"Unquestionable Presence: Live at Wacken" (Relapse; 2009)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Largely ignored during their existence, Atheist has steadily gained in popularity and stature over the last 15 years. Once a reunion was agreed upon it wasn’t long before the surging swell in interest in Atheist resulted in an invitation to play the prestigious Wacken Festival.

The title seems to suggest that the entire “Unquestionable Presence” album was played for the Wacken set. In reality, selections from the first two Atheist albums were utilized to determine the set list for the Wacken performance.

Despite the rough sound and all-to-obvious imperfections, Atheist are to be commended for putting their musical lives on the line. Original members Kelly Shaefer on vocals and Steve Flynn on drums are joined by long-time member Tony Choy on bass and newbie guitarists Chris Baker and Sonny Carlson on guitars. The spirited performance of this eight song set makes no bones about the obvious and not so obvious flaws, yet an undeniable energy overwhelms the performance. It’s the kind of energy that can lift and carry a band as it walks a technical metal tightrope in front of the multitudes.

This album comes with a bonus disc featuring hand-picked songs from the three Atheist albums that were selected by vocalist Kelly Shaefer and drummer Steve Flynn. It’s like a “greatest hits” package in a way that allows Shaefer and Flynn to describe the bands evolution and legacy from their point of view through the extensive liner notes.

“Unquestionable Presence: Live at Wacken,” although never intended to be a fully realized project, is a solid package that is a testament to the band’s impact.

“Unquestionable Presence: Live at Wacken” was produced by Steve Flynn and Kelly Shaefer.

Atheist is Kelly Shaefer on vocals, Sonny Carlson on guitar, Chris Baker on guitar, Tony Choy on bass, and Steve Flynn on drums.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright © 2009 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 02 Oct 2023 21:56:13 -0400.