Andrew Lee lives and breathes extreme metal and wants to increase the visibility of American-born Chinese (ABC) musicians in the scene. He has a lot of good will on his side to make this happen, but one doubts that cultural expediency is the reason for the attention lavished on the band for their first album since signing to Relapse Records. Search through social media and streaming platforms, and you’ll see the name Ripped to Shreds crop up with impressive frequency. Long-term fans praise their expert blend of the grotesque and the technical, while everyone from Banger TV to Knotfest put them under the magnifying glass. Is there an obvious reason for this hype?
On first listen, you might smile with a pinch of nostalgia at the opening riff to ‘Violent Compulsion for Conquest’. It’s the sort of audio bludgeoning that distinguished the Relapse roster of bands from the early 2000s as the finest in the extreme metal scene. Lee’s slow-ringing chords and stinging pinch harmonics give way to a slimy version of Italian tech death quartet, Hideous Divinity, with crisp kick-drum patterns. Maybe the hype has merit. Few bands can mix Autopsy and Exhumed and make it sound current. The d-beats and exaggerated violent gratification of ‘Split Apart by Five Chariots’ is just as quick to leave its mark and will surprise you with its crossover/thrash dynamics. Ripped to Shreds take their name from a Terrorizer song, but they know how to transplant their energy to a longer-form environment.
The same cannot be said about the bizarre decision to include a ten-minute blast of death-grind insanity for over ten minutes on ‘獨孤九劍 日月神教第三節 (In Solitude – Sun Moon Holy Cult Pt 3)’. Andrew Lee should be applauded for the risk, and he even includes a nod to Death Angel’s Act III for the main hook in the first part, but he leaves few places for contrasting dynamics or the build-up of tension. Only the sorrowful death-doom harmonising towards the end offers something of advanced emotional depth. Few of these songs succeed in offering a modern interpretation of the much-imitated Carcass masterpiece, Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious. ‘Harmonious Impiety’ is a better example of the band’s capabilities with a no-nonsense death-thrash assault to ignite your senses. ‘漢奸 (Race Traitor)’ ripples with unfathomable violence in the intro but soon settles into a standard piece of extreme metal. The gut-spewing vocals and melodic lead guitar phrasing are of the highest calibre, but there’s something missing here – a semblance of originality.
If you want a modern upgrade on death metal from two decades ago, then, ‘Reek of Burning Freedom’, can fill that role. Parts of it will remind you of Wormrot, other sections demonstrate an expert grasp of the adrenaline-fuelled rhythms that make death metal such an absorbing listen. 劇變 (Jubian) has more merits than flaws, but Ripped to Shreds must aim higher than their role as custodians of high-quality extreme music if they want to be part of the genre’s future.
Release Date: 14/10/2022
Record Label: Relapse Records
Standout tracks: Violent Compulsion for Conquest, Reek of Burning Freedom, Harmonious Impiety
Suggested Further Listening: Unidad Trauma – Arte Médica Siniestra (2021), Carcass – Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious (1991), Acephalix – Theothanatology (2022)