North Canton, Ohio progressive death/thrash metal underground legends Ripped might have formed under the name R.I.P.T. (Rebellious Intellectual Party Thrashers) in 1988 but that should be no indication of how serious they appeared beyond that first incarnation. The tumult and inspirational mania that they insisted upon within the span of a six year run saw the band barely surviving due to a litany of setbacks. Two full relocations across the southeastern United States, the sudden abandon of signature vocalist Brian Gerda, and Lethal Records infamously ripping them off for their second full-length all added up to an exhausted and defeated band by 1994. Their legacy may appear tragic as Ripped began as a promising and successful DIY band constantly on the road, and they were certainly felt throughout the underground at the time, yet they ended up dead to the world and lost within the well-hidden archives of internet while shifty eastern European bootleggers on Discogs have kept their music moderately accessible for those willing to dig for it.
Ripped‘s increasingly erratic genre-bending take on extreme thrash metal began with a very ambitious self-released 40 minute ‘Beyond Belief’ (1989) demo tape that was limited to 50 official copies. That same year they would reign in their looser thrash sound on ‘Temporary Insanity’ (1989) and hints of Florida’s rising death metal scene could be heard a bit more on that second tape. The main event for Ripped in general is the ever-elusive ‘Blotter’ (1991) tape which might’ve been barely 27 minutes long but is widely considered the band’s debut full-length and first official release. Difficult to find and always circulating on the internet with a missing track ‘Blotter’ has long been my nemesis as a collector and a fan of Ripped. The progressive death/thrash style is not as musically violent as comparable bands like Ripping Corpse, Hellwitch or Mass Psychosis but on ‘Blotter’ the band were entirely related to that realm of musicianship and attack while almost as restfully performative as heard on Obliveon‘s ‘From This Day Forward’. As a huge fan of the strange outsiders and outliers of metal that only stuck out in hindsight, Ripped are a white whale that have nagged me for well over a decade.
It would seem the band themselves were either bastards or just cursed as the US tour for ‘Blotter’ would end with vocalist Gerda ducking out. It didn’t kill them, though as the soldiered on with bassist Rick Fisher taking over on vocals post-tour and a Wild Rags Records deal for the ‘Easter Island’ (1992) tape which featured re-recordings of songs from ‘Blotter’ with Fisher on vocals. They even made a music video for “Pagan Holiday” to help promote tours on public access channels. For my taste something had gone wrong with the sound of Ripped beyond ‘Blotter’ and although the vocals were appropriately frantic the previously surreal thrash feeling of the band was replaced by a frantic and disturbing sense of horror that would come to a head on their next release.
Engineered and produced by the same fellow who recorded Whiplash‘s ‘Insult to Injury’ the incredibly disturbing concept album ‘Through My Eyes’ (1993) would serve as the band’s second and final full-length. The grand failure of this forward thinking noise rock influenced progressive death/thrash album wasn’t actually its challenging rhythms and crazed vocal performances but rather the shady business from Austrian Michael Piesch who ran Lethal Records and decided to rip Ripped off, perhaps for the sake of truly disgusting irony. With the masters in hand Piesch ghosted the band after promising a tour with Alchemist (Australia, Lethal would ‘Jar of Kingdom’ around the same time) the band then had to track down their DAT backups and release the CD version themselves in 1994. It was a career damning event for a band that had just fully adjusted to the exit of their vocalist and unfortunately the band wouldn’t bother releasing their 1994 EP ‘Deep Monster Ocean’ after disbanding. The short version of the Ripped story is that they were screwed at every turn they took and ‘Through My Eyes’ reflects that frustration with a majorly demented style.
In the space of nearly 40 minutes Ripped describe the point of view of a character demented by (what appears to be) rape and/or molestation who turns to torture, mutilation, murder, dismemberment, and uh… perhaps necrophilia as a result. You can read the lyrics yourself and take what meaning you will though I will suggest you follow along as Fisher sings to get the full experience. Why does my interpretation go so dark so fast? The music here is seriously psychotic as it unfurls so far outside of the thrash or death metal playbook that Ripped begin to resemble a very extreme noise rock band capable of a sort of Mekong Delta-meets-Atheist level of instrumentation but unwilling to commit to any ‘typical’ structures. Recorded at Morrisound Studios by the largely unknown Judd Parker ‘Through My Eyes’ is a nice balance between early 90’s rock production and the polished sort of thrash and progressive metal standards of that same time period. It is hard to tell what direction the band were actually going here: Were they aiming for 90’s alternative weirdness or were they trying to be the most ‘out there’ death/thrash band ever. I suppose in some regards the result is a mix of both things.
As a fan of weird rarities and ‘out there’ thrash metal ‘Through My Eyes’ is just beyond my threshold of comfort and enters the realm of unpleasant psychosis with enough repeat listening. After unknowingly buying a bootleg of this album roughly a decade ago I’ve never really been able to digest exactly what it is. If it was meant to be a marriage of early 90’s noise/art rock with their progressive thrash metal sound then it is an achievement in some sense and at some point I’ve had to give Ripped the benefit of the doubt that they just weren’t capable of writing the music they had previous without Gerda around to drive the ship. If that is the case then ‘Through My Eyes’ is an unsettling and future-cast vision of what bands like Pyrrhon would eventually be doing as the needling of ‘math’ genres bleeds into modern technical/progressive forms of extreme metal. Normally this is the point where I’d fawn over the album and suggest it needs greater attention or a reissue but in this case I think Ripped‘s second album’s place in history is exactly where the musicians want it to be: Buried like the body of a murder victim. The real shame is that their 1989-1991 era has not been preserved and that is where I think the world misses out most.
A thousand colors reflect back at me. 3.75/5.0
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