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”

Album Review – Sepultura / Quadra (2020)

A sensational concept album based on Quadrivium embraced by a fusion of Thrash, Groove and Progressive Metal, masterfully crafted by the best Brazilian metal band of all time.

In case you’re form another dimension and haven’t listened to Quadra yet, let me tell you that the fifteenth studio effort by Brazilian Thrash/Groove Metal titans Sepultura is much more than just another metal album. With a concept based on Quadrivium, which are the four subjects or arts (namely arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy), taught after teaching the trivium, Quadra, meaning “four ways” from Latin, is a 12-track album divided into four sections of three songs each. The first being Thrash Metal songs based on the classic Sepultura sound; the second section is inspired by the groove-percussion oriented sound the band explored in Roots; the third part has more progressive songs inspired by the track Iceberg Dances from Machine Messiah, albeit not all are instrumental tracks; and side four features slow-paced and melodic tracks similar to the song Machine Messiah. Add to that the undeniable talent by the band’s four horsemen Derrick Green on vocals, Andreas Kisser on the guitars, Paulo Jr. on bass and Eloy Casagrande on drums, and there you have the band’s most successful record since 1998’s Against.

Recorded and produced by Jens Bogren at Fascination Street Studios in Örebro, Sweden, and featuring a bold artwork by Christiano Menezes from Darkside Books revolving around the meaning of the number four, Quadra is also the Portuguese term for sports court. “We all come from different Quadras. The countries, all nations with their borders and traditions; culture, religions, laws, education and a set of rules where life takes place. Our personalities, what we believe, how we live, how we build societies and relationships, all depends on these set of rules that we grew up with. Concepts of creation, gods, death and ethics. Money, we are enslaved by this concept. Who’s poor and who’s rich, that’s how we measure people and material goods. Regardless of your Quadra you need money to survive, the prime rule to play this game called life. Hence the coin. The coin is forged with the senator skull, who represents the set of rules and laws we live by; the world map on his head delimiting the borders of all nations, imaginary lines separating people by concepts of race and the sacred,” explained Andreas about the concept behind the album art.

Tribal beats and futuristic sounds ignite the brutal and groovy Isolation, an old school Thrash Metal chant with Sepultura’s unique twist, where Derrick already tells us all this album is going to be fantastic through his enraged roars, whereas Means to an End is another ass-kicking, trademark creation by the quartet with the talented Eloy bringing tons of progressiveness and fury to the musicality, while Paulo continues to be precise and groovy as usual on bass. And there’s no sign of slowing down in Last Time, where Derrick and Eloy represent the brutality in the music while Andreas showcases his infinite talent as a shredder as well as with his fantastic solos; and adding primeval elements and beats from the band’s cultural background it’s time for one more round of savagery and groove united in the name of metal in Capital Enslavement, with Andreas slashing his strings beautifully accompanied by the unstoppable Eloy on drums. Back to a more traditional sound blending Thrash, Groove and Progressive Metal, Andreas, Paulo and Eloy generate a bold and reverberating atmosphere in Ali, sounding beyond perfect for Derrick to fire his beastly growls.

Raging Void is a mid-tempo, neck-breaking tune led by Eloy and his pounding drums where Derrick is effectively supported by all backing vocals, while Andreas keep stunning us all with his whimsical guitar. Then  a sensational acoustic intro by Andreas sets the stage for an austere and multi-layered metal feast entitled Guardians of Earth (which has one of the best and most touching official videos of the past decade), with all choirs and orchestrations making the whole song even more impactful and thrilling; followed by The Pentagram, bringing to our ears a classic Death Metal sonority infused with endless progressiveness and rage. Furthermore, Andreas is superb on the guitars as usual, while Paulo brings the groove with his minimalist but precise bass jabs, resulting in an excellent instrumental composition. After that we have Autem, uniting the past, present and perhaps the future of Sepultura by alternating between old school thrashing moments and the obscurity and hatred from Death and even Black Metal. Needless to say, Eloy and Andreas are in absolute sync throughout the entire song, and after the brief but beautiful acoustic intermission Quadra, it’s time for a darker, more introspective side of Derek in Agony of Defeat, where once again all background choirs and orchestrations bring a touch of finesse to the overall result, albeit not as majestic as the rest of the album, though. And last but not least, the delicate, sexy vocals by guest Emmily Barreto make a superb paradox with the raspy growls by Derrick in Fear, Pain, Chaos, Suffering, with the music sounding grim, melodic and vibrant form start to finish, or in other words, a great composition showcasing the band’s endless creativity and passion for heavy music.

After all is said and done, it’s more than fair to give such amazing album of heavy music four of our rating skulls, especially as the album revolves around the various meaning of the number four, right? In addition, in case you haven’t done so yet, I recommend you follow the best and most influential band of the Brazilian metal scene of all time on Facebook and on Instagram, subscribe to their official YouTube channel for more of their unique and heavy-as-hell songs and videos, and of course purchase or stream Quadra by clicking HERE. When Derrick was asked during an interview with BraveWords “Which Sepultura album are you most proud of?”, he replied, “Definitely Quadra. It’s the latest album, and we really worked so hard on it. We have so many different elements from the past that have helped us get to here – where we are at right now. So, without a doubt in my mind, this is the strongest album that we’ve done together. And I’m extremely proud of it.” I guess we must all agree with Derrick that Quadra is hands down the most detailed, diverse and electrifying album of his era fronting Sepultura, raising the flag of Brazilian metal higher and higher for the delight of all of their loyal and diehard fans.

Best moments of the album: Isolation, Capital Enslavement, Guardians of Earth and Fear and Pain, Chaos, Suffering.

Worst moments of the album: Agony of Defeat.

Released in 2020 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Isolation 4:56
2. Means to an End 4:39
3. Last Time 4:27
4. Capital Enslavement 3:40
5. Ali 4:12
6. Raging Void 3:57
7. Guardians of Earth 5:11
8. The Pentagram 5:20
9. Autem 4:06
10. Quadra 0:46
11. Agony of Defeat 5:51
12. Fear, Pain, Chaos, Suffering 4:09

Alive in Brazil Digipack and Earbook bonus disc (recorded live at “Audio” in São Paulo, Brazil on June 20, 2015)
1. Choke 3:46
2. Convicted in Life 3:31
3. Sepulnation 4:41
4. Apes of God 3:22
5. Sepultura Under My Skin 3:45
6. Manipulation of Tragedy 4:19
7. The Vatican 6:34
8. Cut-Throat 2:55

Band members
Derrick Green – lead vocals
Andreas Kisser – guitars
Paulo Jr. – bass
Eloy Casagrande – drums, percussion

Guest musicians
Bruna Zenti – violin
Kadu Fernandes – percussion on “Capital Enslavement”
Renato Zanuto – keyboards, orchestrations on “Isolation”, “Means to an End”, “Capital Enslavement” and “Guardians of Earth”, choir arrangements
Francesco Ferrini – orchestrations on “Last Time” and “Fear, Pain, Chaos, Suffering”
Robertinho Rodrigues – acoustic bass
Chorus Mysticus – choir vocals
Jens Bogren – backing vocals
Paulo Cyrino – effects on “Ali”
Gunnar Misgeld – choir arrangements on “Isolation”, “Last Time”, “Guardians of Earth” and “Agony of Defeat”
Emmily Barreto – female vocals on “Fear, Pain, Chaos, Suffering”

Album Review – Target / Deep Water Flames (2019)

Let’s all dive into the incendiary deep waters of Technical and Progressive Death Metal ruled by one of the most talented and innovative names of the South American metal scene.

Ladies and gentlemen, get ready to be absolutely stunned by the music crafted by four extremely talented guys hailing from Santiago, the beautiful capital of Chile, who seem to have mastered the art of blending sheer aggression and tons of progressiveness infused with atmospheric and melancholic passages. I’m talking about a Technical/Progressive Death Metal four-piece unity that goes by the name of Target, who released earlier this year their sophomore full-length opus, the amazing Deep Water Flames, one of the best metal albums of 2019 so far without a shadow of a doubt, and I’m sure you’ll agree with that after listening to such imposing and dense album of extreme music.

Formed in the year of 2002, the band now comprised of lead singer Andrés Piña, guitarist Luis Soto, bassist Rodrigo Castro and drummer Rodrigo Arias put on a lot of hard work, passion for heavy music and talent into the making of Deep Water Flames. Recorded and mixed in Santiago by Erick Martínez at Orange Studio, mastered in Sweden by Jens Bogren at Fascination Street Recording Studios, and featuring dark and flammable artwork, design and graphics by Dehn Sora, from Paris, France, Deep Water Flames sounds and feels like a tribute to all things Progressive and Death Metal, captivating all your senses from its first notes until its climatic grand finale, therefore positioning Target as one of the best and most innovative names of the underground scene in South America.

The intro Immerse is absolutely eerie and atmospheric from the very first second, reaching deep inside your soul and warming up your mind for the bold and crushing Inverted Gloaming, featuring Juan Escobar (Aphonic Threnody, AstorVoltaires, Tetractys, Mar de Grises) on vocals. Sounding utterly wicked and experimental, this excellent tune is led by Rodrigo’s insane beats and fills, while Andrés screams in a deranged and visceral way, resulting in a lecture in contemporary Progressive Death Metal. Then once again offering madness in the form of music, the band brings forth No Solace Arises, where Luis is on fire with his razor-edged strings, or in other words, this is a neck-breaking tune where the band’s “Rodrigos” shake the foundations of the earth with their beats and bass punches, making it feel like we’re listening to three or four songs all at once.

As obscure and atmospheric as its predecessors, Oceangrave is a flawless fusion of intricacy and rage, sounding as if Lamb of god went full progressive, showcasing ominous passages blended with Luis’ evil guitar lines and Rodrigo Castro’s damned, thunderous bass roars; followed by Surge Drift Motion, which begins in full force with both Luis and Rodrigo Castro shredding their strings mercilessly. Put differently, it’s a heavier-than-hell version of classic Progressive Metal spiced up by Andrés’ roars, with the piercing guitar solos by the band’s stringed duo being the icing on the cake. Submerged is a futuristic and melancholic instrumental bridge that will mesmerize you and prepare you for the pulverizing Drowned in an Everlasting Mantra, starting in a purely experimental mode before Rodrigo Arias begins exterminating his drums beautifully. Furthermore, sheer violence emanates from every riff and beat, with the deep, bestial growls by Andrés seeming inspired by Deathcore while the instrumental pieces remind me of the gripping music by bands like Gojira and Opeth.

Target Deep Water Flames Digipak

The following song, entitled Blackwaters, couldn’t have started in a more demented way, with its eccentric notes morphing into another brutal feast of progressive sounds where Rodrigo Castro’s bass lines are more imposing than ever. Hence, it’s highly recommended for either slamming into the pit or simply witnessing the band playing it to perfection on stage; and get ready for over nine minutes of the most devastating and intricate form of Progressive Death Metal you can think of in Random Waves, featuring Jeronimo Ruiz (Entrefuego), who brings insanity to the music with his vocals, remaining completely wicked, vile and cinematic until the very end. And lastly, the band offers us the serene outro Emerge, where its piano notes and background elements will embrace you and make you feel comfortable in darkness.

You should definitely take a very good and detailed listen at this magnificent album of Technical and Progressive Death Metal made in Chile on YouTube and on Spotify, and after being hypnotized by Target’s heavy and complex sounds you can purchase Deep Water Flames directly from the band’s BandCamp page, from the Australis Records’ BandCamp page, from Apple Music, from Amazon or from CD Baby. Furthermore, if I were you I would go for the digipak version of the album as it’s simply fantastic. I got it from Australis Records, and let me tell you those guys did a beautiful job producing the physical CD format of such distinct album. Also, don’t forget to follow Target on Facebook and to subscribe to their YouTube channel, and let your body and mind dive into the incendiary deep waters of progressive and heavy music ruled by those extremely talented Chilean musicians.

Best moments of the album: Inverted Gloaming, Oceangrave and Drowned in an Everlasting Mantra.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Australis Records

Track listing
1. Immerse 2:15
2. Inverted Gloaming 6:11
3. No Solace Arises 5:28
4. Oceangrave 5:21
5. Surge Drift Motion 5:42
6. Submerged 2:14
7. Drowned in an Everlasting Mantra 5:24
8. Blackwaters 6:31
9. Random Waves 9:13
10. Emerge 3:59

Band members
Andrés Piña – vocals
Luis Soto – guitars
Rodrigo Castro – bass
Rodrigo Arias – drums

Guest musicians
Jeronimo Ruiz – vocals on “Random Waves”
Juan Escobar – vocals & instrumental arrangements on “Immerse”, “Inverted Gloaming” and “Emerge”