Judas Iscariot
Heaven in Flames
[Red Stream]

Wow...fuck anyone who says American Black Metal isn't any good. Judas Iscariot has been proving naysayers wrong since 1993, and "Heaven in Flames", their fifth full-length album, carries that tradition forth towards the 21st century. On the surface not too much has changed - still present is the primitive, dry, but still clean, cold, and crisp production, the straightforward drumming, the incredible guitar tone and fast, melancholy riffing, and of course Akhenaten's own grim-croak vocals. Nevertheless, I personally find "Heaven in Flames" to be the most unique-sounding of all of JI's work to date, and the difference is in the song writing. There's just something grim and grandiose to the songs on this album that I can't put my finger on. Much like on JI's previous album "Distant in Solitary Night", the dynamics don't vary much through the whole album, but while DiSN could get tedious in parts, on "Heaven in Flames" the lack of dynamic shift is a strength, in much the same way as Darkthrone's "Transilvanian Hunger". The way Akhenaten writes most of the riffs on this album help underline that as well - the atmosphere created through this album is stark and grim, and it stays consistent through the album but still without getting tedious (IMO). He also adds keyboards in a couple of the songs here, but they are VERY tastefully used - they're sparse, fairly low in the mix, and not active, really serving as just more of a backdrop for the guitar melodies to play against.

Even knowing what to expect from Judas Iscariot didn't prepare me for the grim, atmospheric black metal assault that is "Heaven in Flames". I personally think Akhenaten has outdone himself, using his own standard musical elements to create something that is new and unique, and so I give this album an unqualified thumbs-up.

2000 lord vic