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Jupiter *
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  • This album isn't a failure by any means, but it's not going to make old-school Atheist fans very happy, either. Unquestionable Presence, Vol. 2 it ain't. Only two members remain from the classic lineup, guitarist/vocalist Kelly Shaefer (these days, he's strictly a singer live, though he still plays guitar) and drummer Steve Flynn, and their interaction is as tight and telepathic as ever. But the music they're writing is very, very different from Atheist's jazzy, progressive vision of death metal as articulated in the early '90s. This band sounds more like modern tech-death; half the riffs here could have come from the first two Dillinger Escape Plan albums, Calculating Infinity and Miss Machine. The melodic complexity is still there, and guitarist Chris Baker and bassist Jonathan Thompson can shred with the best. Still, it's not the same; the organic, human feeling of old has been pared away, revealing the gleaming Terminator skeleton beneath. Every once in a while, a short break will recall the Atheist of old ("Fictitious Glide" does it toward the song's end). And Shaefer's vocals have become weirdly shrieky; he sounds like Mudvayne's Chad Gray too much of the time. The record's best quality is its mix. It's not brick-walled like so much contemporary death metal -- each instrument gets space to breathe. But the frantically complex riffing sacrifices the exhilaration the band's older material inspired in favor of a hammering relentlessness. ~ Phil Freeman
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