Written by Alex Stojanovic
Ronin (feat. Gerard Way and Ihsahn)
Akumu (feat. Nergal)
Tamashii No Houkai
Susanoo No Mikoto (feat. Ihsahn)
Release Date: May 6, 2022
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Ihsahn’s approach to writing black metal on his solo albums has proven to be one of the major inspirations for how Matt wanted to approach the writing for the music, because Ihsahn was able to break away from the traditional elements of black metal and bring in elements that nobody would expect to be heard in black metal, like saxophone solos and jazz chords. Breaking from the norm is something that also really resonates with me as a musician. I’ve always said that I’m not the biggest fan of black metal, except for a couple of bands, but the black metal bands and albums that always stood out to me are the ones that tend to step away from the formula of tremolo picking, blast beats, double-bass, and screeching gutterals and screams, like Dimmu Borgir and Dragonlord. It’s important to have those standard elements, but it’s best to not be so reliant on them. The same goes for just about every other subgenre in my personal opinion. The debut Ibaraki album titled Rashomon does exactly that and then some.
With Matt doing the heavy lifting with performing vocals and guitars, he also has his Trivium bandmate Alex Bent playing drums, Ihsahn guesting on some songs, as well as a couple of cool special guests like Nergal from Behemoth on the track "Akumu", and Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance. Speaking of the latter, Gerard Way may be the last person one would expect to hear in the world of black metal, but when you hear the track “Ronin”, he’s doing all the screeching black metal screams, which is sure to silence all the My Chemical Romance detractors. The album also has riffs that Ihsahn originally wrote for Emperor that he never ended up using, so he offered them to Matt, and of course, he jumped at the offer without hesitation. That would be like my band having James Hetfield produce an album for us and him telling us that he has riffs that he originally wrote in 1985 for Master Of Puppets that never got used, and asked if we would like to use them. Any metal fan would jump at that chance immediately.
We've all heard Matt speak Japanese sporadically over the years, and we've heard Japanese terminology in Trivium songs before (i.e: "Becoming The Dragon" and "Kirisute Gomen"), but he puts his Japanese language skills to good use on this album, particularly on the track "Susanoo No Mikito". The track also features Norwegian lyrics sung by Ihsahn. While there are many ebs and flows within the songs, making them extremely dynamic and exciting, length-wise, the songs are all between 6 and 8 minutes long, with the exception of the intro track "Hakanaki Hitsuzen" and the outro track "Kaizoku", and it feels like many of the songs were kind of overstaying their welcome. Some sections, while really well-composed, could've been trimmed down by a few measures to make for a smoother flow as opposed to a rather lengthy drag.
Aside from that slight flaw, Rashomon is an exciting and groundbreaking venture in the world of black metal, featuring elements that really haven't been heard in black metal before. If there's two artists that are not afraid to break down the black metal barriers, they're Ihsahn and Matt. Staunch black metal purists and gatekeepers are obviously going to find this album frustrating, but honestly, that's their problem because they're afraid of change. Matt and Ihsahn are true examples of unapologetic courage, because they aren't afraid to step out of their comfort zones and break away from traditions. This is what causes true innovation and endless possibilities for future music. It just makes us excited to see what else they can do with Ibaraki in the future.
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