Grand Belial’s Key is arguably one of the most controversial bands in the American black metal underground, and although I don’t agree with their (supposed) socio-political beliefs, I will always support their right to express them.  It’s called the 1st Amendment, something we’ve lost sight of in both the United States and the metal underground at large, in favor of a “you can say whatever you want, as long as the moral majority says it’s okay” approach.  Bullshit disclaimers and pro free-speech rhetoric aside, the band’s second album, Judeobeast Assassination, is USBM’s finest hour, a damn near perfect, unapologetically ultra-politically incorrect slab of black metal that sounds as dangerous and extreme today as it did when I heard it almost a decade ago (has it really been that long?!).

I’ll be the first to admit that I originally became interested in Grand Belial’s Key because of their reputation.  If a good chunk of the so-called “extreme” metal underground, an underground that openly accepts lyrics depicting misogyny, rape, murder and Satanism (among other things), considers a band taboo, well, that’s basically the same as begging me to check out a band’s music.  I bought Judeobeast Assassination not really knowing what to expect and was instantly hooked by GBK’s two-pronged attack of thoroughly evil-sounding vocals and guitar-work coupled with infectious songwriting.  Front to back, the album still ranks as one of the most compositionally sound collections of metal songs I’ve ever heard, from the bulldozing opener “The Tenderhearted’s Manifesto” to the strangely psychedelic “Fecal Parturition” to the crushing “Satanicunt.”  From a song-writing standpoint, the album is utterly unfuckwithable, instantly setting them apart from the (mostly) unsophisticated black metal that was coming out of the US at the time.

Production-wise, Judeobeast Assassination is dirty as all hell, yet clear enough to allow each instrument to breath and be heard.  It has a great garagey, almost punk rock vibe to it, (as does the drumming of The Black Lourde of Crucifiction) as well as a sonic heft that’s uncharacteristic of black metal.  The performance of guitarist Gelal Necrosodomy, who also does time in Arghoslent, is absolutely fucking flawless for the album’s duration and deserves special attention.  The guy is a goddamn riff machine and one of the most underrated guitarists in all of black metal, or metal in general.  For someone such as myself, who’s always been more interested in riffing and composition than pointless shredding or technicality for technicality’s sake, Judeobeast Assassination is like a smorgasbord.

The album’s lyrics are a no-holds-barred assault on both Christianity and Judaism, rife with such gems as “Christ, faggot, fondler of manhood” and “The yeasty froth of her pussy lips / covered the tenderhearted / never could the six point star be trusted / damnable heresies survive the epoch,” as well as references to ZOG and the burning of synagogues by “hordes of true black metal arsonists,” making Judeobeast Assassination an album that’s decidedly not for the easily offended.  The ultra-abrasive lyrical content is reinforced by depictions of both Christ and The Virgin Mary in corpse paint.  It’s no wonder the band has been banned and boycotted throughout their career, as they have repeatedly pushed their right to express themselves beyond even the limits of underground acceptability. Some would say that this is the ultimate fulfillment (or perhaps the illogical conclusion) of the black metal philosophy originally put forth by the Norwegians.

As black metal fans, we are often forced to divorce ourselves from our opinions of the actions and words of the artists involved (see Varg Vikernes, Rob Darken, etc) and focus strictly on the art itself.  Judeobeast Assassination is a black metal album that begs the question “where does one draw the line?”, which ultimately makes it a fascinating and challenging listen from both a philosophical and moral perspective, as much as it does from a musical one.  If you are able to accept the fact that there is content here that will challenge and most likely offend you on some level, the same as you would when watching a film like Irreversible or Antichrist, or viewing Serrano’s Piss Christ, there can be no denying that Judeobeast Assassination is some the the most elite black metal ever committed to tape.

THKD’s Top 100 Metal Albums
1. Celestial Season – Solar Lovers
2. Type O Negative – October Rust
3. Grand Belial’s Key – Judeobeast Assassination

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37 thoughts on “THKD’s Top 100 Metal Albums #3: Grand Belial’s Key – Judeobeast Assassination (Drakkar/Moribund, 2001)

  1. I don’t remember an interview but what made me curious to get this album was S. Craig Zahler’s review on Metal Maniacs (always preferred his take on black metal overall than Nathan Birk’s since was the BM equivalent of a “Bro” with all his “troos” and “kults” for me to take seriously). And yeah it’s an amazing album, funny thing about the Racism and the connection to Arghoslent is that I think their first vocalist and drummer was that dude “Kaiaphas” I think that if I’m not mistaken is Brazilian and was also in Ancient.

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  2. Hey Josh, regarding that Aesop Dekker quote… the thing about Star Wars, comic books, other enjoyable things: most times they’re morally or socially acceptable. Luke Skywalker fights against the Empire’s tyranny, Spider-Man protects the innocent, etc. In such instances, art can inspire and motivate thoughts and behaviour.

    Anyway, I’ve only listened to GBK for the first time recently, but not this album. I suspect it’s similar to ‘Mocking the Philanthropist’ anyhow.

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  3. I think you’re right. I remember one interview with GBK but I can’t remember what magazine it was in. Good old Birk…

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  4. @UA – I seem to remember that Metal Maniacs/Nathan T. Birk were the only ones that were willing to write about GBK and Arghoslent back in the day. In fact I’m pretty sure I first heard about them in MM.

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  5. Interesting thing is that Judas Iscariot ep bring me back to classic b.metal when j hear for the first time(dethroned,conquered).It was 2000.J was so tired from 97 tlll 2000.Blaahh.You can not imagine.To embrace the corpse is classic download this album and see.America should be proud for this album.To Embrace the corpse Bleeding is classic.Drumming is special.Just wanted to say something about usa b.m.

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  6. Hmm.Absu was the only band from usa that was loved in these times here in europe .We loved that mix of black,death,thrash.Ok Order from Chaos,hm fuck,I drink some cheap serbian beer ha.Maybe there is some other but I cant remember right now .Ok I can find ten bands that we enjoy in 90.GBK have that change for me in terms of riff structure.Felling of relaxation from europian sound.Maybe you have different perception.Maybe they try something and this turn out like this.Bloodstorm I enjoy in these times.maybe it is half way B.Metal but I like just that.Still there ,is d.metal but something plus.Demoncy,liked that aura.Different but still right atmosphere.Sorry for my english but you understsnd anyway.

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  7. This is a really good album but I think a lot of people seized on it as some kind of USBM flag to rally behind because, at the time, black metal musicians in the States had a bizarre inferiority complex (well, that was a common perception anyway)…so it was launched immediately into “icon” status as a way of saying, “See, Americans can do it too!” IMO it doesn’t really stand up to that, but…whatever. I still listen to it…

    Some of you might remember how the magazine press at the time completely shut this thing out…

    Strange that people still get so frustrated/angry about racism, religion, etc. ‘Nuff said.

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  8. Interesting discussion,he,he.Find about them in Tales of the macabre somewhere 1997(review of the first album).I was very interested but it was hard to find for me.Two years after I get a copy and was blown away.So different way of b.metal.Great forever.Later i find out about ideology.dont care.In these times(99) you cant breath because of all this east europian ns bands(mostly shity).It was fresh air for shure.But j always find a devilish sign in GBK,dont know.They mix it all.Funy is no image .Some of them dress like football hooligans.Who cares anyway.Great band.

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  9. It’s getting late for me, so I’ll just address three points, and quickly.

    1. That wasn’t monotheism. It was more like monolatrism. In practice they may appear similar in some ways, but in principle they are wildly different.
    2. The Hebrews all shared many bizarre experiences, such as subsisting on mana.
    3. The “supernatural” may only be the natural that we can’t yet explain.

    Thanks for the discussion.

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  10. I read the article and responded accordingly. I found it ridiculous, to be quite honest. He knocks down a pretty nice straw man.

    It’s interesting to see Freud cited by someone who claims to embrace the scientific method as the only acceptable epistemology, especially when his ideas have largely been discredited and his methods were not terribly scientific (more like pure conjecture). To try to distinguish between a psychological drive and a spiritual drive–well, I’d draw you a Venn diagram, but it suffices to say that I think spiritual needs are largely (if not completely) encompassed by psychological ones. As I’ve stated before, I think the distinction between the supernatural and the natural one is questionable; there’s no reason the “soul” cannot be a function of our natural bodies, just in the same way as the mind is the sum of the chemicals in your brain (and the two can affect each other). In any case, the distinction to me (between psychological and spiritual needs) is largely meaningless or at least overstated. Anyway, his interpretation of the need is an interesting one, and I’ve heard it before from other sources. But the interpretation is merely a different characterization of the same conclusion about human nature, so it’s only indirectly in conflict with what I’ve said. And, again, it sounds like the interpretation is informed by pride.

    The anecdote about the translation seems kind of silly. If the writer (supposedly Moses) was simply making it up, would he admit to that? The idea that people created God from their own minds has a lot of problems with it, most notably that the monotheistic religion is so radically different from anything else that existed at the time, and not just in the nature of monotheism but in many other ways as well. Plus, there’s the bigger problem that so many wholly bizarre things are recounted in the Bible, and people contemporary with those events (and who saw them happen) believed that they happened. And not just a handful of people, but an entire nation.

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    1. Sorry, my mistake, I’m talking about The Future of an Illusion (not Civ & it’s Disc.) and it hasn’t been discredited by anyone, it’s his contribution to a long line of Doubt and borrows its dialogic form from Hume and Cicero among others. (Anyway, it’s his hypothesis and aligns nicely with Nietzsche’s formulation of Christianity as a “slave” theology.)
      Monotheism was practiced in Egypt under Akhenaton, predating the exodus. People make shit up all the time, to the present day. We call them cults and write them off, which is just what the Jews, Greeks, Romans and every other contemporary culture did with Christians until their message of “faith” spread amongst the poor and unlearned and figures in power couldn’t ignore them anymore. If someone was to go around making claims of miracles today we would ask to see some proof (which is done with charlatans/psychics all the time and they’re never able to duplicate their supposed miracles or “gifts” or whatever).
      Also, I don’t believe for a second that “all these people” saw all these wholly bizarre things listed in the Bible. It’s aberrant and nonsensical.
      “Supernatural” and “natural” explanations of phenomena are wholly incompatible with one another. You can say you believe otherwise, but that would make you wrong. Supernatural explanations aren’t capable of being reproduced and have no predictive value.
      I’m gonna go read your response to the CS Lewis criticism, but then I’m gonna call it on this discussion. You believe in what is to me some wholly bizarre stuff and you want to continue believing in it, so that’s your deal. It’s cool.

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  11. I find your last paragraph interesting, and I’m glad you brought it up. It is something that has occurred to me before, and I’ve been waiting to find the right place to bring it up and trying to find the right way to address it.

    Please bear with me while I flesh out this point. I may sound like a broken record for continuing to cite C.S. Lewis, but I will (clumsily) paraphrase Mere Christianity. He observes that morality is universal. (Although he notes that, as some people are colorblind, some may be born with a faulty moral compass.) He notes that humankind’s failure to be perfectly moral creates a kind of pain in each of us. This pain signifies a need in each of us which is unfulfilled, as pain always does (he addresses the topic of pain more thoroughly in The Problem of Pain). He compares that pain to thirst, which can be quenched by water. He then argues that this spiritual pain can only be quenched by God.

    I would agree with you that you are using artistic impulse in a similar way. Art often attempts to approach the divine, and tries to simulate that kind of experience. If you look at really good, soaring black metal for instance, it does bear a striking resemblance to much ecclesiastical music, although it often comes off as parody of church music. However, art is an imperfect substitute for God.

    So it seems we may be off to some kind of agreement here, that humans do have some kind of difficult-to-define need outside of our basic, observable biological needs. A somewhat neutral term for that need would be “spiritual”. The extent and nature of that need we have yet to agree upon (if ever we can), but I find this to be a rewarding point of agreement (or near-agreement) in our continuing discussions.

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    1. I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to read the article I posted on your 2nd metal/christianity blog piece, but that guy encapsulates how I feel about C.S. Lewis (which is that his work is based on unfounded assumptions). I don’t know of any evidence that supports the idea of a universal morality and I have no clue what Lewis is basing his claim on.
      Freud tackles this issue more eloquently in Civilization & Its Discontents, arguing that the religious impulse is an infantile need for an overarching, supportive authority that needs to be overcome. So I would say that the supposed lack of which Lewis speaks is actually a psychological need and not a “spiritual” need (I don’t believe in such a thing as a “spirit” or “soul”).
      I do, however, believe that as a creative, tool-making species, we have a drive to make things (whether abstract or concrete) and lack of such an outlet for that creative drive manifests itself in other ways. My Jewish Studies professor in college argued that one can translate the opening line of Genesis: “Oh god that I create in my head”. I don’t speak or read Hebrew, so I can’t confirm this myself, but I know of secular Jewish kids who said they learned similar things growing up.

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  12. my view on ‘heterosexism’ vs. ‘homophobia’: i would’ve rather used heterosexism, but wasn’t sure how well-known it would be. but heterosexism differs from homophobia in that it encompasses other sexualities (such as bi-, a-, or the more undefinable ‘queer’). it’s the idea that heterosexuality is the only or best or whatever sexuality.

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    1. @madsp: yeah, that’s how I understand it as well.

      @FMA: we actually may agree on this here; I think that lyrics can matter (they don’t necessarily have to, and stuff about zombies or fantasy stuff doesn’t interest me whatsoever) and I love how Cosmo approached and analyzed the lyrical content of all those Metallica songs (because I think they’re important to understanding the band) in his retrospective. I come from a punk/hardcore background, so I can get into bands discussing philosophical/political/social topics in their lyrics. In that same vein, a band like Grand Belial’s Key is worth analyzing because of how pointedly disturbing/unsettling they’re trying to be. I appreciate that in art and I suppose that’s probably how you feel about anti-Christian lyrics. I also suppose I could have misunderstood where you stand via such lyrical content, because I would also say you don’t have to agree with them, but they’re interesting and often worth exploring further (my drummer is more in the camp that he doesn’t pay attention or care much about lyrics).
      My comment on artists mostly stems from how difficult it is to compare people of different eras because of differences in social contexts. They’re definitely all “different” from non-artist people, though, that’s fairly true.
      This last point may prove substantial in our respective outlooks on religion, however. Frankly, I don’t know what impulse religion speaks to in a person because I don’t have that. Religion, for me, is a completely useless tool for understanding our universe (and this debate goes back at least to the Pre-Socratics) whereas the methods of scientific inquiry (reason entwined with empiricism) have been the only successful means of learning anything about our universe. As an artist, I can conjecture that maybe what is in me an artistic impulse manifests as a religious impulse in others?

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  13. Your idea that science is incompatible with religion is just flat wrong. They don’t speak to the same topics. Your idea that Christianity and metal are incompatible depends on a lot of premises I don’t agree with, first and foremost that the lyrics matter (or that you can even understand them, which is pretty rare) and that even if they do matter, you have to agree with them rather than merely finding them interesting. I find these discussions with you interesting, even though it seems I rarely agree with you.

    As far as the terms, I haven’t looked them up in the dictionary or anything like that. I’ve never heard the term “heterosexism” before, but to me it would mean–well, first you have to take the assumption that homosexuality is equal to and only different from heterosexuality. But assuming that (which I don’t), heterosexism would encompass all kinds of prejudice against homosexuals, or prejudice against the way they want themselves and their relationships to be treated. So depending on how you look at that topic, I would probably be considered heterosexist (which, by the way, my spell-check doesn’t like).

    The common usage of “homophobic” encompasses fear of homosexuals, fear of homosexuality in oneself, as well as heterosexism. I think the people who started the conversation about these issues decided to use the term “homophobia” instead because it implies that everyone who is “heterosexist” is also homophobic.

    As for artists, I hadn’t considered that guys in a rock band could be qualitatively distinguished from classical composers. I’m not sure I agree. Whether you’re politically informed obviously makes some kind of difference, but it doesn’t change the fact that artists tend to be strange, or to pretend to be strange to get attention (which I guess is in itself strange). It’s often the case that artists create compelling art because they see the world differently from the rest of us.

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  14. Well, Alex, a lot of stuff to talk about. On heterosexist/homophobic, most people use the latter term to cover both concepts. I find that unfortunate, because there is a distinction.

    On racism, there are those racists who advocate for the separation of the races rather than war between them. I believe this is the tack that Varg Vikernes has taken of late, but I don’t really follow him all that much. He could make perfectly cogent arguments to support the position as well, although I don’t agree with his sources or his conclusions. And one could make the argument that there is nothing morally wrong with that position–quite easily, in fact, because it’s not advocating violence or even oppression. Just an “everybody needs to go ‘home'” message.

    And on the issue of artists having such weird ideas, I think that’s pretty natural. If you look at geniuses–especially artistic geniuses–throughout history, the best ones tend to have psychological issues or controversial opinions. Van Gogh, Handel, Wagner, and so on.

    You shouldn’t be shocked to learn how many Christian metalheads there are. You did read my articles, right? It makes perfect sense when you see the points I made (or at least I think it does).

    To The Second Coming: what a convoluted, confusing mess of a comment. You kind of jump around to a lot of different topics and allude to things without explaining them. You seem to have a rather strange sort of philosophy, which might be interesting if it was a little clearer. You think you know what you mean, but I don’t think you’ve helped us to understand. The way it is, it almost sounds like the ramblings of a schizophrenic (almost).

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    1. I was hoping you (or someone) could outline why you prefer “heterosexist” over “homophobic”. (I have my own understanding of the distinctions [I have a Sociology BA], but I’m curious to learn how others relate to the concepts.)

      As far as artists being “odd ducks” I think it’s more relevant to look at it from a contemporary angle, one that takes into account a modern, open society with greater scientific knowledge. It doesn’t make much sense to me to compare the beliefs of a High Romantic composer with that of, say, those dudes in Arghoslent (I spent last night reading some interviews they’ve done and it’s clear they’re woefully “underinformed” about a whole slew of things). However, it does make sense to compare them to people like Henry Rollins or Ian Mackaye (politically-aware, white, male musicians).

      I’m shocked at the Christianity thing because, in all honesty, I don’t think your arguments made much sense to me and I still think that metal (like science) is incompatible with Christianity (that is, you have to deceive yourself in order for them to align; or, alternately, ignore lyrics and themes). But, as Whitman noted, we all contain multitudes and each of us is full of paradox (the “self” is a construction and not a stable entity). We don’t need to reopen that religion debate in this thread, but as much as your arguments made sense to you, they don’t make much sense to the non- or anti-religious.

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  15. Speak for yourself, but I’m not a Christian or a Satanist.

    I’m actually shocked now at how many self-professed Christians there are in the metal world (this could be because I live in NYC, only know a handful of Christians and none of them are even remotely interested in metal)

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  16. Heterosexist–I wish that term would catch on. I wonder who it is that coined the term “homophobia”. It’s so obviously loaded with other meanings. I suspect it was intentionally chosen by the people who started the dialog on the issue for that reason. Language is so powerful in how it affects our thinking.

    No one is trying to excuse sexist or racist bands, at least not in this forum. I think the real point that is being made is that the music is important. And also that you can’t draw some imaginary line and excuse some other kind of hate while simultaneously condemning racism. Why is racism special?

    The only argument I’ve seen to that effect that makes any sense is that money given to racist bands and labels goes to support their cause. However, extreme metal cannot have it both ways. You can’t, on the one hand, say “I won’t support this band because they’ll use the money for evil ends,” and then on the other hand say, “There’s no money to be made in extreme metal, and all these bands are barely making enough to pay for the cost of the recording.” Which one is true? I think it’s probably the latter.

    Also, I agree that listening to it is supporting it, even if you’ve pirated the music.

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    1. I’m curious as to why one prefers “heterosexist” over “homophobic”? I see a distinction between the two and wouldn’t use them interchangeably.

      FMA, I think perhaps one of the issues (and this goes back to that IO debate a bit) is that there are no legitimate reasons to be racist/heterosexist/misogynist but there are perfectly valid reasons to critique, say, religious beliefs or general philosophies (I would side with you and others who draw the line at actual persecution). To me the line is at advocating violence against a group. You and I disagree about religious issues, but that fosters debate, whereas there is no debate w/r/t racism or heterosexism/homophobia or misogyny (because to engage in those is a completely irrational exercise, their is no reasonable argument that can support such beliefs).

      I have to say I liked these two tracks, but knowing the band’s/band-members’ general outlook, it definitely makes me uncomfortable. As a white guy I’m safe in my ability to exist in that ambiguity, but for those without white male privilege, I can totally understand extreme dissatisfaction with these kinds of bands. Art that makes us uncomfortable is important, but I appreciate that we can discuss why we find it abhorrent or offensive and a challenge to our outlooks or conceptions of self. Also, we can marvel at how someone so talented can be so mentally deficient in other regards!

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  17. “I have no problems listening to racist, sexist or homophobic music, if it’s good enough, but i’d never say a single positive word about them, or support them in any way”

    But aren’t you supporting the band by listening to their music? Isn’t that the very definition of support when it comes to music? Why listen to them at all?

    “i’m just tired of always hearing people excuse racists/sexists/heterosexists (better?) by saying that anti-religion is the same.”

    Why is one type of persecution so much worse than another? Isn’t that just splitting hairs? Persecution is persecution, whether you’re persecuting someone for what they are or for the choices they make. It’s all the same.

    I think the important thing to realize here is that no one is going to start hating women or minorities or christians or jews or whatever because of the lyrics to a song. If they do there is something wrong with them to begin with. There is a great line that Aesop Dekker wrote on his blog Cosmic Hearse when he posted the Graveland album Following the Voice of Blood:

    “Graveland doesn’t reflect my worldview any more than Star Wars, Manowar, comic books, or anything else I may find enjoyable”

    The same goes for me and GBK, Graveland, Burzum, Arghoslent or any other band with dodgy beliefs or political affiliations that I might listen to and enjoy on a regular basis.

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  18. of course forcing people to do anything is always wrong. as is advocating persecution, which is exactly what arghoslent does (i’m not terribly familiar with GBK’s lyrics, but as the article mentions, they share a member). and i agree that once they pass into that area (which i agree GBK has), they are all the same.

    i’m just tired of always hearing people excuse racists/sexists/heterosexists (better?) by saying that anti-religion is the same.

    i’m not usually offended by write-ups about these kinds of bands, but this one just struck me as a tad too uncritical.

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  19. I would just add that of course I see the distinction between criticizing an idea and criticizing some innate characteristic. But when a certain line is crossed–I’m not sure where that line is, but it’s somewhere near “advocating persecution”–then they’re all the same.

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  20. Interesting. I’ve never even heard of this band before.

    @madsp: I find the position “they’re incomparable” to be untenable. You can find my positions in other places (go to Invisible Oranges and search for “graveland”) so I won’t go into them in detail here. But if you look at the founding of the US, for instance, they found religious intolerance to be an important issue. Protections against racism, sexism, and homophobia (not crazy about the latter term semantically) came much, much later, and in that order.

    To put it in an example you might relate to: How would you like it if you were ordered to practice Scientology (or whatever you think is worst), or risk being fined by the government (or harrassed/threatened by people in the community, or whatever other persecution you like)? Doesn’t that offend you just as much as persecution on the basis of your race?

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  21. @madsp: are you saying that sexism, homophobia and racism aren’t conscious choices? i’d beg to differ…

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  22. now, i’m as big a supporter of free speech as anyone, but i draw the line before this seemingly direct support of a band that’s clearly racist (if not with this band, then with arghoslent). i have no problems listening to racist, sexist or homophobic music, if it’s good enough, but i’d never say a single positive word about them, or support them in any way. also, i’m sick of people confusing religion and sexism, homophobia or racism. one’s a concious choice, while the others aren’t, they’re incomparable.

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