Judas Iscariot
To Embrace The Corpses Bleeding
[Red Stream]

One of the more notorious US black metal outfits returns with what is possibly its best material to date. Gone are the days of Darkthrone/Graveland worship with an obviously 4-track production and unstable drumming. Ever since Heaven in Flames, Judas Iscariot has been building a unique, definitve style, and the addition of Cryptic Winter on drums has helped really enforce a dividing line between 'old' and 'new' JI material.

To Embrace..., the newest album, builds on this even more. The unique take Akhenaten has on Darkthrone-styled strummed melodies combined with some of the more atmospheric, epic songwriting/song structures, those peculiar 'drone' riffs, and the overall shift to much faster song tempos (thanks to CW's drumming) all combine to stake out some identifiable territory. Even the more straightforward, 'blasting' songs like "Terror from the Eastern Sky" or "Where Eagles Cry and Vultures Laugh" carry the identifiable JI stamp in riffing and grim atmosphere. Mixed in, though, are fantastic epic elements like the trudging "In the Valley of Death, I Am Their King" and the album's best moment, the opener "I Awoke to a Night of Pain and Carnage".

The sound is also drastically improved from previous early efforts. The bass is probably the most audible on this album (though still a bit undermixed, to my ears anyway), the guitars are still full and robust, clear but with still enough edge to sound vicious, the drum sounds are crisp enough to keep the fast beats identifiable, and Akhenaten's vocals are more in the Dethroned, Conquered and Forgotten vein than earlier material, trading the old grim croak for something like a hoarse shout/scream. All around, this is simply a great black metal album, another hallmark for the US black metal identity.

2003 lord vic