Ibaraki - Rashomon
Nuclear Blast
Progressive Metal
10 songs (1:01:48)
Release year: 2022
Homepage, Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Goat
Major event

The ten-year-plus awaited side-project of Trivium's Matt Heafy alongside Emperor's Ihsahn is finally here! And although it was initially trailed as a true black metal project, worrying many a necronaut's brow in despair, this is something of a prog metal tribute to Heafy's Japanese heritage in actuality. Born in Iwakuni and with a Japanese mother, this is far from some weeb performative appropriation, with songs written around the mythology of that nation together with inspiration from his own family history. And in addition - perhaps more importantly - the actual black metal content is minimal; if he sounds like he's been listening to too much of anything when writing this album, it's recent Opeth. There's plenty of clean-sung and acoustic-backed moments here which sound like moments from the Swedes' later albums, far more than actual blackened blasts. Although we do get what sounds like a more Eastern take on Emperor with first track proper Kagutsuchi, Heafy's yells make it sound just as much like a more intense Trivium pounder, even with the strummed acoustic instruments which provide backing.

Three guest moments on the album give it more underground kudos, Ihsahn, Nergal, and of course Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance, who somehow provides a genuinely unnerving blackened scream to Rōnin and should probably be snapped up immediately by any depressive/suicidal black metal projects out there! The song is an album highlight, positively loaded with one of the album's catchiest choruses and best clean vocal and guitar soloing performance from Heafy, alongside the most effective Opethian interlude and Way's screeching. He's the most impressive of the three guests, surprisingly; in comparison, Nergal's dry snarls on Akumu fit in well with a more guitar-focused (and not entirely unBehemothic bit of melodic death-style groove) piece but are less memorable. And Ihsahn's vocal and guitar contribution comes to Susanoo No Mikoto is a little lost in the mix amongst Heafy's cleans in English and Japanese and usual bellows, although he did also give the album its clear and spacious production that sounds tremendous.

Otherwise, it's interesting to note that each of the generally six-minute-plus (up to nine) minute pieces present has something distinct about it, the softer, more lead-guitar and clean-sung Komorebi having a stringed classical interlude and differing hugely from the folksier, downright avant-garde Kaizoku with accordion and arch performance from Heafy. As a showcase for his varied musical interests with guidance by apparent mentor Ihsahn, Rashomon is far from the disaster that it could have been and is fully worth exploring even for the Triviumphobic. The only real flaw is the Mario coin noises on Tamashii No Houkai; you'll have to wait for the promised/threatened Ed Sheeran / Dani Filth collaboration for a true celebrity black metal car-crash...

Killing Songs :
Ibaraki-Dōji, Kagutsuchi, Rōnin
Goat quoted 78 / 100
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