Everyone has been saying Atheist’s classic album Unquestionable Presence should be remastered. This year that gift was brought to us! The groundbreaking album was recorded at Morrisound Studios in Tampa, Florida in 1991. The 2015 remastered edition was done at Pain Cave. As an old school death metal, I’m an elitist with remastering albums; something about the coarse and grindy production makes for a more solid atmosphere. But Unquestionable Presence is an album that needed to be remastered. With so much depth and complexity, only modern technology would have been able to make every note and time signature change be prevalent. In short, this was an album written ahead of its time so it needs to be recorded for its time.
You hear the difference with the first track, Mother Man. Such a bassy track, the better production exemplifies Tony Choy’s perfect bass tone. The rest of the track just sounds so clean; with one of the most technically written songs on the album, you can hear each note played as opposed to a jumble of chaos. Overall, this hardly sounds like the song that was released in 1991.
Most Atheist fans admire vocalist and guitarist Kelly Shaefer. Not only was his guitar playing legendary, but his vocals helped define the death metal vocal tone – more specifically with highs. His contributions to the band stand out so much more strongly, for example with the album’s title track. Amongst the jubilee of instrumentals, his vocals prevail on their own rather than becoming a part of everything else. The soloing is also defined way better. Each note is distinct from the rest of the album which makes the soloing sound more smooth. The listener can’t help but appreciate it more.
Most of the songs on the remastered version are interesting, because it’s a side of Atheist not many fans discovered. This band is one of the first to combine brutality and technicality, yet it’s hard to truly get both elements from the original recording. This is evident for songs such as The Formative Years. It’s one of the heaviest songs, but it’s also one of the most complex songs. On the original recording, you can’t hear the technicality as much; the aggression takes over the skill. But with the remastered you hear both elements perfectly, and they mesh together as opposed to one trying to dominate the other. This diverse sound is something Atheist is known for, but it hasn’t been done in a more perfect way than it is now.
With the 2015 Digipak Reissue, you get multiple other songs. Several of these are pre-productions from the early demo 8/90 recorded by Roger Patterson. Songs like An Incantation’s Dream still sound crisp, even with the technology they had. Even the technicality in a song like Brains still stands out well. Some later tracks and even tracks with only drums and bass are included on the album. There’s also a DVD with live performances.
Well now the album is remastered! Known to be a landmark in the technical death metal genre, listeners can finally hear this album the way it’s deserved to be heard. Listening to the original recordings only becomes difficult; you’ll remember the perfect guitar tones and the distinguishable changes each song has, regardless of whether it’s subtle or drastic. Out of all of the remastered albums, this has been one of the best. And with rare tracks and a DVD, the Digipak is worth investing in! So continue the Atheist legacy and the death metal legacy!
4 out of 5 Rating:
1 Mother Man
2 Unquestionable Presence
4 Enthralled in Essence
5 An Incantation’s Dream
6 The Formative Years
8 And the Psychic Saw
9 Enthralled In Essence (Pre-Production Demo 8/90)
10 The Formative Years (Pre-Production Demo 8/90)
11 Unquestionable Presence (Pre-Production Demo 8/90)
12 An Incarnation’s Dream (Pre-Production Demo 8/90)
13 Retribution (Pre-Production Demo 8/90 – Instrumental)
14 Brains (Pre-Production Demo 8/90 – Instrumental)
15 Enthralled in Essence (Drums & Bass)
16 Mother Man (Drums & Bass Tracks)
17 And the Psychic Saw (Rhythm Tracks)
Genre: Technical death metal
Record Label: Season of Mist
Playing Time: 1 Hour and 7 Minutes
Members (from original recording):
Kelly Shaefer – Vocals/Guitar
Rand Burkey – Guitar
Tony Choy – Bass