Generally speaking, I am not a fan of black metal. It’s kind of hard to narrow it down to a specific reason, as there’s more than a few. Off the top of my head, I’d typically say it’s due to more than a couple factors (including, but not limited to) …the vocals. I mean…I know it’s not the case for every single black metal band out there, but death metal vocals seem to have a range of two; gutturals that register at a sludge-eating, monstrous low to the point of being indecipherable, or so incredibly high pitched that shatters all of the glassware in your household…pray your windows stay safe. The lyrics. Often times the subject matter behind the lyricism is of a taboo subject such as satanism or pagan related themes. Some has seemed to go as far as using imagery like disemboweling a uterus to drink its bloody nectars, while skull-fucking a carcass’ head with a chainsaw, then using entrails to make a hearty stew. Obviously, I could be exaggerating (maybe not) a bit there, and once again, I’m not trying to say that all black metal bands fit into this one tiny box. It’s just been my overall experience of that sub-genre. Not to mention the elitist mindset that can come with it. If you don’t have long dark hair, wear Cannibal Corpse t-shirts with the sleeves ripped, camo pants and combat boots, while maintaining the mindset that anything mainstream is ‘fake metal’ and happiness is bullshit, then you don’t fit the bill. My apologies if I’ve offended anyone reading this. Take what I say with a grain of salt…*cough* elitist *cough*. One aspect of black metal though that I have always thoroughly enjoyed was the instrumental aspect. The theatricality of its sound, the orchestral elements, the rampant blast beats. That shit got me feelin’ all kinds of crazy. But it was starting to seem like you couldn’t have one without the other. Enter, Ibaraki. When I first heard that Matt Heafy of Trivium was going to release a black metal side project, I must admit, my I had the titillating curiosity of a cat who’s had too much nip…but luckily this discovery would not result in death. Admittedly when I first saw the single art for “Tamashii No Houkai”, I thought to myself ‘herrrreeeee we go. A horse’s head with what seems to be bleeding from the eyes. It’s probably severed.’, you know, it’s just more of the same-old-same-old. Hot damn was I wrong! This had everything that I loved, and none of what I couldn’t stand. I could understand what Heafy was screaming/singing! While I was completely sure initially of what the subject matter entailed, I could tell that no babies were being sacrificed. And lastly, this was the most (if you will) ‘accessible’ black metal I personally had ever heard. With each single released (especially having one with Gerard Way??????????), my level of being intrigued was multiplied. Once I heard the entire opus I was hooked. Rashomon was a back metal for all, and I wanted a front row seat.
Genre: Black Metal | Metal | Metalcore
Label: Nuclear Blast
FLOW / LONGEVITY / ORIGINALITY
Rashomon is a journey of tales. A glaringly obvious example of this comes with the intro track, “Hakanaki Hitsuzen”, and outro, “Kaizoku”. A sullen and sombre accordion (…I believe…) act as the musical backbone for each. “Hakanaki…” is simply accompanied by an ominous chant of ‘ooohhh’s’ that threaten of the looming onslaught to come, while “Kaizoku” adds in horns and a seemingly maniacal and jeering Heafy sings like a twisted circus performer, letting the audience know the journey has come to an end. Each track, while retaining what makes them so black metal, has its own unique sound and story, taking the listener on an adventure of strife and tribulation. At the end of the album, you almost feel as if you had just witnessed an anthology of allegories which only Heafy could tell so harmoniously.
Being that I’m not a gigantor fan of the sub genre of black metal as a whole, Rashomon took me for a gigantor sized surprise. Setting aside the fact that I am an avid fan of Trivium, mainly in part to Heafy’s astounding voice, I still wasn’t prepared to enjoy this album…NAY! This music as much as I have. Has it turned me onto black metal as a whole? Absolutely not! But I gotta tell you, this album will always have a place in any playlist I make. It truly envelops you into its world and vehemently enraptures your every sense to the point that you may not have been or be current fan of the sub genre, but this shit stands all on its own magnificence.
To be honest, I’m not so sure I’m the right dude to speak to any black metal album’s state of originality. In my limited experience with it, I’d say hell yea Rashomon and even Ibaraki (himself…? I’ll say ‘themselves’ since Ihsahn played such a major role in this album/bands creation) themselves stand out well amongst their peers. Out of the odd black metal album/band I have heard, this is most definitely a different beast. But, again, I aint no expert.
TRIVIUM’s Matthew Kiichi Heafy reveals the IBARAKI single “Rōnin” featuring guest vocals by Gerard Way (My Chemical Romance) and guest solo by Ihsahn (Empero…
VOCALS / INSTRUMENTATION
Well, what can I say? I’m a huge Matt Heafy’s vocals stan. Yea, at one point he blew out his voice, but he himself has even said that that was a blessing in disguise. He was able to start from scratch with vocal coaches and his own determination to come back stronger and what manifested was a range and tone that far surpassed so many other in any core or metal related genre. So, off the bat, I Knew that that would be a standout aspect for me when it came to Ibaraki and Rashomon. But to say Heafy played it safe would be a vast understatement. He invoked new techniques he had learnt from both past and newer influences such as, Ron Anderson (RIP) and Ihsahn, to begin a new foundation for this new musical entity. His screams sound darker, more ferocious than those he uses with Trivium. While Matt Heafy’s cleans always sound so ‘Heafy’, he has somehow managed to expand yet again. One thing I had always noticed about Heafy’s range was that while it was quite broad, he didn’t often use a softer deliverance. When he would sing in what was seeming to be that said ‘softer’ manner, it was super deep and didn’t always fit the mood of the music. That could not be further from the case on Rashomon. Case in point, “Jigoku Dayu”. On the verses Heafy’s cleans pair stunningly with the obvious sad and longing undertones provided by the instruments (this track is a humongous stand out for me btw. The dynamics are MIND BLOWING!). With Ibaraki comes yet another manifestation of what Matt Heafy is capable of, and at this point there’s clearly no stopping this vocal juggernaut.
Man, oh man, is the instrumentation on this album a fucking trip! There is not one single moment that’s easily predicted or unwarranted in any shape or form. The verses on “Ronin” sonically, could almost fit in perfectly with a softer Trivium song, or even a ballad-like track. But then you’re smacked in the face with a barrage of blast beats and Road Runner speed chords. Although, yes, this is a black metal record, the dynamic play here is still astounding and extremely unexpected. But it isn’t just the way the instruments are played that makes this album so incredibly unique, it’s also what instruments are (and seem to be) used. As I had previously stated, I’m pretty damn certain the intro and outro both have an accordion, which correct me of I’m wrong, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard on a back metal album, let alone to many metal albums in general. There was even a section on “Kagutsuchi” where I believe I heard a shamisen (which is a traditional Japanese three-stringed instrument) at about 0:44 into the song. I could be wayyyyyy off on this, but it wouldn’t surprise me considering Heafy’s heritage and the fact that thematically this album does focus largely on his culture and its influences. Point being though, each instrument from the most common to the most elaborate is played with a technical prowess and with direct conviction in pairing the themes and their corresponding moods on each and every song.
TRIVIUM’s Matthew Kiichi Heafy reveals the long-awaited IBARAKI single “Tamashii No Houkai” with special guest, IHSAHN (EMPEROR). Debut album, RASHOMON, out …
One can hear how this was a project of passion for Matt Heafy. While it took roughly a decade to put together and come to life, one can almost appreciate that even more since nothing was rushed or pushed out ‘just because’. It’s maybe the main fact too as to why this is such a black metal album for both black metal fans and nonfans alike. There’s so much more to Rashomon than your run-of-the-mill back metal album (in my own personal experience, of course). While it retains so much of what encapsulates that sub genre, it manages to amalgamate so many other elements that it becomes something even greater. Through mixing in more melody, utilizing uncommon instruments, and ditching the pagan sacrificial rituals, Ibaraki has created a whole new wave of what can be considered back metal. Both thematically and sonically Rashomon is an epic adventure of words and sounds and clearly has the power to turn even the biggest back metal nay-sayer into a salivating fan.