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I suppose that I have been a bit hesitant when it came to covering this band over the years, for whatever reasons - whether I was put off by Ahkenaten's 'totalitarian' speeches or his attempts at NSBM propoganda that were always just a shade to the right of what I always considered worthy of inclusion within political music. But make no mistake: Ahkenaten does not hide his hatred, neither in the music, in the lyrics, or in the support of his projects, and if one is to listen to his creations a decision has to be made... what is more important, the music itself and what it is saying or the words (unnecessary to me) in which Ahkenaten wraps it in? There are those who would say that to listen to music of this sort without being wholeheartedly behind its political/social commentary and motivational direction is to miss the message completely, but I don't agree with that in any way. After all, a man's message may change over the years, and what at the time may have seemed the very reason for existence, the source of a hate that was directly inspirational (here, for example, the disgust for Christianity or other factors), can change to an outmoded embarrassment for its author... as long as one feels, in the abstract, the emotions that Ahkenaten draws on here (or with all his music) then I don't think there will be that wide a margin of error in feeling what the composer of this music wanted its listeners to feel. Such emotions can be summoned and drawn upon irrespective of their final target or ultimate source... Ahkenaten, for example, may hate in a much more virulent fashion than I do (and hate different things than I), but that doesn't change the fact that his hatred - purged here of its direct object(s) when I listen to these songs and when it is presented to me through the medium of music - blends satisfactorily into my own, and offers me a catharsis and expression that I don't feel is futile just because I don't share his particular emphases. Besides, a black metal musician without an object of hatred is a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron. Our social/political convictions (for me, the ones that I do have, in any case), are close enough to be complimentary except on the most literal (exacting) levels. I have never been a political person, and probably never will be, but this music means something to me irregardless. Why? While some aggressive music - a lot of death metal, for example - is merely a recording of artists unconsciously reflecting reality or externals, this album (and most of the earlier black metal that it references) is mainly the expression of an internal reality, the scream of an isolated individual reflecting the external after it had been transformed, through the medium of the individual psyche into something much more integral, something intensely personal. It is important because it carries such a weight of emotion...but I have said enough about this.
The most surprising thing about this music is that it is much better than I had been led to believe... and Ahkenaten, for all his faults as a multi-instrumentalist (he now seems to let drummers take care of the rhythm section and concentrates on guitar) is a black metal guitarist of excellent ability. On this album he expertly encapsulates the Norwegian tradition of atonal melodicism with a few well-placed structural riffs - within the first song, 'The Heavens Drop With Human Gore' and the third, 'Then Mourns The Wanderer' we have a series of minor-chord melodies that evoke all that they are supposed to summon within the framework of traditional Norsk black metal... one can easily hear the influences: Mayhem, a little Burzum perhaps, and above all: Darkthrone. Now, any friend of Darkthrone is a friend of mine, and Ahkenaten, one can tell, has spent his fair share of time researching the roots of Norwegian darkness with Transilvanian Hunger. The fourth song on this album, the speedy 'For the Last Judgement Draweth Nigh', is called right out of the inspiration of Darkthrone's magnum opus, and really there aren't any attempts to hide the influence here at all... in fact, Ahkenaten's vocals on this and a few other songs (they change a bit, but for the most part center around a harsh clawing screech or rough screams) echo Nocturno Culto's perfectly.
One could ask: how is it that this act, which is placed at the top of everyone's lists when it comes to naming bands that stand at the 'head' of the US black metal scene... how is it that Judas Iscariot 'gets away' with being so obviously influenced by European models? At the time of this recording (1996-7), I don't think this was an issue yet at all for anyone...it may be now, when American bands are desperately trying to scratch out a square foot of originality for themselves in an over-saturated world scene, but back in 1996, after the collapse of the really creative years of Norwegian black metal and during the latter days of Poland's entries into the fray, one can not blame Ahkenaten (who seems to have always been on top of what was current within the world scene) of trying, no matter the cost or debt of influence shown, to just make a mark for American black metal bands (although I know he would disavow his allegiance to any kind of American scene, and this album's liner notes points out that the music was written in - and thus inspired by, I can't help feeling one is supposed to think - Germany) no matter the level of originality on what he produced. Original or not, this is just a very good collection of black metal songs - one that hits all the right notes, you could say. Besides, Judas Iscariot has actually been around for a long time now, releasing a great deal of material, and as one would expect, Ahkenaten's focus as a composer has changed over the years - reflecting, I believe, what he was listening to at the time or what he really wanted to mirror (praise, support) with his music. I would never place him among the ranks of the genre's true originators, but I know such a distinction is probably not at all important to him, as he shows through his composing. No, what we have here is basically several attempts to summon, once again, that feeling of 'obscurity' or 'oppressive darkness' that listening to older albums like Transilvanian Hunger or Under A Funeral Moon brings up within us, those emotions and sensations that many other bands (most unsuccessfully) have tried to capture over the years and reproduce - as a sort of tribute, really, to a time long past now... a memorial to a short period in time when a few bands in the far north were writing some of the darkest music imaginable. Judas Iscariot is admirable because it breathes this spirit almost effortlessly, and it doesn't sound awkward or 'forced' in its attempts to call back the grim zeitgeist of early-90s Norway. So what I feel in this music is mainly regret, a sort of indefinable nostalgia and sadness, paired with the anger and unleashing of violence that is always present in Ahkenaten's work, and this regret, the feeling of looking back so overwhelming in the guitar tones and in the slow unfolding of the melodies here, is what really moves me when I listen to this.
Of Great Eternity is the third studio album from Judas Iscariot. It was released on Elegy Records in 1997, and shows a bit of a progression from the first two records. That is not to say that it is good, but it feels a bit more coherent than its predecessors and the musicianship is somewhat more competent, though not by much. The songwriting is fairly similar to the previous material, though some attempts are made to add depth to the overall product. In the end, this album does not break new ground for the band, but it allows Akhenaten to have a bit more solid footing.
The album begins with "...the Heavens Drop With Human Gore...", which seems to be considered some sort of milestone for the band, though it is average in every way possible. It fades in with a mournful vibe, before transitioning to the standard Darkthrone-worship that Judas Iscariot is known for. The guitar tone is thin and suits the style of the music, while the drumming still exhibits the same limitations as before, though to a lesser degree. The song also includes more mid-paced riffs that are reminiscent of Burzum, but nothing really comes of it and the repetition becomes tedious by the end. Not bad, but nothing to get excited about.
"...I Filled With Woes the Passing Wind..." is an instrumental track that is similar to the title tracks from the previous two records, breaking free of the typical formula used for most of the other songs. It possesses a sombre feeling, though it remains in a state of mediocrity, failing to realize the bit of potential that it has. The song is rather one-dimensional, but that is to be expected from Akhenaten.
The next song is "...Then Mourns the Wanderer...", which begins with more fast tremolo melodies before shifting to something else that sounds familiar in a way. The mid-paced part at least adds some variety to the track, though not doing much to elevate the quality. A Burzum-inspired section, near the end, helps the dark atmosphere expand a bit, before returning to the initial tremolo riff and concluding. This song is probably one of the more enjoyable ones on here, and is bereft of the awkward feeling that plagued most of the earlier material.
"...for the Last Judgement Draweth Nigh..." is a short and straightforward track in the vein of classic-era Darkthrone, of course. The tremolo melodies do not really evoke any sort of feeling, and it all comes off as rather sterile and pointless. The execution is much more competent than similar tracks from The Cold Earth Slept Below... or Thy Dying Light, but it lacks any real purpose or direction.
This is followed by a song that utilizes the same approach. "...Calls to Heaven for Human Blood..." features more cold tremolo riffs, though slightly less sterile. One gets the impression that Akhenaten is at least trying to conjure some sort of dark feeling. There is more variation in tempo and the slower sections add a sense of melancholy to the song. The riffs are a bit more memorable, even if they are unoriginal. It still reeks of a combination of Darkthrone and Burzum, with very little unique input, but it is pulled off more successfully than in the past.
"...Our Sons Shall Rule the Empire of the Sea..." starts with one of the better tremolo melodies found on the album, and possesses more of a sombre and epic feel. The riffs still have a familiar quality, but that is to be expected from a musician of such limited vision. Despite whatever pretentious goals he may have had, Akhenaten is still hardly capable of more than hero-worship. This particular song is more complex than any other that he had written, up to this point, and the result is fairly decent. It maintains a mournful atmosphere throughout, leaving the listener in an introspective mood.
Of Great Eternity is not a bad album, but it seems pitiful that it took Akhenaten three tries just to display even a minimal level of competency in songwriting and musicianship. This would have made for an acceptable debut effort, showing a little bit of potential while also paying homage to those who inspired the creation of Judas Iscariot, but to possess such little original thought and to still be so mired in obvious imitation is slightly embarrassing. This is an average album, neither good nor bad, but certainly an improvement when compared to the band's earlier works.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com
Wow, you know "The Heavens Drop with Human Gore" might be reason enough to own this album. It's on par with classic songs like "Det Som Engang Var", "Freezing Moon", or "Transilvanian Hunger", and I don't give a flying fuck who this might be blasphemous to. This song has got it ALL; the powerful riff(s) at the beginning is one example of depth that sounds deceptively simplistic, yet is obviously hiding complexity just beneath the surface. The tremolo riffing is melodic enough to evoke some real emotion, and yet, despite it being cold, it has enough proper distortion, and is picked in such a frenetic way, that it comes off rather aggressive (pretty impressive feat pulled off considering most riffs like this sound rather "safe" by comparison). And if that wasn't enough, the song is further fueled by Akhenaten's impassioned drumming, which helps move things along at moderately quick pace, backing the developing aggression with some real conviction. The aftermath to the introduction is even more brilliant with its relentless melody and gritty veneer. Once again Akhenaten's drumming is well thought out here; he merely pounds along, keeping the tempo with a simplistic rock beat that drives a sense of "groove" into the mind, giving the song an uncanny, catchy quality. And while I can't help but thinking this description makes one believe the song is weak, or something other than black "metal", this couldn't be more further from the truth.
Part of the genius that is "The Heavens Drop with Human Gore", and Judas Iscariot in general, is that Harris pays careful attention to his axe "harmonics", ensuring the sound is plenty dissonant and razor sharp, while his unparalleled, deeper vocal style keeps the atmosphere vile, and possessed with sheer hostility. I suppose the whole "black metal meets rock n roll" notion brings later Satyricon material to mind; the funny thing about it is, where Satyricon's material in question has a sense of "selling out" or failure, Judas Iscariot triumphs in daring to tread new routes regardless of trends, uncompromising the aesthetic and attitude of the band. That's all that really need be said about that; suffice it to say, track 1 is an awesome way to start off the album.
The following track lays down some of the most melancholic and sweeping structures to rival moments from songs, like "Det Som Engang Var" or "The Crying Orc", from Burzum (examples I use simply to stay grounded in the genre, it's likely even more sorrowful parallels could be drawn here). While the piece is an accomplishment all its own--as an enthralling instrumental--, it would have been interesting to see Harris expound on the groundwork laid in this track and come up with a proper black metal song (complete with aggression, blast-beats and vocals). I imagine it could segue into the next song by eliminating the silence between tracks and build upon the melancholic structures of the original song, "I Filled with Woes the Passing Wind". It might have given this disc a fighting chance at black metal's all time top 25 in all honesty.
Now, not to negate the power of the track that does follow, "Then Mourns the Wanderer"... BUT, the quality moments of it sound almost like the same exact riffs/structures that were in the first song (the ones that made it such a stand-out track, in fact). What's nice, once more, is that it features another stab at the whole rock structure at the heart of the song. Not to be stagnate, it features other tempos that work for it, such as a nice blasting intro/outro section and slowed, doomy pace towards the end (which makes it another classic in vein of "Where Winter Beats Incessant" or "His Eternal Life, Like A Dream Was Obliterated") . Once again Judas Iscariot seems to be guilty of using repetition for the sake of having epic lengths, but this is always a welcomed thing in my book as his creative efforts are so compelling and majestic (aside from being bleak and misanthropic, of course).
Track 4 is the most average track found here, and it yet Harris has enough wits about him to keep it under the 4 minute mark (which is just another sign pointing towards the man's high IQ and keen music sensibility). Song 5 has some nice moments towards the middle and end which helps round out the album more than others in the Judas Iscariot discography; its fairly good mid-paced track that wouldn't feel out of place on 'Distant in Solitary Night'. Track 6, "Our Sons Shall Rule The Empire Of The Sea", ends this unique album in an extremely strong fashion. And while I won't go so far as to say it rivals tracks 1 and 2, it certainly is up there. I would say in terms of being epic, or in terms of being melancholic, dark and ironically illuminating, this song clearly wins. Much like 'Heaven in Flames', it takes the listener to some places Judas Iscariot has never been to before. Needless to say, it retains its feral nature via Harris' vicious vocal duties.
All in all, 'Of Great Eternity' is a must have piece of the Judas Iscariot discography... definitely one of my favorite releases that just happens to be book-ended by Judas Iscariot's best material: 'Thy Dying Light' and 'Distant in Solitary Night'. Judas Iscariot may be guilty of a lack of cohesion, stylistically, between albums... especially between these early albums and the later ones. I'm not so sure Judas Iscariot made as many great albums as it made great songs (especially from 'Heaven In Flames'onwards). Perhaps 'Of Great Eternity' fits that bill as well, as many fans seem to overlook it. Its limited scope of 6 tracks--one of which is an instrumental--doesn't seem to help matters in this regard either. The reality here, though, is that some of Judas Iscariot's greatest songs ever are found on 'Of Great Eternity' (1,2, & 6 to be perfectly clear). And while that might not be enough to rank it with the early JI material, it's clearly enough to break into the top 90 percentile, I'd have to argue.
'Of Great Eternity' is wholly another reflection of Judas Iscariot's take of what black metal is meant to be. If you've heard the live album, you'll know what Judas Iscariot was intending to interpret to the rest of the world with their variation of black metal, "black metal is about hatred and intolerance". That pretty much sums up 'Of Great Eternity' in a nutshell.
Judas Iscariot are the proprietor's of black metal in the United States. They fused old school black metal with a modern day twist perfectly. To this very day their style still sounds as if it would stand up to anything black metal has to offer this very day. 'Of Great Eternity' is a further step into the abyss that is aggression. Judas Iscariot's main aim in life is to create an uncompromising style using double bass and harsh distortion on both the guitars, and the vocals. The guitars are perhaps the most important element of Judas Iscariot's routine, which is nothing new for a black metal band. More so often than not, guitars play the pivotal role in rescuing a band from complete embarrassment, that's not the case when it comes to Judas Iscariot, but they are the most important element of their game.
The tremolo riffs are effective alongside those rasping vocals which are full of hatred like no other. I'd assume the lyrics would prove this point, but unfortunately, I don't know the lyrics. The theme of hatred and nihilism is obviously something that runs close to the heart of this mammoth act. Nothingness is what the atmosphere aims to create. A certain distant and cold feeling, like what the second wave bands were aiming for. However, Judas Iscariot have taken that style to a new level. The repetitive facade that covers this band is effective. Monotonous guitars and a lack of distinctive bass may ruin the opinion of some, but it will enhance the opinions of others. Black metal is an acquired taste, as are bands like Judas Iscariot who simply aim to recreate a dead sound.
'Of Great Eternity' is probably symbolic of the weakest Judas Iscariot albums, unfortunately. It lacks in terms of the guitars. They do create a distant feel to the music, but they're not especially enjoyable. Perhaps that's the aim. The bass is also too content to do the job of the percussion. The percussion consists mainly of double bass blast beats, one after the other and the bass simply follows it. A bit more expression when it comes to the bass wouldn't go a miss. The vocals are typically Judas Iscariot-esque, but we have all come to love those. 'Of Great Eternity' represents probably the least melodic full-length the band have made. It's colder and darker than the rest, though.
This is the third Judas Iscariot album and Akhenaten has his third different riffing style on it. This album is more melodic and a bit slower than Thy Dying Light. The production is good, you can hear the guitars very nice, even the bass. The drumming is good but sounded better on Thy Dying Light.
The Heavens Drop With Human Gore is the first track and has some tasty melodic riffs in it. Akhenatens scream at the end is classic! Then Mourns the Wanderer is another solid song, the bass sounds very good on this track. Our Sons Shall Rule the Empire of the Sea is the album closer and the best song on this album. At 9 minutes it sounds like it could have fit perfectly on Thy Dying Light. Listen to that riff at 4:30 into the song. Wow. Followed by some screams and then a second guitar, this makes this song a fucking classic!
Another top notch Judas Iscariot release. This band can really do no wrong. Akhenaten is a genius! Not as classic as Thy Dying Light, but still very essential.