According to Metal Archives, Grand Belial’s Key’s first full length, Mocking the Philanthropist, was released sometime in 1997 (I’ve been unable to track down an exact date). The Virginia-based band recorded two well-received demos and an EP prior to their debut, but the removal of drummer/vocalist Lord Vlad Luciferian (who would go on to join Ancient) would signal the dawn of the band’s classic era; GBK were about to become one of the most infamous and instantly recognizable bands in US black metal.
Indeed, the first thing one notices about Mocking the Philanthropist is its bulldozing, rough-around-the-edges sound. While far from being pristine, the production isn’t the thin, ultra-trebly assault that characterized most underground black metal albums of the day; instead there is an almost punk-like quality to its garagey grit and grime. GBK would go on to perfect this sound a few years later with Judeobeast Assassination, but on Mocking the Philanthropist it is evident that they had begun to forge something extremely unique.
Grand Belial’s Key also proved themselves to be more sophisticated musically than their USBM peers. Guitarist Gelal Necrosodomy’s riffs on tracks such as “Shemhamforash” “The Slums of Jerusalem” and “Summerian Fairytale” are far catchier, more interesting and more rocking than anything their contemporaries were doing, striking a perfect balance between the classic guitar-work of first wave black metal bands such as Venom and Celtic Frost and the grim tremolo picking of the Norwegians. Drummer/vocalist The Black Lourde of Crucifixion also puts in an absolutely killer performance, laying the foundation for each track; rarely blasting, but always staying in the pocket and throwing in some cool fills here and there to push each song forward.
Mocking the Philanthropist is where Grand Belial’s Key fully asserted what would become their signature sound, beginning a reign of terror that continues to this day. Although the mainstream metal community continues with their fruitless attempts to sweep GBK under the rug, one cannot deny that the band has carved out a singular legacy for themselves within the American black metal underground and deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the likes of other USBM pioneers such as Von, Profanatica and Demoncy.