1. Damned Below Judas
4. The Cold Earth Slept Below
5. Midnight Frost
6. Ye Blessed Creatures
Early Judas Iscariot is not exactly a thing of beauty. Granted, the musical form of raw black metal doesn't necessarily subscribe to beauty, but there's a world of difference between competently played ugly music and merely amateur hour clumsiness. Unfortunately for Judas Iscariot, The Cold Earth Slept Below is dreadfully inept and generally a total drag to hear. Evidentally at this point, sole member Andrew Harris (a.k.a. "Akhenaten", presumably naming himself after an ancient pharoah of Egypt, which totally ties into modern day primitive black metal) had not taken the time to hone his musical skills to the point where listeners wouldn't cringe over the moments of abruptly incompentent musicianship. Incidentally, it is worth mentioning that he does match the musicianship with some dull songwriting. Later albums often featured a few decent songs amongst the mediocrity, but The Cold Earth Slept Below is entirely devoid of such quality material. If some doe-eyed youngster asked me what I'd recommend from this album, I'd recommend a) playing it with the volume muted or b) removing the CD and melting it over an open fire pit.
While one could cut Judas Iscariot a little slack for being perhaps young and ambitious beyond his abilities, it does not mean one should sit through the growing pains of a rather dreadful record. And it does remind me of the problems one man bands often face. There's no one else in the room to inform the musician he's making a bevy of ugly mistakes.
Even if, for some bizarre reason, you're a major fan of raw black metal, this is a record to avoid. It shows very little promise for the future and is utterly grating to sit through, for all the wrong reasons.
Review by John Chedsey
Review date: 02/2011
|©1999 Red Stream
1. An Eternal Kingdom of Fire
2. Gaze Upon Heaven in Flames
3. Eternal Bliss...Eternal Death
4. Before a Circle of Darkness
5. From Hateful Visions
6. Spill the Lamb of Blood
7. An Ancient Starry Sky
Judas Iscariot is one of those rather boastful, self absorbed one man black metal bands that illustrate some of the best and worst aspects of underground black metal. In interviews, band founder Andrew "Akhenaten" Harris comes across as exceptionally obnoxious, self aggrandizing and not necessary the kind of dude you'd want to have hanging around your neighborhood. He doesn't like you and thinks you should die, assuming you are a subhuman. In fact, he recorded Heaven in Flames with inspiration provided by "pure hate" and "visions of subhuman genocide". However, if you were to send an email to him, your inquiry would be answered, regardless of your status as subhuman or possibly even post-human.
Anyhow, it's quite easy to spend time mocking the posturing of black metal musicians who seemed to expend more energy making outlandish statements in the underground press than concentrating on making outstanding music. Heaven in Flames happens to be one of those records that doesn't seem to have enough focus to be anything more than mediocre. For this album, Harris performed all the instruments himself. This alone would not necessarily be cause for criticism, but frankly he probably should have called a drummer buddy and gotten some help. Too much of the album is spent mucking about in "blast beat" snares, which lack the blast and mostly sound like an extended snare roll with a high hat thrown in for good measure. At the very least a decent drummer could have added a far more creative array of rhythm patterns and helped these songs out. The second flaw with Heaven in Flames is that most of these songs just aren't very good. Two tracks stand out: the album opener "An Eternal Kingdom of Fire" and "From Hateful Visions". The latter song features a very solid riff and strays away from the monotonous blast beats of the other tracks. But outside of those two songs, this material is pretty weak. In some areas, the musicianship is downright slovenly. That can be overlooked when the songwriting is strong, but when both aspects are flawed, it's a rather painful listening experience.
Judas Iscariot has been an outfit that seems to have far greater impact on the short EPs rather than full length efforts, which often become quite tedious. Heaven in Flames might have been best served as a brief 7" single. Perhaps in a full band environment, Harris would have been forced to improve the songwriting and tightened up the musicianship before documenting these songs. Unfortunately, his self assured attitude only results in a rather stale and unimpressive outing.
Review by John Chedsey
Review date: 01/2010
|©2000 Red Stream
1. Descent To The Abyss
2. Benevolent Whore, Dethroned For Eternity
3. Journey Through Visions Of War
4. March Upon A Mighty Throne
5. Spill The Blood Of The Lamb (special Blitzkrieg Version)
So, yeah, I didn't really have high hopes for this Judas Iscariot outfit. Obstensibly a one man band, Judas Iscariot is one of those type of black metal outfits that relies on high-falutin' statements like "Judas Iscariot is more than just music" in their liner notes to let would-be listeners know this is "elite" material meant only for certain souls. And that is, of course, correct. The sales demographics for black metal shows that most folks just do not care for this sort of music. Grand! And besides, "Judas Iscariot is the spirit dethroning a lonely feeble god". Does your Rush collection do that? I thought not.
So despite all these unintentionally hilarious statements (which of course make Mr. Iscariot a cult figure in the lonesome underground world of black metal where it is required to make ludicrous statements and actually mean them), it turns out Dethroned, Conquered and Forgotten is this nifty, blazing EP that does a bang-up job of raw black metal. Given the many attempts by lesser acts out there, this isn't an easy thing to accomplish. It's obvious that even though Judas Iscariot was, until recently, based in the United States, the influences were very much based in Scandanavia. There are no hints of keyboards, offkey female singers, breasts on the CD cover or heck, even a small demon needing a hug. This is the type of black metal that goes for the jugular, slits your throat and then dances in a whimsidasical circle around your dying corpse. There are hints of Burzum in the guitar dissonance and a whole lot of Darkthrone, except on a handful of amphetamines. The blastcore songs on this EP feature entirely vicious riffage and a tempo set to kill drummers who aren't in shape. The vocals are your typical raspy trollboy stuff, but it fits the music very nicely.
In spite of the goofy nature of "true" black metal, Judas Iscariot shows they have the goods where it counts: in the music. If Immortal is too slow, Darkthrone too cheerful and Mayhem too glamorous, Judas Iscariot is the cure. If I ever have the need to chase Mormon missionaries away, this is my soundtrack.
Review by John Chedsey
Review date: 12/2002
|©2001 No Colours
1. Moonlight Butchery
2. Death's Hammer
3. Benevolence Crucified
4. Conjuring Hell's Fire (bonus)
Judas Iscariot is certainly one prolific artist. Over the past few years, a veritable plethora of raw black metal releases have poured forth from this project and without fail, there has been nothing but a steady level of quality with every release. This four song EP, entitled Moonlight Butchery, finds Judas Iscariot sticking to the form of his Norwegian predecessors and giving the "old world style" its proper treatment without sounding like a ripoff or puppy-like follower.
The sound of Moonlight Butchery reminds me both of early Darkthrone and Burzum. The songs, excepting the EP's closer "Conjuring Hell's Fire" (which was recorded during a different session), are mid-paced affairs that rely on the almighty grim riff to carry the songs. Judas Iscariot has the keen ability to figure out precisely the proper riff to use. Despite the often simplistic nature of the songs, they carry themselves incredibly well. Throughout Moonlight Butchery, Judas Iscariot creates that peculiar mood that seemingly only the early Scandanavian masters could come up with on a regular basis. This is exactly what raw black metal should sound like. It has that ugly recording value that enhances the mood, but still allows the instruments some clarity. The vocals are throat shredding and never cartoonish.
Overall, Judas Iscariot stands as one of the premiere raw black metal outfits in existence. Although the influences are worn very much on his sleeve, the songwriting is more than adequate enough to avoid sounding like a photocopy. Another fine EP by one of the few truly remarkable black metal bands still going at it.
Review by John Chedsey
Review date: 07/2003