ADHD in an album
Rashomon is an album that begins with so much creativity and vigor but loses clarity as the album progresses. If non-human objects could be diagnosed with ADHD, this album has all the classic symptoms. Rashomon is a quirky idea with intriguing ideas that is struggling to find its footing and could benefit from a refinement. While brilliant, at times he wanders off, down rabbit holes, and bouncing from subject to subject without a cohesive plan for others.
This black metal album was TRIVIUM’s Matt Heafy’s promising debut solo project and comes with an inspiring story, which might help explain why it seems to be all over the map. According to the artist’s biography on ibarakiband.com, Rashomon was a passion project developed over several years and completed during the pandemic. Taking Ibaraki’s name from a terrifying Japanese demon in feudal legend, this album is meant to reflect Heafy’s Japanese-American identity. Heafy had a lot to say on this album, but sometimes it’s too much.
The album opens with the song “Hakanaki Hitsuzen” (English translation: “Forlorn Inevitability”). metre. Various Slavic folk elements are sprinkled throughout the album in an effort to add consistency. It is officially revisited on the album’s closing song “Kaizoku”. (English translation: “Pirate”.)
The second song “Kagutsuchi” is where the real metal sets in. “Kagutsuchi” is the god of fire in Japanese mythology. Heafy’s little screech played during the verses is a bit amateurish, more punk rock than enhanced metal god. The chorus vocals redeemed interest in the album by featuring an impersonated version of Serj Tankian, lead singer of System of a Down. This chorus also provides social commentary lyrics such as “Follower manipulation isolation. Followers of the greatest illusion. After 4:15, the song evolves in an almost prog-rock atmosphere, think Genesis. About a minute of that trip could have been canceled for lack of interest as the end of the song regains its original intensity from its opening.
Heafy had a lot of help from famous friends and personal musical inspirations. TRIVIUM drummer Alex Bent, bassist Paolo Gregoletto and guitarist Corey Beaulieu lent a hand on various tracks. “Akumu”, which features Behemoth’s Nergal, is the closest to traditional black metal on the album. With Polish lyrics and random Super Mario Bros. chimes, it’s an epic nightmare with interpretation left to the listener.
The track “Rōnin” features guest vocals from My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way alongside more prog-rock fun. His vocals were a welcome addition that elevated this song and reminded the listener what a true genius Way is.
There are also several challenging stories contained in Rashomon inspired by Japanese folklore. For example, “Jigoku Dayū” tells the sad story of a samurai’s daughter who was sold into prostitution, and “Ibaraki-Dōji” tells the story of a demon child.
From a musical point of view, Rashomon is exceptional. There is nothing typical to be found in this album and the thematic ideas are ingenious. However, the album could use a few refinements to more accurately drive its point. ADHD isn’t just a diagnosis, it’s a superpower when used correctly. Hopefully there’s more passion left for Ibaraki to launch a more distilled second round.