Album Review – Ibaraki / Rashumon (2022)

Trivium’s own Matt Heafy turns his inner demon into first-class Black Metal in his new solo project, the end-result of a journey to find his own voice.

Originally formed in 2012 under the name Mrityu by Trivium’s own vocalist and guitarist Matt Heafy with the goal of generating Norwegian-style Black Metal (while also presenting elements from Extreme Progressive Metal and Metalcore in its sound), United States-based Black Metal project Ibaraki (which is by the way the name for a terrifying Japanese demon taken from feudal legend) has finally unleashed upon humanity its debut effort, entitled Rashomon, which according to Matt himself is the end-result of a journey to find his voice. Mixed and mastered by Jens Bogren at Fascination Street Recording Studios, and produced and engineered by Emperor’s one and only Ihsahn, Rashomon is more than just an expression of Matt and Ihsahn’s deep creative resonance, with his bandmates from Trivium, those being guitarist Corey Beaulieu, bassist Paolo Gregoletto and drummer Alex Bent, contributing to the album as session musicians. “The violence in America towards Asians, the murders of Asians because of people’s small-mindedness – we can see what’s happening. It’s like I never quite felt like I was Asian enough because I’m half and I never felt white enough because I’m half, but I feel like it’s important for me to talk about this now. Everything has a rich, amazing, beautiful culture behind it – every single civilization, every culture, every walk of life. So I hope that it can make Asian metalheads or Asian fans of music feel a little bit more represented. It’s great to be able to say, ‘this is where I’m from,’ and, ‘this is who I am.’,” commented Matt about the album.

Hakanaki Hitsuzen (which translates as something like “inevitably ephemeral”) is a whimsical intro that will transport you to the world of Ibaraki before Matt and his crew come ripping in Kagutsuchi, where Matt is on fire with both his enraged screams and unstoppable riffs accompanied by the always pulverizing drums by Alex. Furthermore, everything from the breaks and variations to its ethereal passages, clean vocals and the ass-kicking bass solo by Paolo is stunning, resulting in a lesson in Experimental Black Metal. Then continuing his path of experimentations and progressiveness, we’re treated to another explosion of majestic Black Metal entitled Ibaraki-Dōji, with Matt and Corey slashing their stringed axes while Alex sounds infernal on drums, all enhanced by the song’s background orchestrations. In Jigoku Dayu, an acoustic start evolves into a gentle sonority to the calm, clean vocals by Matt, sounding enfolding until the very end, whereas in Tamashii no Houkai (or “collapse of the soul”), featuring Ihsahn on lead guitars, the band blasts a vicious fusion of classic Black Metal with progressiveness, rage and groove, also showcasing another great vocal performance by Matt.

The skies get darker and darker as the music progresses in Akumu (which means “nightmare”), where you can sense all the anguish and despair in Matt’s roars supported by Alex’s massive beats and the beastly gnarls by guest vocalist Nergal of Behemoth; followed by Komorebi (or “sunbeams”), a very melodic tune presenting different layers plus lead guitars by Corey, despite lacking the same energy of its predecessors. Then alternating between smooth passages and the hellish heaviness of Black Metal we have one of the most detailed of all songs, Rōnin, featuring backing vocals by Norwegian vocalist Heidi Solberg Tveitan of Starofash, who’s by the way married to Ihsahn and has a son, Angell Solberg Tveitan, and a daughter, Ariadne Solberg Tveitan, with him, both also doing backing vocals on the song, plus additional screams by Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance and lead guitars by Ihsahn. Susanoo no Mikoto is as experimental and groovy as it can be, with Paolo and Alex generating a rumbling atmosphere perfect for Matt’s screams while the song’s second half is a wicked sonic experiment conducted by Matt and featuring additional vocals by Ihsahn. And lastly, it’s time for a little less than three minutes of pure eccentricity entitled Kaizoku (or “pirate”), with Matt declaiming the song’s lyrics like a true bard.

The breathtaking, multi-layered Rashomon can be better  appreciated in its full glory on YouTube and on Spotify, but of course you can add it to your private collection of Extreme Metal albums by grabbing your favorite version of it from Ibaraki’s official homepage or by clicking HERE, and don’t forget to also follow the project on Facebook and on Instagram for news and, who knows, some tour dates in the upcoming months, and to subscribe to its YouTube channel for more wicked videos. It might have taken almost 10 years for Matt and his inner demon Ibaraki to finally see the light of day, but the wait was definitely worth it as the music found in Rashomon is outstanding to say the least, and hopefully Matt will continue his path of self-discovery with Ibaraki in the coming years, bringing to us fans more of his experimental fusion of extreme music with progressive elements and Japanese legends.

Best moments of the album: Kagutsuchi, Ibaraki-Dōji, Akumu and Rōnin.

Worst moments of the album: Komorebi.

Released in 2022 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Hakanaki Hitsuzen (儚き必然) 1:28
2. Kagutsuchi (迦具土) 7:34
3. Ibaraki-Dōji (茨木童子) 7:51
4. Jigoku Dayu (地獄太夫) 7:40
5. Tamashii no Houkai (魂の崩壊) 5:58
6. Akumu (悪夢) 5:53
7. Komorebi (木漏れ日) 6:06
8. Rōnin (浪人) 9:13
9. Susanoo no Mikoto (須佐之男命) 7:12
10. Kaizoku (海賊) 2:53

Band members
Matt Heafy – vocals, guitars

Guest musicians
Corey Beaulieu – guitars, lead guitars on “Komorebi”
Paolo Gregoletto – bass, bass solo on “Kagutsuchi”
Alex Bent – drums
Ihsahn – lead guitars on “Tamashii no Houkai” and “Rōnin”, additional vocals on “Susanoo no Mikoto”
Nergal – additional vocals on “Akumu”
Heidi Solberg Tveitan – backing vocals on “Rōnin”, samples on “Susanoo no Mikoto”
Gerard Way – additional vocals on “Rōnin”
Angell Solberg Tveitan – backing vocals on “Rōnin”
Ariadne Solberg Tveitan – backing vocals on “Rōnin”