Atheist at Sonar

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Atheist’s reunion was one of the most anticipated in the metal world last year, as the technical death metal had not released an album for nearly 17 years. The resulting effort Jupiter surprised quite a few people, as while it had a slightly different feel you could still tell that it was Atheist and the songs were very strong. To go along with the new album Kelly Schaefer and Steve Flynn have taken their new lineup on the road and have brought a number of different bands to support. I had the chance to check out the tour when it came to Sonar in Baltimore, MD and came away with an even greater respect for the group.

There were four local openers for the show (as well as The Binary Code from New Jersey, who I think may have come down for just this show). The touring support came in the form of Last Chance to Reason, Revocation, and A Life Once Lost. We were unable to get pictures of any of these bands but I will give some quick impressions of the three touring acts below.

Last Chance to Reason is a progressive metal band from Augusta, Maine that has been around since 2005 and recently signed to Prosthetic Records. I had never heard of the group before going to the show, and as it turns out their overall sound is kind of hard to pinpoint. These guys seem to have an “everything but the kitchen sink” approach as they have just about every range of vocals you can imagine and instrumentals that one minute seem to be channeling The Dillinger Escape Plan and the next sound like they’re video game influenced. Although there were a few times where it seemed as though this was a little too much and the songs were in danger of completely falling apart I was surprised at how well the band managed to make it work, even though I wasn’t really that keen on the clean vocals. I could tell that the crowd wasn’t too sure to make of these guys, but they did manage to gain some new fans. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about them just yet based on one performance and will be seeking out their upcoming full length to see if it sways me one way or the other.

Boston’s Revocation has never been a group that I was really that into, but I still wanted to give them a chance in a live setting. What I really liked about these guys was that they had a good deal of energy, and with their mix of death and thrash metal they were able to whip the crowd up into a frenzy before their set had come to an end. I must admit that I still wasn’t that big on their overall music, as while they certainly have some technical ability the songs all started to blend together in my head and there were only one or two that really grabbed me with unique sounding riffs. However, I must make an important distinction. Despite the fact that the songs sounded a little similar to one another, I didn’t find myself bored with the performance. On album similarity might prove to be an issue, but when you’re actually watching the members on stage it isn’t so bad. Revocation still isn’t a band I’d choose over others but they were fun to watch for a bit and the crowd was definitely into them.

A Life Once Lost is a band I’ve wanted to see for a number of years now, but for some reason it never seemed as though they came around the Baltimore/Washington area that much or if they did I wasn’t aware of it. The metalcore/groove metal group has been one of the few of its type that I have really been able to get into due to the catchy riffs and extremely aggressive vocals. The turnout for A Life Once Lost was very impressive as the crowd had gotten quite larger in the time that had passed since Revocation’s set had ended, and the group lived up to many people’s expectations. Lead singer Bob Meadows is just as aggressive on stage as he is on album, and as the band tore through songs from their last two releases the amount of energy that was generated in the room was immense. The group threw in a couple of new songs in their set and while they did not seem to deviate that much from their established formula I still enjoyed them quite a bit and was impressed with some of the solos and lead riffs. I understand some people just aren’t as big on this style but I really enjoyed watching A Life Once Lost and if you have enjoyed their recorded material or like the genre as a whole definitely try to catch them live.

Six hours after doors had opened, Atheist finally took the stage. While I had been impressed by their new album I was anxious to see if they could play with the same technicality in a live setting. As soon as the first song started it became clear that this was in fact the case. Atheist played songs that spanned every part of their career, although as expected they did play more songs from Jupiter in order to demonstrate their new material. The current line-up of the group is definitely on par with its earlier counterparts, as the instrumentalists that are currently with Schaefer and Flynn are able to fly through the complicated arrangements without breaking a sweat. Kelly Schaefer also sounds great as his loud, sometimes off the wall delivery is perfectly represented live. He also has a strong stage presence as in between almost every song he had something to say and genuinely seemed to be enjoying the interactions with the crowd. Towards the end of the set there were some technical difficulties, as one of Chris Baker’s guitars had issues and when he tried to switch to another one it didn’t help that much. You can actually see in the photo gallery that at one point Kelly was trying to help keep things working, and the band was able to make the best of it and play another song or so. Overall, Atheist definitely lived up to my expectations and they’re well worth making a trip out to your local venue for.

Atheist Photos (Taken by Cristina Gonzales):

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