Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Judas Iscariot - Thy Dying Light (1996)

Judas Iscariot's sophomore effort, Thy Dying Light, was released by Moribund Records in 1996. This was a relatively short time after the appearance of the band's debut album, yet already Akhenaten had ascended to a new level of pretentiousness. This was not only evident in the ridiculously long song titles, but also in the music itself. Regardless of how serious he was, it is quite clear that he failed in attaining his ambitious goals. Furthermore, this album demonstrates just how out of touch Akhenaten was with the true essence of Black Metal. Imitation does not necessarily indicate a sense of understanding, which is something that is often lost on many.

The album begins with "...But Eternals Beheld His Vast Forests...", which is a rather minimalist track that does not stray far from the formula of Darkthrone-worship that was present on The Cold Earth Slept Below... Frigid tremolo riffs create a bleak atmosphere, with the grim vocal approach suiting the sound and showing a little more of a connection to the music. The drumming is still awful and the timing is obviously flawed, but it is slightly less awkward. The real downside to this song are the terrible breakdowns, that have absolutely no place in Black Metal and certainly not this style. It goes to show that most Americans find it difficult to separate themselves from the moronic Death Metal mentality that was dominant for so long. Given that the music is so unoriginal, it is really puzzling that Akhenaten would not be able to restrain such foolish additions, since he was obviously plagiarizing his heroes in the first place.

"...His Eternal Life, Like a Dream Was Obliterated...", displays more of a Burzum influence, such as the open-arpeggio chords and the slower pace designed to create a sorrowful atmosphere. The vocal approach is completely wrong for this type of song, and does nothing to accentuate the sombre vibe. Though the track clocks in at just over nine minutes, it feels like twenty. All in all, it comes off as kind of flat, since it just drones on and on, with no build and no climax. What little variation that exists here actually serves to undermine the main riff, rather than complimenting it. While none of the riffs go out of their way to destroy the song, it is still a lackluster effort.

Showing no sense of arrangement, Akhenaten follows this lengthy track with one that is even longer. "...Helpless It Lay, Like a Worm in His Frozen Track..." sounds like a combination of Burzum and Darkthrone (which is quite common for Judas Iscariot). It features some more upbeat riffs, mixed with more generic tremolo melodies and some utterly horrible transitions between them. The guitar playing is so sloppy, at times, that one has to wonder if this is a studio album or a garage rehearsal. One has to give credit for the fact that the song includes a handful more riffs than the preceding tracks, but Akhenaten's weak songwriting results in a mess. This song lacks any real sense of unity. This is eleven minutes of disorganized ideas that are thrown together with little or no thought.

"...Behold, Our Race of Unstoppable Genius..." is much shorter, and returns to the fast-paced approach reminiscent of Transilvanian Hunger. This song consists of cold tremolo riffs, inept drumming and disjointed vocals that hardly seem to fit the music at all. In the hands of more competent musicians, some of these riffs could have been decent. The most annoying thing is at the end, where Akhenaten likes to keep talking as the music stops. This guy must really like the sound of his own voice, because he is guilty of doing this a lot.

The next song is "...From His Woven Darkness Above...", which follows the same formula, but manages to be even more irritating. The vocals are comically bad, from the ridiculous pattern to the fact that his voice is too high in the mix. One would think that he would have had the sense to bury his pathetic drumming underneath the guitars, but they are still far too prominent as well. Of course, making matters worse is the presence of a few Death Metal riffs that exposes the fact that this guy has a very feeble grasp on what Black Metal is about, in the first place.

"...Writhing Upon the Wind of Mystic Philosophy and Dreams..." is another track filled with blasting drums and cold tremolo riffs. The vocals sound more like Barbarud from Maniac Butcher, at certain points. This average song is interrupted, near the middle, with a section that sounds inspired by Hellhammer. The thing is that there is no transition at all, the music just disintegrates into something else. This is followed by something more melodic and mournful, which makes no sense at all. How anyone is blind enough to not see through this nonsense is beyond me.

More Darkthrone plagiarism is next, with "...They Saw His Pale Visage Emerge From the Darkness...", leading one to question how Akhenaten released this album with no shame whatsoever. His only worthwhile ideas are stolen or nearly identical to pre-existing riffs and the rest is a clutter of ideas with no sense of logic or continuity. Riffs abruptly end, in order to introduce a concept that has nothing to do with the established theme of the song, only to disappear and shift to something else. As for this song in particular, it is rather straightforward and offers no real surprises. It would be one of the most enjoyable tracks on here, if not for the fact that it is complete rehash.

"...Thy Dying Light, and Desolate Darkness..." is an instrumental that seems to come out of left field, with no real connection to the rest of the material. It sounds oddly familiar as well, which is not a terribly shock considering the source.

Thy Dying Light can be summed up by the outro, which is pointless and laughable, just like the majority of this album. It is sad that so many Black Metal fans cannot see that Judas Iscariot is a joke that no one let them in on. The song arrangement, musicianship and songwriting are all so bad that this is either a prank on the underground or evidence that Akhenaten is a clueless imbecile with no business getting near musical instruments and even less reason to venture into the realm of Black Metal. Get a clue and see this for the trash that it is.