I consider myself an optimist among the resurrections and reunions in metal. Sure there have been some major flops and some inexcusable letdowns, yet who can deny the inspiring insurrections created by some of metal’s finest legends and knights once again flaying the masses? Celtic Frost, Autopsy, maybe some Cynic? As the current fad sees waves of good and bad (however you feel, I suppose), Atheist, the pioneering progressive/ technical death metal professors whom have been completely absent for seventeen years, have returned. Of course, this isn’t news unless you’ve been on Mars or find Atreyu to “represent your threshold of heaviness and don’t like that growling shit,” which, in regard to each issue, makes you uneducated or unfathomably idiotic.
“Jupiter,” though, isn’t quite what many would have hoped for, although I feel it still induces those frisky reflexes in my neck and ignites an interest in philosophical revelations like these lads did once before. “Jupiter” is almost too intelligent for its own good and a long-shot away from the brilliance of Atheist’s youthful grace, yet definitely a solid record representing a plethora of wayward mathematics and the dynamic doldrums that once created some of metal’s finest trophies; only with a shade of such excellence I might add, perhaps in an effort to avoid what once was and create something new, or maybe some experiment testing whether or not 1991 can physically exist seventeen years later. Whatever the reason, “Jupiter” reeks of Atheist’s genetics in ways both and new; evolutionary in its own right, yet regressively defined.
Many of the band's old mannerisms play large roles, almost dangerously similar to their early work. "Jupiter" is a planet formed from awkward time-signatures, massive riffs, and nonsensical rhythms somehow tying together underneath Steve Flynn's wolfish percussion, which is so technical and maddening I can't even begin to say how great of a drummer he is. All eight tracks are in tune with technical death metal aspects, although Atheist bring a lot of light to the sound with a strange hint of melody and catchiness achieved through the harnessing chaos of their unique formula; it's something they've always had together, and it certainly makes them rise above the pack. Kelly Shaefer is perhaps the only anomaly I could detect: his vocal approach is gruff and more in touch with a natural singing voice and not a growl, yet he sounds great and well-aged nonetheless. Hell, I’m willing to say “Faux King Christ” (say it fast, LOL) and “Fraudulent Cloth” among most of the remaining album are definitely worthy of carrying the Atheist banner despite seventeen years of no new material.
However, let's be honest for a second, shall we? This isn't "Unquestionable Presence." This isn't "Elements." This isn't "Piece of Time." Notice a pattern? "Jupiter" is obviously beyond the prime of their accomplishments: there are new influences, characteristics, ideas, formulas, algorithms, techniques...I could go on forever. So here's the answer to your question if you haven't figured it out for yourself: No, "Jupiter" is not better than Atheist's older works. It is, however, certainly a well-written opus that runs train on technical death metal as a whole (or hole, haha) for two reasons: it's absolutely anarchic, yet ever so enjoyable. Lot of folks could learn from "Jupiter," actually.
The production, though, seems to be the center point of criticism among the many moons of “Jupiter.” I’ll be the first to admit the sound it has been given certainly does not justify a new Atheist album, their powerful legacy, or any metal band in general that holds a feasible amount of credit among metal’s overflowing stream of trends and flops, most noticeably the “wall-o-sound” feel it emits upon the album. The drum audio tends to have a lot more power than the guitars do, whereas the bass – of all things and bands – is given the shaft and left in the dark, unless there’s a quieter section or jazz-fluent transition, of course, where it shines and kicks total ass. I really can’t say anything bad about the vocals or guitars, although they seem roughly mixed or overproduced at times, but sheesh! Turn those pounding instruments down and TURN UP THE BASS! They could have at least gone for an old-school atmosphere of any class, maybe make the record a bit rawer in some parts or instruments, yet this is what “Jupiter” is, whether you like it or not. Despised Icon kiddies will love the sound; Atheist fans will most likely not.
Well, I guess you could say Atheist bend the rules of death metal once again on "Jupiter," although its impact isn't as strong or individualistic, obviously. Overall, I feel these gentlemen made an impressive return and crafted an interesting piece of technical death metal worth much more than the subgenre's current plods. They didn’t turn up a day late, nor a dollar short, but “Jupiter” still falls well below the line of conditions set forth from the dynamic “Elements,” the slaughtering fun that made “Piece of Time” thrive, and the mighty magnificence “Unquestionable Presence” holds, never to be dethroned from these pioneering engineers of mathematical madness. Still, Atheist trumped most old-timers giving the metal game another shot, which is quite the triumph in and of itself. Good work mates, good work.