As opener proper Kagutsuchi follows the Romani-style intro track and builds to the first of many explosive crescendos, you could be forgiven for thinking that the original plan of crafting an authentic piece of extreme, nihilistic black metal still stood. The production never dips into that lo-fi '90s ascetic aesthetic, but raw screams are accompanied by biting, jagged guitars as Matt unleashes his inner beast.
Before the track is even partway through its lengthy course though, other elements are brought to the fore. More progressive passages float to the surface before follow-up Ibaraki-Doji brings in a gleeful use of suitably imperious Emperor-ish synths alongside lush orchestral swells and unexpected time signatures. There’s an ebb and flow running through the tracks that is hard-earned. With Trivium, Heafy has long been a master of crafting compelling dynamics with a deft balance of heaviness and melody and those lessons are applied here, albeit in quite different ways.
Matt’s clean vocals also sound absolutely huge throughout the album. Deep, resonant and just the right side of bombastic, they provide a dramatic counterpoint to his own screaming passages as well as those of his guests. The befitting dark majesty of Akumu sounds like it was written with Behemoth’s Nergal in mind but Ronin, featuring one Gerard Way, is the real jaw-dropper. Early My Chemical Romance hinted at his screaming skills at times but who knew he’d been sitting on a lacerating performance like this for 20 years?