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The body of Judas Iscariot’s work can best be described as woefully unoriginal yet somehow still delightfully very good. And Dethroned, Conquered and Forgotten is in good concert with that summation. It’s raw, well written and screams black metal energy. It caught on to me right away. Akhenaten deviates a little bit from the more melodic rawness of prior releases such as Heaven In Flames. This EP is something faster, thinner and more stripped down. His prior recordings were instantly recognizable as Burzum, early Satyricon and perhaps-more directly- even some Sventevith era Behemoth influences. Dethroned, Conquered and Forgotten though sounds like a precise blend of Darkthrone and Immortal. You’re probably thinking that in this day, that’s neither novel nor difficult. True, but doing it with perfection and attention to mechanical detail is what Judas Iscariot excels at on here.
Akhenaten unleashes velocity of pure Norwegian black metal sound straight away in those riffs. This was quite a privilege to listen to but the star of this show is Cryptic Winter on drums. The drumming on Judas Iscariot’s prior albums with the main man doing them was passable though clumsy but on this EP, the drumming is everything needed to put this one over the top. It’s natural, super fast and pummels every beat succinctly while still maintaining an unmistakable black metal tone of primitivism. And let’s not forget the work well done with the tin fidelity element. Every black metal listener worth their salt knows that this is where many bands of the genre get tripped up on. Here, Akhenaten’s plan of attack is to go loud and aggressive with the percussion to the max and slice down everything else but within earshot. But you’ll notice the hi-hat runs beneath the main beats with the guitars. His production choice of technique here has less to do with equalizing than it does with understanding how this type of black metal should sound. As a matter of fact you could say chaos theory applies more to black metal than music theory does. If you come away with one thing in mind after listening to this EP, it should be just that very paradigm to remember.
The bristling rasps of Akhenaten are, not surprisingly, faster as to make them sound different than on previous occasions. I think they are one of his strongest efforts and they are well suited to this even rawer release. March Upon a Mighty Throne is the one slower going song. It’s a haunting and somber Norse type instrumental. It’s nice that the band is able to slip in that type of slow, epic interlude to round things out. Considering that this is an EP, it serves to make it sound more like you’re getting the value of a full-length. That’s exactly what I look for in an EP. I would rate this with among Wolf’s Lair Abyss as a standard bearing extended play recording. Spill The Blood of the Lamb is done here in a much faster version than from Heaven In Flames which is why it’s labeled as “Blitzkrieg Version”. Not having heard the original in awhile, this one was so different that I didn’t even recognize it at first.
Descent to the Abyss and Benevolent Whore, Dethroned for Eternity are two songs doing vicious riffs of the same chord patterns and it works splendidly. They blast away like a battery of double barreled artillery guns doing volley fires. Journey Through Visions of War is a bit slower but no less grim. Some of those chroma-styled fifths at the end are very much in the tradition of Blackthorn’s guitar style. It’s good to hear these traditions intact.
It’s a pity Akhenaten decided to retire this project. This would not be his final album but it’s one of his high marks of his consistent repertoire. He doesn’t push the borders of black metal, no. But this album sounds like a study and inspirational piece in tribute to the true masters while standing out with great confidence and blasphemic vigor. This is great black metal that I can always rely on when it’s played this well.