Released: 2005, Relapse Records
Let’s face it, reissuing the Atheist catalogue turned out to be quite the coup for Relapse Records. Realistically it’s something that should have been done years earlier (though this particular album, PIECE OF TIME, WAS reissued at one point, only to see distribution falter and the label go missing). Consider the demand for these albums, the prices they were going for on ebay, and not to mention the classic status these albums hold in many a metal fan’s collection and one may find it rather perplexing that it took till 2005 for these gems to see the light of day again.
Atheist was one of the most influential death metal bands to come out of the early 90’s and if you’ve never heard of them, honestly, you shouldn’t be reading this review and should be out getting their 3 albums right now. Starting here with PIECE OF TIME Atheist started out completely within the realm of the old school death metal of the time (1990). Atheist immediately found their voice in the slightly thrashy death metal of PIECE OF TIME, not unlike some of the brethren in Death or Pestilence but with a much stronger clarity in their riffing (that didn’t show up in a band like Death for another year). Certainly though, there were hints of what Atheist would become as there is a more technical side to a lot of the songs that wasn’t necessarily as present in a lot of the death metal bands of the time.
The band’s debut PIECE OF TIME was the culmination of a lot of hard work and it shows, even today. With songs like “Piece of Time”, “I Deny”, “On They Slay”, “Why Bother?” or basically any song on this album, it’s no wonder that Atheist made such a long lasting impression for many a metal fan in the early 90’s. This album created the perfect mix between thrash, death, and the technical. Taking a song like “I Deny” with its drum and bass intro that was at least, somewhat atypical for the time, with the guitars creating a slightly dissonant feel in the distance. Mixed in between though are some massive thrash riffs (especially towards the end of the song where it reminds me of Exhorder) and some interesting odd beat sections. Roger Patterson’s bass takes a very large role throughout the album and in the reissue’s, rather extensive and enjoyable, liner notes Kelly Shaefer does make note of Roger’s creative presence, giving him much praise.
With Relapse’s reissue one doesn’t only get the album, but does get the aforementioned liner notes from Kelly Shaefer regarding what went on with the band regarding the time of the release. As well, there are the bonus tracks, which, depending on your Atheist fandom, may be the Holy Grail, or just some waste of space at the tail end of the album. The demo tracks are great though and one can get a very different feel from a lot of songs as opposed to how they came out on the album.
The first step of Atheist’s career began with Piece of Time and they did it with a bang and it’s great that now everyone has a chance to hear this masterpiece (as well as the two releases that came after) regardless of the size of their wallet. Mandatory.