Judas Iscariot


Thy Dying Light

United States Country of Origin: United States

1. But Eternals Beheld His Vast Forests
2. His Eternal Life, Like A Dream Was Obliterated...
3. Helpless It Lay, Like A Worm In His Frozen Track…
4. Behold, Our Race Of Unstoppable Genius...
5. From His Woven Darkness Above...
6. Writhing Upon The Wind Of Mystic Philosophy And Dreams…
7. They Saw His Pale Visage Emerge From The Darkness...
8. Thy Dying Light And Desolate Darkness…
9. Arise, My Lord Of Infernal Wisdom...


Review by Frost on March 23, 2024.

Judas Iscariot. One of the most prolific and infamous names in the United States black metal scene (abbreviated as USBM), this band needs no introduction. Understanding the legacy this one-man band carved across the landscape of the scene in the 90s all the way until the band's demise in the mid-aughts requires a thorough understanding of not only black metal, but the bands and artists that were active during black metal's heyday, as well. Fortunately, there shan't be a history lesson today. There shall only be an appreciation of a legendary band within the perverse, moribund vortex of one of metal's most extreme corners and the scurrilous and repulsive 1996 album said band spawned.

Every album, regardless of the musical lane its creators chose to maneuver themselves into, has to have a tone. Such a tone is almost always established, nine tines out of ten, with the opening song. That could be in the form of a catchy hook, a riff or set of riffs, a drum passage, a movie or music sample, or some ambient noise that starts off quiet before swelling into the main body of the song that'll follow. Whatever is chosen as a musician, it's up to them to set the mood for the listener. In the case of Thy Dying Light, the tone established by the opening song is one of sadistic, oppressive, suffocatingly malignant and cruel evil. The riffs that make up "But Eternals Beheld His Vast Forest..." from beginning to its eight minute end reek with destructive hatred, dripping like blood made cold by the dagger that, just moments ago, plumbed the depths of the unfortunate victim caught within its pitch black whirlwind of hatred, spite, misanthropy and intolerance. Hell, the entire album is like this. Right until the final song which is appropriately titled, "Arise, My Lord of Infernal Wisdom...", it is swamped in such wretched malevolence, utterly cocooned from crown to couture in a squirming, quivering, trembling bouquet of thorns, hellfire, acid and barbed wire that's wrapped so tightly around itself, anyone not already acclimated to this type of music will be instantly turned away within mere seconds of the opening track boring a hole straight through their eardrums.

Speaking of the music being uncomfortable, let's talk about it. As I mentioned, every song has a pronounced and thick aura of hate seeping through it. The opening track, like I said, does an unquestionably great job of establishing the atmosphere from the get-to. The tone of the guitars makes one think of a razor blade running across glass during a blizzard while the riffs emanating from Akhenaten's guitars are like a knife pressed to your throat. With every song that followed beyond that first track, I couldn't stop listening. The opening track along with the malignant dirge of "His Eternal Life, like a Dream, Was Obliterated..." and the rapacious peaks and valleys of "Helpless It Lay, like a Worm in Its Frozen Tracks..." is the perfect threesome of tracks for this album.

It's hard to explain precisely why Akhenaten's terrible playing throughout is so hypnotic. I recognize the aforementioned out of time drumming, the out-of-time guitar playing, the (at times) out-of-tune guitar sound, the extremely loud snare drums, the characteristically simple, by-the-numbers second-wave black metal playing that would seem amateur, pedestrian and, in many spots, even funny on the surface. Indeed, it makes one confused and kind of flabbergasted how this band got such a passionate fanbase in the first place. It was a nut that seemed, at first, unable to be cracked.

Then I listened to this album. Many times.

That's when it dawned on me. The main appeal that this album has (as is the case with, from what I can tell, every Judas Iscariot album) is how real it all sounds. I read one interview from the owner of a zine had with Akhenaten, the sole founder and instrumentalist of the band. I can't remember exactly which album was being promoted at the time, but it was very telling of the type of man Akhenaten was. His answers to almost every question to his writing process of the album to the philosophy of Judas Iscariot and his band's relationship within USBM all revolved around one answer: HATRED. Hatred of humanity. Hatred of religion. Hatred of society. Hatred of posers and trends. Hatred of the "capitalist scum trying to destroy black metal." Hatred of just about everything opposed to the spirit of black metal. That entire interview was rank with the pungent stench of unbroachable nihilism so intense that I struggle to think of a black metal band more viciously hateful and evil than Judas Iscariot was, especially around this album was released in 1996. Yes, there were no shortage of black metal bands in the States vomiting forth blasphemies against God and worshiping the darkness. Krieg; Von; Acheron; Demoncy; Black Funeral, to name a few. Even though I don't doubt the authenticity of any of these other bands and their sincerity outside of the theatricality of the musical lane they've chosen to travel, something about the former gives the impression that his conviction in the pure, unending hatred he feels for everyone pulsing through every black vein of his is something he believes down to the bone.

That conviction fuels his performances on this album. They are meant to be sloppy. They are meant to be raw. The vocals are meant to be the ugliest sounds you've ever heard. There's no overdubbing here. There's no clean production. There's no meticulous tweaking and pulling of knobs and levers. This album is hatred and evil personified and it's loud and unapproachable and repulsive. I promise that it'll take multiple listens to get a feel for this band's sound. This is not - I repeat, NOT - an album for people wanting to get into black metal. Anybody going into this album with that mindset will find nothing to like here. That's because it's meant for the diehards, the passionate "trve kvlt" fanbase who look at bands like Dimmu Borgir and Watain and spit on them because they're "not evil enough."

Speaking of that, Akhenaten's vocal style is definitely one of the most unique I've heard in black metal. They're not your standard shrieks and howls that follow the rhythm and tempo of the rest of the instruments. They tend to vary from album to album, but, on this album, I think they're my favorite. The tone and timbre of his voice fluctuates from high roar to mid growl, but they all project the same continuous In each song: seeping vehement repulsion and disgust. His lyrical delivery is unique, too. They're short stanzas that start, then stop almost suddenly, like Akhenaten chose to deliberately end that verse and move on to the next, placing them whenever he felt it was best or necessary. I almost want to liken to black metal spoken word. I know it sounds real dumb putting it that way, but that's the only way I can bring myself to describe it. There's seemingly no consistent, recognizable, familiar or traditional structure in his vocals or his vocal and lyrical delivery. They're the farthest thing from traditional. They're so unique that, to this day, I haven't heard another vocal style match this tone of abject hatred within black metal.

One thing I feel is kind of important to mention is how much this album takes a hefty mountain of inspiration from Burzum. The similarities to the early work Varg's band created really shows on this album, I feel. The album artwork is reminiscent of the artwork from Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, such that it almost feels like a spiritual prequel to that of some sort. The heavy atmosphere, as I mentioned before, while very malevolent, has that raw and unfiltered charm that made Burzum's old albums so special. Sure, both have a burning hatred for contemporary black metal and express extreme isolationist views, but it's clear they expressed them somewhat differently in their music (Judas was way more musically overt in this way). I was going to mention how both Varg and Akhenaten have both been accused of associations with the NSBM movement and the coincidence of both of them being creators of infamous one-man bands, but it seems pointless to bring up as it has nothing to do with the music of the record instead, so there's no need to mention it beyond this point.

I can't think of much more to say about this album. It's Judas Iscariot's magnum opus. Distant in Solitary Night is technically a much better album in terms of speed and performance, as is Heaven in Flames. Yet as good as both of those albums are (the only other JI albums I own), both of them tend to test my patience more than this album does, even though they're far less polished than this thing. If you can withstand the torrential force of negativistic hatred, this album will stick with you forever. I promise.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10

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