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TRIVIUM's MATT HEAFY to release 'Ibaraki And Friends', a young reader's guide to Japanese folklore


This June, TRIVIUM vocalist and guitarist Matt HeafyZ2 Comics and illustrator Half Sumo will debut “Ibaraki And Friends”, a rhyming picture book featuring the myriad Japanese folktales and rich mythologies that inspired Heafy as a child. This vibrant guide, designed by Matt‘s wife Ashley Heafy, offers a new way for families to connect to Japanese culture and be enthralled by the monsters, heroes, and places that form its legacy.

‘Ibaraki And Friends’ is a book full of the stories that I grew up with. That Japanese folklore lies at the very root of so many of the amazing stories we have today, whether they’re in video games, anime, movies, or songs,” Matt explains.

Each spread of “Ibaraki And Friends” presents one of the many legendary tricksters, heroes, and mystical beings that occupied the classical Japanese stories Heafy‘s mother taught him growing up. These include the monkey/man/bird hybrid Tengu; the eight-headed beast Yamata no Orochi; and a nine-tailed celestial fox, all channeled with neon energy through Half Sumo‘s vivid illustrations.

“For years, I’ve researched as many Japanese stories as possible—gotten several of them tattooed on my body — and explored their themes in the songs of TRIVIUMIBARAKI and now in ‘Ibaraki And Friends’,” Matt continues “It’s our hope that in exploring these wonderful stories, that the readers will want to learn more about Japanese culture — then more cultures of the surrounding Asian countries, then spread that willingness to learn about stories from all over the world, inspiring curiosity in the many cultures we share around the planet.”

In tandem, Heafy is also releasing the “Ibaraki And Friends” lullaby CD, a musical complement of the book that provides soothing, acoustic songs written and performed by Heafy to offer even more ways to experience these treasured tales.

Heafy is a Japanese-American musician, best known as the guitarist and lead vocalist for the Grammy-nominated heavy metal band TRIVIUMHeafy co-founded the band in 1999 when he was in eighth grade; the quartet has gone on to sell millions of records over the span of ten studio albums, culminating with “In The Court Of The Dragon”, released last October. TRIVIUM was nominated for the “Best Metal Performance” Grammy in 2019 for the song “Betrayer”.

Heafy‘s solo project IBARAKI explores Japanese culture and mythology through black metal, and partially inspired his “Ibaraki And Friends” book with Z2 Comics. The IBARAKI self-titled record debuts on May 6 worldwide and includes guest contributions from Gerard Way of MY CHEMICAL ROMANCEIhsahn of EMPEROR, and Nergal of BEHEMOTHHeafy also releases music under Matthew K Heafy and has collaborated with musicians including Mike Shinoda (LINKIN PARK) and Richard Marx.

‘Akumu’ translates to ‘nightmare’ — and with this piece, I encourage the listener to work to find their interpretations of what they feel from the lyrics, music, and the haunting visuals of the music video,” says Heafy. “I have always been fascinated by Sagazan‘s ‘Transfiguration’ and for years I have wanted to pay homage to his works with a performance art piece. To finally be able to immerse myself in his style was an intense experience.

He finishes: “Having Nergal guest in this Ihsahn-co-written piece allowed me to combine many of my long-time influences, and when I presented with Nergal of the challenge of translating my lyrics into Polish, it brought the song to another level.

Last month, IBARAKI offered fans a taste and a tease of the music by sharing the video for “Tamashii No Houkai”, featuring special guest Ihsahn of EMPEROR fame, who is a core contributor and partner in this project.

Watch “Tamashii No Houkai”  featuring Ihsahn below.

IBARAKI — the name for a terrifying Japanese demon taken from feudal legend — is the end-result of Heafy‘s continued journey to find his voice. It’s personal, it’s deep, and its inspirations include everything from an adoration for the extremes of black metal and beyond. Heafy himself is of Japanese origin.

It was Heafy‘s exposure to Ihsahn‘s solo work that would inspire the gradual craftsmanship that would eventually become IBARAKI. It was also the beginning of a friendship and creative collaboration that would eventually compel Ihsahn to take a leap of his own into a newfound role as producer on the project. While much of the material for IBARAKI was assembled over months and years — as much a songwriting process as an exchange of ideas between friends — it wasn’t until the pandemic that the space was created and the idea could really flourish.

Back in 2015, Heafy told Revolver magazine about IBARAKI: “IBARAKI was initially intended to be a black metal band that I was never going to tell anybody I was in. I was going to make the music, and it was going to be pretty true to the ’90s second wave-style-black metal — sort of like DARKTHRONE, early DIMMU BORGIR, early EMPEROR. But while IBARAKI has its roots in black metal, it’s become something so much more. It’s not just black metal — it’s anything I’ve ever wanted to try.”

Heafy previously said about his decision to launch IBARAKI: “My love for black metal eventually spawned the idea of creating a side musical project based upon the same early values of Norwegian black metal: a project shrouded by anonymity — a musical venture that no one would ever know was ‘me.’ I think that initial idea was due to the fact that the black metal genre usually warrants some of the most elite-minded fans; the kind that… well, basically don’t like anything anyone else likes — ones who even quickly turn their backs on their favorites of the black metal genre once any kind of popularity occurs. It’s that close-mindedness of a small-faction of the fans that I initially wanted to try to grasp, but one day I befriended a new mentor who would help change that outlook through their musical and artistic influence.”

He added: “Through my conversations with Ihsahn and the influence of his new record, the idea of the black metal ‘project’ I was intending to do completely took a new shape and form. No longer was I concerned what anyone would think about it — all I wanted to do was make exactly what I felt like; the principles of black metal I learned from Ihsahn all made complete sense with this attitude. Through the next few months, we would occasionally pass around more things for each other to check out, including passing back and forth the demos of IBARAKI. The decision was clear — when time outside of TRIVIUM existed, Ihsahn must produce the IBARAKI record.”

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