Judas Iscariot - Heaven In Flames

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Judas Iscariot-Heaven In Flames
Judas Iscariot was born out of visions of war and hatred. Through the unity of wicked anti-Christian philosophy and elitist totalitarian ideology, Judas Iscariot has forged its own brand of sinister grim black metal. Akhenaten, the sole spirit of Judas Iscariot, strives to explore the darkest depths of the human spirit through music.. Judas Iscariot was born conceptually in 1992. One demo was unleashed in 1993, which led to the recording of the debut release, The Cold Earth Slept Below. Since then the band has recorded five full length albums, and has been graced with several limited edition vinyl and tape editions which are regarded today as cult items. In 1999 Akhenaten was approached by Red Stream for the release of his latest work, Heaven In Flames, which proves to be yet another extreme chapter in Judas Iscariot's grim black metal war... My philosophy brings the triumphant idea of which all other modes of thought will ultimately perish. It is the great cultivating idea:the races that cannot bear it stand condemned; those who find it the greatest benefit are chosen to rule... - Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche.

Once again, Judas Iscariot's sound and general direction changes somewhat when applied to the writing of a full-length record - just another turn in Akhenaten's slow evolution towards (or crystallization of) what he surely considers a 'pure' or 'true' sound. With each release, it seems, this band has evolved...but never in a really drastic manner, never in a fashion that would make Akhenaten lose his way. Going back and listening to these now makes it obvious to me just how he was working towards a sound that excapsulated and combined at least two different strains of black metal stylistics: the somewhat-slow, moody, atmospheric form of Graveland and/or Burzum's inspiration with the raw, stripped-down, aggressive blasts of Darkthrone. In many places on this record, the Graveland influence really shows through...both in terms of the repetitive riffs used to build basic structures in the fleshing out of long songs, and the way in which tonally abstract and/or evocatively obscure melodies are combined with more straightforward sections in order to change moods within the space of one song - from contemplative solitude and melancholy to a grim bitterness, a hollow anger, an outlashing of wronged pride. The vocals, harsh barks and imprecations torn from a lacerated throat, display the kind of agonized phrasing and timbre that could only come from listening to Darken's tortured moaning. The drumming is, for the most part (when its speed isn't taken down to a basic beat during the somnolent, mbient 'slow' sections) pure trance snare/kick/high-hat blasting, a constant undergirding pulse, in the grand tradition of 'Transilvanian Hunger'. There are also the keyboards to think of...their dark underpinnings, choral washes, and stately swelling appearance behind the guitars remind me of the Polish bands, or, especially
in the second song 'Gaze Upon Heaven in Flames', the American band Demoncy...
But I don't want to get carried away with the comparisons...that's just a shortcut.
Throughout this album there are several well-placed and eloquent segments of minor chord strumming and dissonant riffing (Akhenaten really is seeking to build on the legacy that Darkthrone and Burzum left behind with their use of dissonance, and he puts those ideas to good use in reating 'alienating' melodies) that create an ominous, despair-cursed, almost sickened atmosphere...as if the music, flowing forth from a jaded, suicidal soul, carries within it a species of contagion...truly some of Judas Iscariot's darkest riffs are on this record, and the way that the main melodies in the songs are written, chained together in marching, short-step rhythms, makes them blend perfectly into the keyboard tones...all of this, working together, creates some extremely compelling and imaginative soundscapes, atmospheres to lose yourself in...
One of the first things that becomes evident after one's first few listenings when examining this album is its withdrawal and 'holding back' or hesitancy from immediacy. This is not an 'easy' record, it isn't the kind of music that reveals all of its secrets right away, and it both calls for and desperately needs a number of spins before it's melodicism and personal language open up...it tends to construct its own meaning, so to speak, with each listening building upon the ideas that former 'screenings' had inspired. For example, it took at least five listenings before I began to associate certain imagery or daydreams with the melodies used in the first song, 'An Eternal Kingdom of Fire', and subsequent samplings only added to the mindscapes that were created by this time - their density, color, range, their 'importance' to me, personally. Whereas 'Dethroned...' is active and immediate because of its raw fury and unbridled violence, this album's messages are somewhat 'hidden', more mysterious and shadowed. Seen chronologically backwards, as I have been forced to do based on the fact that I am just now really getting into this band's music, it seems like this entire work is a repository of the emotions that later led to Dethroned's unleashing of outright hatred. Where that later opus is unrestrained and overt, this album is more subdued, sadder, tinged with the Autumn colors of dejection instead of the black and white of wrath. Part of black metal's true appeal is the way its aesthetics can combine the accents of forlornness (usually seen as passive) with a blinding rage, and so create an all-inclusive, mesmerizing, ritualized expression of many of man's 'darker' emotions. Nevertheless, what I'm trying to say here is that this record's offerings are mainly evocative instead of active, it tends to induce a dreamy mood in me, a morbid languor, an oneiric weariness - and now that I have listened to it a number of times, I have an entire black widow's web of images and ideas to call into play when I put it into my stereo. Entrance to this one particular kingdom of Judas Iscariot is won through persistence and a sensitivity to suggestion...
The second song, again, which is beautifully put together and quite simple in construction (although not in its emotional effects) seems to really be the archetype for the first half of this album - it drowns one's mind in an impenetrable darkness, and combines constantly cycling, spinning, whirlwind treble riffs with long murky sections of deeper, more abstract guitar work (giving the keyboards room to come in and fill the listening space with their overriding themes)...through all of this, however, all of these changes, a grim feeling of isolation, despair, and hopelessness pervades the microtones used, and the one image that constantly comes to me when I listen to the opening half of this album (the first four songs) is that of a crumbling, forgotten medieval landscape...a world of ash and frost, a sky filled with gray mist, the blackened earth below me as I look out over a hillside upon a city being devoured by pale flames...the red sun sets through columns of smoke, the night descends, and the whole world seems still, as if holding its breath...The fifth song, 'From Hateful Visions', is entirely successful in lifting this gloominess, this black brooding...its bright, sparkling arpeggios in the initial few minutes seems like a breath of fresh air, a cool breeze over my forehead...here the riffing style used completely changes, and Akhenaten switches from a shoe-gazing bleakness into an uplifting, clean, effervescent series of echoing melodies that rotate and wave in their high-register splendor... interesting... Of course, right after this we have a return to the dark, you could say, with the traditionally-sculpted 'Spill the Blood of the Lamb' (this song was reprised on 'Dethroned, Conquered and Forgotten'), which once again brings out the 'Under a Funeral Moon' feeling in one's soul, although the usual drawn-out, shifting tremelo-picked melodies are mixed in with a stranger riff (first appearance at 0:45) that trills and kicks itself through some old death metal references, although it has been converted to a black format...
At last, the album comes to a close with a little instrumental piece, the coup de grace, a study of one lonely little electric guitar melody (sounding like a requiem, an exhausted memento mori) and its path towards or through the night forest of variation and dissolution....I have never heard Akhenaten release anything that can top the depression hiding behind this three minute segment...truly a worthy finish for such a monstrous collection of dark art...
What is there left to say? Find this record immediately, support this band, this man, and his (and our) crusade to keep pure unadulterated black metal alive and well...

[ Discography ] 
Label: Red Stream | Item Code: RSR-0136 | Country: United States | Year: 2000 | Genre: Black Metal

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