylesa and Atheist drop two of the year’s critical releases within weeks of each other. I should have seen this coming, as they did this two years ago with Cynic‘s Traced in Air—yet another lost legend of the formidable Floridian technical death metal movement in the early 1990s who had also not delivered new material in something-teen years. And in similar fashion, Jupiter holds its own against classic material, and suggests creative new directions for not only the band, but the genre as a whole.
Although Cynic‘s Paul Masvidal and Sean Reinert actually played in the archetypal Death, the music they construct seems more deliberately beautiful, to say nothing of their clean vocals (an arguably mixed bag that I mostly love); but Atheist on the other hand, they have this ferocious streak running through them. Both bands wrote eight tracks on their latest output, though Atheist does not have an “intro/outro”, which is how “Nunc Fluens/Nunc Stans” feels. At around half an hour apiece, both beg replays for their infectious nature and sheer songwriting depth. But let’s stop comparing these these two bands and talk about the music on Jupiter.
Atheist maintains their anti-God stance from the get-go on “Second to Sun”, which is not so much a title track as it is about the planet Jupiter , and how “all atoms report to the sun” because “without all her fire there won’t be anyone”. Vocalist Kelly Shaefer still rocks range and timbre similar to Testament‘s Chuck Billy, and now that I think about it, Devy circa SYL. Listen to him explore this full breadth on “Live and Live Again”, which also has a warm cello lead-in.
Big ups to recording engineer Matt Washburn and Jason Suecof’s mix. This is the kind of album where you hear more every time you listen. Newest member, guitarist Jonathan Thompson, got bass duties when Tony Choy departed before writing began, and every jazzy journey is well captured. I also like how their circular artwork motif continues here, now courtesy of prolific Metal illustrator Eliran Kantor.
By the way, if you want to hear how to transcend an F-bomb, the chorus “Jesus Faux King Christ” is the way to do it and not “all of the boys and all of the girls are begging to if you seek Amy” (hopefully this is the first and last time you will see Britney Spears mentioned in the same review as Atheist …jfc!). The second half is replete with experimental ideas, like the groovy “Tortoise the Titan” which funnily speeds up to breakneck for the chorus of “Slow down!”—dense brevity is their strength, and their deft lyrical merging of traditional myth and fable alike is rare. I like how they appropriately bring back the guitar swipes to conclude “When the Beast” (they also appear in “Fictitious Glide”), and “Third Person” intriguingly posits “Historically it has been told, harmonically your soul is sold to old. I was the highest bidder, dripping blood on the dark side”.
Whatever natural or infernal means were used to get them here, I am thankful for the return of passionate yet coherent technical death metal—a balance attempted by few and achieved by fewer. Atheist have always been bar-setters, and Jupiter is yet another defining chapter in their evolution.
Try 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8
01. Second to Sun
02. Fictitious Glide
03. Fraudulent Cloth
04. Live and Live Again
05. Faux King Christ
06. Tortoise the Titan
07. When the Beast
08. Third Person