Atheist – Unquestionable Presence (re-release)


I remember when word about this young, hot death metal band from Florida reached these shores in 1989. I read about this album called ‘Piece of Time’ and how it was redefining death metal as we knew it, looked at the picture of the cool, red cover and thought that I had to own it.

And when I finally put the vinyl disc on the player and swung the needle over the grooves, what blasted out from my speakers certainly was something else. It was definitely related to my faves Death and Pestilence as well as Slayer, but beside that, this album had a completely unique sound. From the slightly odd and quirky sounding front man, Kelly Shaefer, over the hectic, riff-filled bass playing by Roger Patterson (who, tragically, was killed in a car accident in 1991 during a tour with Candlemass) to the jazzy influences of Steve Flynn’s drumming and the aggressive, yet extremely controlled and at times progressive guitar playing by Shaefer and Rand Burkey (who by the way played his guitars upside down, because he was left-handed, but used guitars for right-handed), Atheist made a huge impact on the scene with this approximately half-hour long album.

After the untimely departure of Patterson, the rest of Atheist decided to continue. Cynic (and later Pestilence) bassist Tony Choy was recruited to replace Patterson, and Choy was indeed the right choice. With ‘Unquestionable Presence’, Atheist went on to lift the technical bar even further, refining what they’d begun with the debut album. The sophomore effort was and remains to this day a milestone in death metal with its high technical level and atmospheric sound. Just listen to the eerie intro to the title track – it always fascinated and spooked me at the same time. As did the effects on Kelly’s voice and his less than straight-forward phrasing.

There was nothing typical about this album when it was released, and it still holds true after so many years. Alongside the Death and Pestilence albums from around the same time, new standards were formed for death metal with ‘Unquestionable Presence’, and for that reason alone you should go and pick up this re-release if you don’t already have the album in your collection.

Relapse Records re-released the Atheist back catalogue in 2005, and the track list for ‘Unquestionable Presence’ was the same as the current version (including pre-production demos and stuff), but Season Of Mist have decided to throw in an additional DVD with unreleased live material, rehearsal footage, an interview and a drum video. That should give cause to itchy fingers among the hardcore Atheist fans out there.

If you haven’t tried Atheist already, do so!


1. Mother Man
2. Unquestionable Presence
3. Your Life’s Retribution
4. Enthralled in Essence
5. An Incarnation’s Dream
6. The Formative Years
7. Brains
8. And the Psychic Saw
Pre-production demo:
9. Enthralled in Essence
10. The Formative Years
11. Unquestionable Presence
12. An Incarnation’s Dream
13. Retribution (instrumental)
14. Brains (instrumental)

Demo 1990:
15. Enthralled in Essence

Drums and bass tracks:
16. Mother Man

Rhythm tracks:
17. And the Psychic Saw

Playing time: 67:39

Release date: 24th of July, 2015

Label: Season of Mist


Thomas Nielsen
About Thomas Nielsen 1345 Articles
When my old buddy Kenn Jensen asked me if I wanted to contribute to the new site he had created, then called, I didn't hesitate. My love for metal music was and is great. I wrote my first review during the summer of 2004 (Moonspell's 'Antidote' album). In 2015, I took over the editor-in-chief role.

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