Judas Iscariot is a name that fans of black metal should know, yet it's very possible that they don't. This one-man band is an extremely underrated and overlooked band from the United States that was formed in 1992 by Andrew Harris aka Akhenaten, right towards the beginning of the second wave of black metal and right in the middle of all the madness that was going on in the Norwegian scene. A lot of people think that USBM is a joke for the most part and can't even compare to the Scandinavian scene and stuff like that. Well Judas Iscariot doesn't care at all about the comparisons because Distant in Solitary Night
is one of the best albums to come out of America's black metal scene. Unlike a lot of the bands in the USBM scene, Judas Iscariot doesn't play "Cascadian" black metal. They opt for a more primitive, straight up, old-school black metal sound similar to bands like Darkthrone, Gorgoroth, and Burzum.
The album is overall quite simple, to be honest. The riffs and drumming are all very simplistic. Nothing that's going to wow you or make you say, "Holy ***, how did he do that"" No, what you get is plenty of repetitive riffs that are very catchy at the same time. They will catch your attention and pull you into the album. They're fuzzy and "buzzsaw-esque" because of the production. A lot of the time the riffs repeat themselves over and over and over again, but never get monotonous and they won't ever put you to sleep and make you stop listening to the album. When you can pull that off, then you know you accomplished your goal. As for the drumming, it gets a little sloppy, but it really doesn't make a difference because it still sounds perfect and it fits the sound of the album. Just like the riffs, the drumming is very samey and repetitive as well, but like I said, fits the sound of the album and still manages to sound really good even though it does get sloppy.
Like I hinted at earlier, the production is very black metal, if you will. Fans of black metal will know exactly what I'm talking about. If you're not a fan of black metal and you listened to this album, you would probably think the production is horrendous when in actuality it's just right. It gives off that buzzing atmosphere in the riffs and you can still hear all the instruments well enough that it's not a problem. It's not as bad as albums like Nattens Madrigal
or Paysage d'Hiver
, but it's not as clear as the more modern black metal albums. It's right in the middle and fits the music perfectly and it wouldn't be as good if it had that squeaky clean production.
The vocals of Akhenaten on this album are absolutely phenomenal and I would rank it up there as one of my favorite vocal performances on a black metal album. He doesn't have any range whatsoever and basically sticks to the same vocals throughout the whole album, but his voice is so evil and blasphemous that you can't help but to love it. The nihilistic lyrics that this man spews from his vocal chords are absolutely perfect. Akhenaten is an evil man and you can tell just by the sound of his voice and by the lyrics. He doesn't really scream as much as he does grunt. It's not high or low-pitched, it's kind of right in the middle. Sometimes it even seems like he's just talking, but manages to sound extremely hateful and evil while doing it, which is pretty amazing. He is one unique vocalist and a lot of people could tell you the same thing. Think of Varg on crack and not as high-pitched and that's basically what you will here coming from this man's mouth.
So basically, if you like black metal whatsoever, then this is an album that you need. It's an essential album in the USBM scene and is way too overlooked. If you like the primitive nature of the earlier black metal albums to come out of the Scandinavian scene then you will most definitely like Distant in Solitary Night
. Judas Iscariot is not just another atmospheric black metal band from the United States, they're a classic second wave black metal band that really needs to be heard by more black metal fans. So fans of Darkthrone and Burzum especially should get on this right now and if you're somehow not a fan of those bands, but still enjoy black metal, then you should get on this right away too.