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Thy Dying Light - 10%

Noctir, October 5th, 2011

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.

Written for

Realizing untapped potential - 85%

ThrashingMad, February 21st, 2009

I have to say, I’ve never truly gotten into “The Cold Earth Slept Below”. I constantly hear about how good it is, and, considering its influences and aesthetics, it really seems like the kind of thing that I would love, but try as I might, I just can’t fully appreciate it. Don’t get me wrong though, I certainly don’t dislike it, it’s a pretty good listen, I just don’t enjoy as much as I thought I would. However, it may be because I heard, and became familiar with this album first (although I suspect a less innocent factor), and it does a lot of the stuff on the band’s debut better than it was done there, without changing the formula all too much. There is a small stylistic change here, and it comes in the form of a stronger sense of melody and a slight tweaking of the music’s atmosphere, and I like the band’s sound a lot better with these changes.

The core musical attributes here are more or less the same as they were on the first album. The guitars typically alternate between aggressive tremolo-picked sections and droning trance riffs, both being pretty reminiscent of trilogy-era Darkthrone. The feeling emitted by these being one of disgusted misanthropy, portraying an all-encompassing hatred for mankind’s despicable existence. At times, some lonely, wandering Burzum-inspired make their way into the songs, crawling along with a melancholic desperation that sounds excellent. Akhenaten’s vocals are still the same extremely hate-filled screams, rasps, and moans that were heard on the previous album as well. However, everything here is quite a bit tighter and more refined than it was on the debut. One can simply look at the guitar riffs to understand this, as they all sound a lot better than before; they are clearly better played and aren’t as sloppy (which was actually kind of part of the appeal of the first album but whatever), they are much more memorable, Akhenaten makes much better decisions about which riffs he chooses to use in the droning parts, which avoids the boring feel that some of those sections had on the first album, and while still being far from complex, they are more intricate than they had been previously. Everything about them is simply better, and a lot this is due to the more frequent use of consonant melody in the song-writing. Now obviously, consonance doesn’t fix everything, the overuse of it can actually ruin a lot of bands, but here its incorporation really works to the music’s advantage, making these compositions more memorable and ultimately bringing the previously hateful, but somewhat one-dimensional atmosphere of Judas Iscariot works into a new realm of pure darkness.

As I mentioned before, the guitar work’s sense of melody on this album has been greatly enhanced since the band’s first full-length. However, don’t be mislead into thinking that this takes the form of sugary ear-candy; no, while there is clearly a good deal of consonance in the songs’ melodies, they are anything but pretty. They all possess a very grim, malevolent tone, yet retain a certain beauty. It is, as one would guess, a very morbid sense of beauty, a sinister grandeur, if you will. Like a well-constructed coffin, or the bleak, leafless branches of a tree in winter, or even the chilling, though somehow striking stillness of the recently deceased; it’s beautiful almost in spite of itself, and it seems forbidding in its gloomy majesty. Kind of like that old cliché about something that you know you shouldn’t but you can’t look away, well, this has a weird quality of that for me. The music has a horrific grimness that makes my flesh crawl and hair stand on end, yet I can’t help but recognize its beauty.

With these key elements in place, these songs construct a grim, death-obsessed atmosphere that is nothing short of chilling; evoking ghastly images in the listener’s mind. For example, this album takes me to a graveyard in the dead of night, only illuminated by dim celestial light. The entrance to which is a huge, menacing looking gate; old, rust, and heavy, it is nearly impossible to move more than a foot or so, and as it is moved, it lets out ear-piercing creaks and squeaks. The inside is filled with horrifying, gothic tombstones, on which wretched monsters and ancient demons are vividly depicted. Everything seems unnervingly cryptic, as the crumbling graves, dead grass, and pungent smell of rotting corpses make it clear that these grounds have not been tended to for quite some time. The only occupants of this hellish land are nearly transparent spirits that slowly drift across the ground, showing no emotion aside from the occasional forlorn scream of agony and hate. So mysteriously morbid are these grounds that they possess an air of occult evil, as though satanic rituals were once preformed upon them; they’re victims buried beneath. This terrifying scene of death and gloom is one that is imprinted in my mind after listening to this album in full.

While it may seem that I am really praising the fuck out of everything this album has to offer, there are a few unfortunate flaws that bring the listening experience down a bit. The first problem is that the droning, trance type riffs that Akhenaten writes still aren’t completely consistent, and while bad ones here are much rarer than on the first album, there are still a few poorly written melodies that become very boring due to their repetition and overall poor construction. Once again though, this aspect of the music has still vastly improved since the band’s first effort. The second flaw is one that was also very prominent on “The Cold Earth Slept Below”, that being the rather awkward rhythmic transitions. There are a lot of sharp transitions on this album, including some pretty erratic tempo changes, most these usually not being as smooth as they should due to Akhenaten’s rather amateur drumming abilities. Neither of these problems provide huge blows to the album’s quality, but they are still pretty detrimental.

Despite these slightly annoying flaws, this is still quite a great album on a whole. With intensely hateful, yet darkly melodic riffing, searing, throat-ripping vocals, and an atmosphere so horrific it could chill even the most hardened soul; this is some extremely immersive music, particularly when one is in the mood for a truly evil expression of morbidity. Although I do enjoy other works of the band, I maintain that this, Thy Dying Light, is Judas Iscariot’s classic.

This album has historical value. - 90%

PaganFear89, November 5th, 2008

American black metal band Judas Iscariot is, nowadays, the most famous act in the U.S.A., even though they split-up on 2002. They have released various demo tapes and EPs, a Live Album and six full lenghts. The one I'm reviewing is their second effort, released in 1996, which is the same year they released the debut album: a very prolific beginning. Akhenaten, the leader of this one man band, has composed the music and has written all the lyrics during the first half of 1996. He is a great fan of Darkthrone, at least until Panzerfaust album. He plays a similar kind of music, very simple to play yet hard to understand.

Thy Dying Light has a unique atmosphere coming from the music: it's not dark and haunting as albums like Heaven in Flames, it's more destructive and cruel. While hearing this album you can almost smell the death, thus see dead bodies on a desolate road. The artwork is not as good as the one of Distant in Solitary Night, it's simpler and less good. It is a more Burzum-like painting, with dead trees and a dark shadow walking, with a distant shape of a church in the Distance. Musically, Thy Dying Light is composed of 9 tracks and ends after 52 minutes, an almost 6 minutes average per song. It's a quite long average in the black metal scene to be honest I'd say, showing one of the most impressive quality of Akhenaten: the songwriting. He uses a few riffs for each song, but each riff is good and never seem ripetitive.

The first three songs are the longest on the album, with a growing lenght: the first song clocks after 8 minutes, the second one after 9 minutes and the third one has a 11 minutes lenght. Impressive. Those songs are mostly composed by mid-paced riffs, simple drum patterns and evil vocals. This is another strong quality of Judas Iscariot: the vocals. Akhenaten roars, growls, screams and howls to fit perfectly the lyrics and the atmosphere of the songs. It's not a vocal-based music, but the vocal part has a major role in the album. Still, there are killer riffs in this album, such as track seven, They Saw His Pale Visage Emerge from the Darkness. This is one of my favourite songs of the album. A Darkthrone anthem, with awesome vocals and fast drumming. The tracks 4-7 are pretty similar in the form and structure, with 2 riffs alternated with some slow-downs. Track eight (the title track) is very reminescent from Burzum's early work: a melody repeated on and on, on and on with some guitar addictions and keyboard layers on the background. Very relaxing after the black metal fury of the previous tracks. The album ends with a strange track, short and spoken. Probably it's a summon, and in my opinion it is spoken backwards.

This is a very important album in the U.S. black metal history and one of the most precious gems of the second wave of black metal. I suggest to hear it if you like black metal, and buy it, if you manage to find it.


yar, May 22nd, 2007

Judas Iscariot was and is the cornerstone of the USBM scene and this early release by Akhenaten is essential to his legacy. Sure, the produtction sucks even by "true" standards, homeboy's drum work is sub-par and unless your a fan of "VON" style minimilistic black metal you will be lost and scared. Those of us on the level will be treated to an album of truly suicidal proportions. What the drums lack the guitars certainly make up for and though there is only a few riffs per song they are each crafted to produce their own unique trance.

The album kicks off with ...But Eternals Beheld His Vast Forest a track heavily influenced by Darkthrone but there is a bluesy-rock riff in the middle that breaks up the blasts nicely. ...His Eternal Life, Like a Dream, Was Obliterated is the best track on the album evoking a sence of total failure and loneliness. Its plodding repetion is reminiscent of Pornography era Cure if it was played by Varg Vickerness. The other tracks on the album are far from filler but don't quite pack the punch of the first two tracks. The 4th track ...Behold, Our Race of Unstoppable Genius has a ripping old school punk vibe.

The talent of this man tracends the primitive nature of the recording Akhenaten's knack for layering depressive melodies was obvious from the beginning. I would recomend starting with the early work as to appreciate Judas Iscariot's masterful later work like Dethroned, Conquered and Forgotten even more.

Behold, Our Race Of Unstoppable Genius! - 93%

Perplexed_Sjel, April 5th, 2006

Judas Iscariot's onslaught continues with the release of the second full-length album out of seven in total, including the live album "Under The Black Sun". This is by far my favourite Judas Iscariot album as it combines all the greatest elements about the genre and throws them together to come up with this brilliant masterpiece. "Thy Dying Light" consists of nine tracks in all and is just over 51 minutes long. Just enough time for it to grab you by its claw, chew you up and then spit you back out. This is an utter onslaught.

Influences are quite clear here. Both early Immortal and Darkthrone are obviously held in high esteem by Judas Iscariot. Despite easily noticeable influences, Judas Iscariot's music is unique in it's own way. Songs are usually quite repetitive and raw. The choppy and crunchy riffs are perfect for this style of Black Metal. They are generally quite slow and highly influenced by early workings of Darkthrone. The vocals are grim and project utter bleakness. They're somewhat different to most Black Metal vocals though, they sound significantly deeper than most, but it works well with the sound this album portrays. As with all Black Metal, this is no different when it comes to atmosphere ... From the very beginning it sets a certain type of mood and feeling throughout. A mood which will certainly project desolation, bleakness and destruction. Latter Judas Iscariot albums tend to focus more on atmosphere, especially "Heaven In Flames". The latter albums tend to be much darker, but on "Thy Dying Light" the atmosphere is more unique, and with that, probably grimmer and misanthropic. The raw and harsh vocals, along with the choppy riffs and pounding drums offer the perfect backdrop to the atmosphere. Vocals occasionally do shift into a more spoken theme, rather than singing, this is usually done with a harsh tone which adds to the already in place atmosphere. You could say it enhances it somewhat. Despite all this, the release isn't that aggressive. It's far more rhythmic than anything, but do not let that deter you from purchasing it.

Highlight tracks for me include; "His Eternal Life, Like A Dream Was Obliterated" and "Behold, Our Race Of Unstoppable Genius".

Simply Brilliant! - 98%

TheSomberlain, January 27th, 2006

From the first second of the first track, But Eternals Beheld His Vast Forests, you know you are about to hear one of the best black metal albums of all time. This album sounds much different than the debut. More melodic, better drumming, better riffs, more atmosphere and the production sounds better but still maintains it's rawness. Akhenaten simply put released a masterpiece with Thy Dying Light. This album is epic!

But Eternals Beheld His Vast Forests starts the album off and is one of the many highlights. Some very grim riffs and amazing atmosphere. Behold, Our Race of Unstoppable Genius is another track with amazing atmosphere and the best drum work on the album. The drumming on this album can be very sloppy and all over the place but I think it fits perfectly. Helpless it Lay, Like a Worm in His Frozen Track is my favorite song on the album. It starts off slow and melodic and just blasts away after a minute or so. One of Judas Iscariot's best songs. The album ends with the instrumental Thy Dying Light, and Desolate Darkness. This song starts with the best riff on the album and after 10 seconds a second guitar comes in and plays the same riff. The instrumental is repetitive but that riff is fucking amazing, it makes for a near perfect way to end a near perfect album.

Akhenaten recorded some of the best black metal with Thy Dying Light. If you are a fan of black metal and don't own this album then there's a problem somewhere. A masterpiece like Thy Dying Light does not come around all that often. Truly amazing!

The Plague Of Death Has Arrived MAGGOTS! - 88%

Symphony_Of_Terror, October 29th, 2004

Thy Dying Light is Judas Iscariots second full length release and has some interesting things to consider about it. Usually in a bands first few releases you can clearly see their influences. Akhenaten‘s inspirations and influences clearly manifest themselves in this release. What’s also interesting about Thy Dying Light is that not only are Akhenaten’s inspirations shown, but what he does with them, and to see how he changes them. You can also see Akhenaten developing more and more his unique sound which most fully manifests on his later work Heaven In Flames and the last full length release of new material To Embrace The Corpses Bleeding. Aside from this album being interesting it also produces some grim, relentless, at times emotional, and purposeful black metal.

It’s clear that Akhenaten’s inspirations for this album were Pure Holocaust / Battles In The North era Immortal, and early 90’s Darkthrone. In Thy Dying Light’s songs show examples of Immortals icy raw riffs like in the song They Saw His Pale Visage Emerge from Darkness and Behold Our Race Of Unstoppable Genius . Both songs start off with a familiar Immortal like riff like that in Pure Holocaust. Its raw, at times choppy, and grim. Once you notice this you can even see the similarities in vocals to. Although when Akhenaten’s vocals are over more of his original creations on the album the resemblance disappears for the most part since his vocals are significantly deeper, usually a turn off for black metal, but its works well on this release. On Thy Dying Light And Desolate Darkness and Writhing Upon the Wind of Mystic Philosophy

, some slow moving raw Darkthrone inspired riffs manifest themselves. The Darkthrone Inspirations are not quite as clearly for Akhenaten has added some of his classic Judas Iscariot elements to them.

Atmosphere is a big element of all black metal, it visually sets a mood and feeling through sound. Many black metal fans will describe it as actions happening, such as destruction, death, insanity etc, whether it is coming or already has arrived. Thy Dying Light doesn’t quite set the atmosphere in the same way as the other Judas Iscariot albums Heaven In Flames and Of Great Eternity. That is not saying its doesn’t produce a weaker atmosphere, but a different one. On Heaven In Flames the atmosphere is much darker and shattering, the songs progress in a way that omens destruction and disaster coming. On Thy Dying Light Judas Iscariot has a more unique atmosphere, one that is much more grim and straight forward than the albums mentioned before. As with Heaven In Flames the atmosphere is that of coming disaster, apocalypse, destruction, and plague. On They Dying Light the listener gets the feeling they are in the mist of this destruction and plague of death. The riffs at times are choppy and raw with pounding drums making them seem like they are tearing down walls. At times they are slow and grim, as if the song is displaying the effects of its atmosphere, the damage done. Other vocal moments that help the atmosphere is when Akhenaten is more speaking in a grim and harsh tone rather than singing, as if delivering his message of current death and destruction for mankind. Quite an amazing atmosphere and original for this black metal band.

The only downside to this album is that it focuses on being raw and grim. This of course helps the album in a huge way making the atmosphere of it dominating. This album also has moments where it is aggressive, like on the first track But Eternals Beheld His Vast Forests. This is wear the album being mostly dark, grim, and atmospheric clash with the aggressive moments. The aggressive moments are of course very well done, but they take away from the atmosphere set previously or currently beginning. The transitions are done well, but during the aggressive moments and bridges, the atmosphere seems to become lost (not hopelessly lost though). Since the atmosphere on this album is such a huge part of it, every moment should be devoted to keeping the consistency of it. Over all this album is not very aggressive, although relentless. So to listen to this album for other reason, like aggression, or pure darkness, would void the listeners enjoyment.

Another interesting aspect of this album is that Akhenaten develops a riff that is in a style found on many of his later works, like Heaven in Flames. It is the style of guitar work found on the beginning of Helpless it Lay, Like A Worm Frozen In His Tracks. It is a slower more Americanized black metal riff, not very aggressive, heavy, or grim, but more rhythmic. This style shows up much more in later works.

Thy Dying Light produces a relentless atmospheric experience full of death, destruction, and current mayhem that keeps on being pounded into the listener. There are better Judas Iscariot releases for I believe this is weaker in atmosphere and aggression than the bands later works. Although this comparison is unfair since the later works of Judas Iscariot are amazing. Listen to this album to see how Judas Iscariot developed into what it is before the band stopped making records. A worthy listen to all black metal fans alike.