Review by Daniel for Atheist - Piece of Time (1990)
Florida tech death/thrash legends Atheist's 1990 debut album "Piece Of Time" made a significant impact on me & was high on my rotation list at the time but as soon as their follow-up "Unquestionable Presence" was released I kinda forgot about it as the band's sophomore effort was a clear step up from the debut & an undeniable classic. It's been interesting to rediscover the point that Atheist were at in their creative & artistic journey with "Piece Of Time" this week as it's generally regarded as somewhat of a classic too.
The opening title track is an absolute belter & sounds exactly like the material from "Unquestionable Presence" which is a sure-fire indication that it was the most recently composed track included on the album. The other material sees them varying the amount of traditional thrash metal & more progressive elements & I'm willing to bet that I could piece together the exact order that the tracks were written because you can easily hear the band developing their sound over the course of the nine songs. For that reason, I've never found "Piece Of Time" to be quite the finished product however it undeniably represents a huge step up in ambition for the extreme metal movement. No one had attempted anything like this before & the more atmospheric & progressive parts of the album were a particular revelation that would be expanded upon significantly on later releases. Death, Cynic & Pestilence can all be found to be trying very similar things in the years that followed too & I don't think that's a coincidence.
The level of musicianship on display here is absolutely outstanding, particularly the shredding lead guitar work & Roger Patterson's super-interesting bass lines which take an up-front position in the mix. Kelly Shaefer's vocal delivery has never really struck me as being particularly "death metal" though & sounds more like a raspier thrash front man like Sadus' front man Darren Travis than it does Chuck Schuldiner. I probably would have preferred a little more extremity there to be honest but then again... that may have changed the feel of the album completely so it may be for the best.
Overall, "Piece Of Time" is a ground-breaking & highly influential debut that offers consistent quality & strong hints at the potential that was to be fulfilled in the coming years.
For fans of 90's Death, early Cynic & the more technical Pestilence albums.