Label: Season of Mist
Track Listing: 1) Second to Sun 2) Fictitious Glide 3) Fraudulent Cloth 4) Live and Live Again 5) Faux King Christ 6) Tortoise the Titan 7) When the Beast 8) Third Person
The last three years have been exiting times for fans of the early nineties tech-death scene with bands such as Cynic, Pestilence and Believer reforming and churning out long-awaited studio albums. The results thus far have been rather disappointing with Pestilence abandoning their jazz infused evolution that produced Spheres (1993) and Cynic producing a mixed bag of an album in Traced in Air (2006). Perhaps Atheist, then, could be the first to revamp their glory days.
Unfortunately, Jupiter fails to match up to the early classics. It’s been seventeen years since the band’s previous release, Elements (1993), and clearly the genius pool has long since dried up. The classic Atheist sound of death metal and jazz fused together hasn’t deteriorated one bit and if anything has become clearer thanks to a good production job. A great deal of the early nineties underground albums suffered from cheap production quality but thankfully with modern technology, things have improved tenfold.
The constant shuffling of rhythm patterns and the juggling of time signatures is spellbinding, but only if executed in a tasteful fashion. Opener Second to None is a promising start with a flurry of complex riffage succeeding in being both well-structured and energetic. Fictitious Glide is a similar story although it’s lacking melodic passages to latch on to and sacrifices quality for raw speed and aggression. Fraudulent Cloth follows relatively the same formula and doesn’t leave a lasting impression. At this point in the album you can pretty much guess where things are going. Each track resembles its predecessor with the same ideas, the same approach and ultimately the same mediocre outcome.
Live and Live Again is a breath of fresh air in some respects. The eerie string opening bursts suitably into a dark and heavy speed-metal riff. The chorus is actually singable and memorable and the bleaker vibe gives way to a guitar solo that doesn’t sound like a carbon copy of the previous shred-fests, albeit a bit short. It’s the only track that truly grasps light and shade and develops an interesting song with a balance that’s musically and technically impressive.
After the album’s peak, the second half of the album doesn’t provide anything exciting. Faux King Christ is dynamically boring and is a dramatic drop in quality after Live and Live Again. Tortoise the Titan maintains the drivel before Wake the Beast and Third Person save the album from falling into complete dire straits.
Kelly Shaefer’s vocals lack the power of earlier recordings, reduced now to a snarl rather than a growl. The riffs have also become unimaginative and searching the record for solid memorable riffage is a difficult task. Atheist have always been guilty of releasing short albums and you’d think that after all this time they would give fans more than just under thirty-three minutes of new music. The fact that it’s under thirty-three minutes of relatively monotonous music makes it even worse.
The short running time and the lack of consistency brings Jupiter’s overall score down despite its occasional delights. The technical virtuosity is still jaw-dropping although the creative spark isn’t what it used to be. With a mass of new talent thriving within the tech-death style, Atheist have failed to come back and show anyone how it should be done.
For fans this will be a disappointment and if you want to check out the wonders of ‘jazz-death’ for the first time, this certainly isn’t the place to start.
1) Live and Live Again
2) Second to Sun
3) Fictitious Glide
Reviewed by: Daniel Aston, 18/11/2010