Atheist - JUPITER

Earlier today, I was digging through this blog's statistics, and I was surprised to find that my review of Considered Dead - a brutish, primitive album by Canadian death merchants Gorguts - had more views than any other entry that I've posted. What's that all about? I interpreted the review's "success" as a testament to the unswerving passion of the metal community. Your typical metalhead is serious about this shit, but fans of technical death metal take their enthusiasm to another level. They approach records like Cynic's Focus and Pestilence's Spheres with diagnostic ears that dissect each note. It's not enough for the music to be heavy; it needs to be artful and complex.

It goes without saying that everyone had lofty expectations for Jupiter, the first assemblage of new Atheist material in seventeen years. Me, I'm a casual Atheist fan. I own Piece of Time on cassette tape. It's cool. Upon the first listen, it struck me as a less melodic version of Death's Individual Thought Patterns, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I didn't really know what to expect out of Jupiter, but I wanted to give it a shot. In a nutshell, it's ultimately forgettable. I'll probably catch heat for this, but it sounds like Atheist trying to sound like...Atheist. Does that make sense?

Don't get me wrong. The musicianship is extraordinary. Drummer Steve Flynn must have an arm growing out of his ass. His fills are creative, his cymbal crashes are tasteful, and goddamn, the way he settles into a spacey time signature is mind-blowing. Flynn is the star of the show, no question. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the vocals of frontman Kelly Shaefer. How do I put this? He sucks. As a guitarist and a songwriter, he's still up to the challenge, but as a singer? Dear God. Imagine if the douchebag from Mudvayne was an aborted fetus. That's the only way that I can describe Shaefer's stentorious screams.

Let's talk about the songs themselves. Opener "Second to Sun" kicks off the proceedings with a heady energy. If it weren't for the monster behind the kit, this tune would fall apart like a Jenga tower. "Fictitious Glide" is my favorite cut on Jupiter. I love the winding solos. Interestingly, it's the longest song here. That's something else that bothers me about this album. It's too short. There are eight songs, all of which clock in at less than five minutes. I sympathize with the die-hards who waited nearly two decades for what is essentially an extended EP. Jupiter feels incomplete.

I concede that there are moments of diminuendo pizzicato (that's Italian for...something musical...I don't know) like the pained chorus of "When the Beast" or the frenzied shredding of "Fraudulent Cloth," but overall, Jupiter is an underwhelming listen. My word is not the gospel. Obviously, there are plenty of Atheist fans who are happy with this record. I would recommend sampling it before purchasing it, though. I'm going to pop in my dusty copy of Piece of Time. I feel old. Really, really old.

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