Truly surprising and epic of scope

A project more than a decade in the making, Rashomon is the much-hyped and apparently very mis-represented solo offering from Matthew K. Heafy under the name Ibaraki.

Much-hyped because Heafy is one of the biggest names in the metal world, mis-represented because the only people who would call this black metal are those who’ve never heard any actual black metal. Whether Rashomon will stand up to the hype will depend, as it always does, on personal opinion, but both fans and critics of its creator will find plenty of surprises across this vast homage to Heafy’s Japanese heritage.

Among the most prominent of those surprises are those much-discussed black metal elements, but they are hardly the most prominent aspects of Ibaraki’s music overall. In essence, Rashomon is a logical extension of Trivium’s more progressive and aggressive moments, given impetus and accentuated by further extremities. Moments of sheer speed, tremolo picked melodies and harsher vocals abound, along with injections of traditional and Japanese sounds at key moments. Tracks veer into elaborately orchestrated detours through quieter passages of vocal croon and acoustics as Heafy explores variations of themes of Japanese myth and endemic racism against Asian people, as well as more familiar topics like depression.

Where Rashomon gets truly interesting is in Heafy’s interaction with his guests, as the album builds from its already impressive beginnings into something rather spectacular. Nergal from Behemoth rasps in Polish against Heafy’s English as Akumu spirals into the titular nightmare. On the dramatic, saga-length Rōnin, the howling black metal shrieks comes from the most surprising source possible – Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance turning himself inside out in a thoroughly unexpected but satisfying cameo. Heafy throws everything at this track, including an extended moody mid-section, Ihsahn dropping a guitar solo while his daughters add harmonised chanting: it’s a true metal epic. On Susanoo No Mikoto the album takes another dramatic steps as Heafy and Ihsahn duet over dark strings and baroque soundscapes amid occasional bursts of blasting.

Rashomon is a long haul. With most tracks tipping the scales at six minutes or more, it’s certainly not one for the attention deficient, and while there could be an argument for some amount of culling, Heafy crams so much into this album it’s different to see where he could have economised and still made such a masterpiece. Even Heafy’s harshest critics could hardly deny the creativity and epic scope he captures with this Ibaraki album.

  1. Hakanaki Hitsuzen
  2. Kagutsuchi
  3. Ibaraki-doji
  4. Jigoku Dayu
  5. Tamashii No Houkai
  6. Akumu
  7. Komorebi
  8. Rōnin
  9. Susanoo No Mikoto
  10. Kaizoku