Sound: For the majority of Judas Iscariots "Dethroned, Conquered And Forgotten," the band (or more accurately, Akhenaten, the sole member) utilises a fast-paced yet melodic black metal approach. Riffing mostly consists of tremelo picked power chords, yet Akhenaten manages to produce quality, memorable riffs throughout the album. You won't find black metals equivalent of Iron Man on here, but you won't be disappointed with what there is.
A lot of the riffs on the album are, however, built around one or two power chords, but using more melodic intervals than the standard fifth. But using this approach seems to enhance the impact of the more complex riffs, and at times provide a backing for a melody. And as far as melodies go, it never feels like Akhenaten had an existing riff, and felt that a melody needed to go over the top. Whenever a melody is used, it seems to go perfectly with the backing riff, as though the song was built around a melody that might only be in it for 20 seconds.
But not all is speed and agression. The third track on the album, "Journey Through Visions Of War," is a mostly mid-tempo peice, picking up speed only in the last minute. Very little in this song is tremelo picked, making it stand out a little from the rest of the songs, and the riffs can be at times both incredibly melodic and slightly dissonant. However this track marks the first of several times in the album that you notice that a lot of riffs are being cycled in a pretty standard manner; riff one plays 4 times, riff two is slightly different and plays 4 times, and so on.
The next track on the album (March Upon A Mighty Throne) also stands out from the others, another mid-tempo peice, this time instrumental. I was also surprised to hear bass in this track, as the bass was all but in-audibly in the previous 3. In all I would say that this was the weakest point of the album, with the song being built around arpeggios rather than the memorable riffs of the other tracks on the album. But is good enough to keep from letting the album down.
Aside from the guitar, there isn't too much to speak about instrument-wise...while the drumming keeps everything afloat, it consists mainly of blast-beats, although the drummer does play some tasteful rythms on the cymbals and throw in some nice fills while blasting. Other than that it is pretty standard, especially on "Journey Through Visions Of War," and absent on "March Upon A Mighty Throne."
All in all, the album has the same atmosphere all the way through, with very little dynamics, but the riffing is strong enough to keep the listeners interest all the way through. // 7
Lyrics and Singing: As the vocals were slightly lower in the mix than the other instruments, and due to the nature of black metal vocals, I was only able to catch a word here or there of what he was saying. And as well as that I couldn't find any lyrics on the net, but you can be pretty certain that the lyrics are mostly of the anti-christian kind, judging by the album title, the song titles, and the albums liner notes.
The vocals are strong, although they might not appeal to all listeners as Akhenaten employs a slightly "gurgled" vocal style, similar to Abbath of Immortal. However Akhenaten's approach is, for lack of a better phrase, a little less gurgly.
The vocal approach suits the music well, in the absence of the melodies that clean vocals allow, the vocals are done in a rythmic style, always suiting the riff that is playing along with them. // 7
Impression: Overall the album is very strong, and should appeal to fans of all kinds of black metal, being melodic enough for fans of symphonic black metal, fast enough for fans of bands like Marduk and 1349, and old-school enough for the elitists. The album also strikes me as a good starting point for black metal, as it has a decent production quality along with the melodic riffs. The only really weak point in the production is the bass drum, which just sounds like someone slapping a peice of wet cardboard.
Comparing Judas Iscariot to other black metal bands is slightly difficult, as although it lacks the arrangement qualities of a band like Emperor, the straight-forward approach is refreshing in an age where a lot of black metal is too simple or too complex. Riff wise this album holds it's own against almost any album you could find, and it fast became one of my favourite metal records. // 8