By Laina Dawes
When reviewing bands that consist of members of a much-revered musical project, its best that a) either the reviewer is well aware of the original band therefore makes a comparison between the latest one, or b) talk about the new album with no mention of the original project.
I am doing neither of the above. I put on Gnostic’s Engineering the Rule and immediately loved it. However, a couple of weeks later when I talked to colleagues about how much I was feeling the first full-length from Atheist drummer Steve Flynn, guitarist Chris Baker and bassist Jonathan Thompson, I was mildly embarrassed when they (who shall remain nameless) looked at me with a mild disgust. “You need to listen to some Atheist.”
So I did – a bit, and you know what? I stand behind my first impression. Is it a bit wonky? Yes. The quick time and genre changes within tracks are impressive but mildly confusing and might be dismissed as almost being rudimentary if it wasn’t for Flynn’s sold drumming. Singer Kevin Freeman, whom despite having a very expressive vocal technique, alternating between piercing shrieks and howls, ala Meshuggah’s Jens Kidman to an okay death growl, is a solid vocalist but on some of the tracks, such as “Isolate Gravity,” it works but overall, his death metal technique doesn’t quite match the tech / prog, heavily improvisational jazz-influenced music.
On the opener, the blistering “Visceral” one gets a hint of an overall pattern which makes the vocal mismatch work out ok. While Freeman definitely stands out, it is the band that shines through, and based on the well-placed but almost sparse vocals through out the album, it’s the music, most likely under Flynn’s direction, that is put front and foremost.
“Mindlock” shows of the incredible skills of bassist Thompson, and until I listened to “Life Suffering” I didn’t realize how much I missed soaring, blistering guitar solos. Again, this is a great, enjoyable ride of a listen, and dare I say it, an effort for the Atheist members to get a bit more edgier without losing their signature sound.
(Season of Mist)
8 / 10