Ripped to Shreds - 埋葬 - (9.5/10)
Published on May 15, 2018
Death by 1000 Cuts
I’m not going to make a Futurama joke, so if you’re looking for that LOOK ELSEWHERE. “One-man death metal band” is not something one hears very often. One-man black metal bands have been all the rage since the 90’s, and I’ve heard of at least a single one-man heavy/power band (Ironflame). But I’ll be damned if I can recall any one-man death metal bands. That’s not to say they don’t exist, I’m sure they do, but they are certainly fewer and more far between than one-man bands in black metal. All that to say that Ripped to Shreds is a one-man death metal band, and for one dude making all this noise, it is astonishingly good. Scratch that, that makes it sounds as though it is “good for a one-man band.” It’s not. It’s good for any band. Ripped to Shreds consists of one fellow on guitars, vocals, drums, and bass: Andrew Lee. He handles all duties and has given this album a neat aesthetic touch right off the bat: it focuses on Chinese history. Now we’ve got a double gimmick on our hands—a one man death metal band who plays songs themed around Chinese history. However, even if Ripped to Shreds was a full-fledged five member death metal band, even if the lyrical focus was focused on death metal’s well-trodden lyrical grounds of death, gore, and mutilation—without any mention of China—I would have the same opinion of it: it absolutely rips.
The most obvious point of comparison for Ripped to Shreds is the early 90’s swedeath scene, particularly the mighty Entombed. The HM-2 guitar tone is strong with this one and omnipresent throughout. But these riffs, man. Hoooo boy, these riffs! I don’t think there is a sub-par riff on the entire album. Each song strings together an astonishing amount of memorable and just simply crushing riffs one after another. And not only are these riffs influenced by Entombed et al., there is a distinct flavor of the warmasters themselves, Bolt Thrower. If the description “predominantly influenced by Entombed and Bolt Thrower” doesn’t get you drooling, you might as well give up on death metal. Most of the material here is stunningly fast, and though it is influenced from a old favorites, it comes across as bracingly fresh. One of the best examples is about 4:00 into “Open Grave.” The music fades out and we are treated to silence, until—oh shit—all of a sudden the song kicks back in full force with a demented scream and a mutilating riff. Although most of the fare here is fast, some of the most interesting and mind-bending moments come during slower portions as well. Take, for example, the middle section of “Talisman to Seal the Hopping Corpse Before It Steals Your Qi” where Lee uses some eerie, arpeggiated chords that lead into a slow groovier number, which leads into a faster groovier number, which leads back into a thrashy death metal assault. It’s one of the most compelling moments on this album, or any album that’s been released this year for that matter. And this album is full of those moments: the sustained, haunting lead guitars all over “Open Grave”; and the slow-burn intro that kicks into d-beat madness leading into “撿骨 (Bone Ritual)” are two that pop into mind immediately. On top of one of the tastiest riff collections in recent years, the guitar solos are stellar. They are shreddy, but not in Slayer-esque death metal fashion. The solos remind me more of something I might expect to hear on a prog-metal album: they shred, yes, but there is a sense of melody, nuance, and emotion underlying each of them. I mean, holy shit, listen to the solo on “撿骨 (Bone Ritual).” That could have been written by John Petrucci if I didn’t know better.
So that’s the guitars. But everything on this album is fantastic. The vocals are a real treat. All in all, they’re a vicious, mid-range, raspy brand of death growl. Perhaps my favorite part, though, are Lee’s paroxysms of random death metal noises. He regularly sounds like he’s had his throat sliced or is choking on human body parts or maybe just vomiting. Indeed, in a recent Decibel interview, Mr. Lee described his vocal strategy as, “Vocals I just held a Shure SM7 in front of my mouth and vomited on it.” It shows. The vocals are monstrous and take the aggression up a notch. In the same interview, Andrew claims that he is not super consistent with his drumming practice. I can’t tell. The drumming here is magnificent. He varies up his beats nicely and has a knack for changing up the rhythm of a riff in interesting ways with the drums. If this is him not practicing very much, what would he sound like with a more dedicated schedule? Finally, the bass pretty much follows the guitar riffs, but the riffs are so tasty that the bass sounds amazing running around behind them. Also, the bass pretty much never does a slower or more simple version of the guitar riff, which makes for a mighty impressive performance.
All in all, this is a super-duper-fantastic death metal album. It takes influence from some of the best death metal out there and uses that template to create something fresh, immediate, and—most importantly—savage. I think it will be hard for another band to outdo this one in 2018. And what makes that statement shocking is that Ripped to Shreds is just getting started. This is the first release by this death metal titan; and what a debut it is. Put this one on and get ready to be…well, you know. See band name.