THRASH ‘TIL DEATH is a 50 week long set of features exploring the legends who crossed over between thrash and death metal between 1983-1993. The focus is primarily on under-served, unknown, and exemplar bands/releases. The selection is comprehensive but the numbering is not indicative of any type of rank or value: The order of appearance is arbitrarily chosen. E-mail me if you want to suggest any relevant bands!
The brutality of Teutonic thrash, ‘Reign in Blood’ and Death had hit the east coast of the United States in 1986 and no doubt New Jersey was busy waddling waist deep in wannabe crossover thrash hell. A heavy kick of brutal thrashers keen to dig deep and go dark would appear over night (Savage Death, Revenant, Cremation, Corpse). Ripping Corpse didn’t shred the fleshy gates of death metal from the start and, like early Cannibal Corpse, a lot of folks overlook their fantastic thrash metal beginnings. The progression is clean, the songwriting is solid from day one, and as such Ripping Corpse are a fantastic example of thrashers not only finding a new death metal groove but becoming incredible musicians in a matter of a few years. No doubt folks still praise ‘Dreaming With the Dead’ in death/thrash circles today, and it is a beloved classic but I figured I wanted to point a finger at Ripping Corpse for the sake of these old demos not fizzling out of memory in favor of the musician’s highly influential output later on (Hate Eternal, Morbid Angel, Dim Mak).
|Title [Type/Year]||Death Warmed Over [Demo/1987]|
|Rating [3.75/5.0]||LISTEN on YouTube!|
You can smell the street trash from a mile away. Cheap beer, shitty weed, the waft of the drummers girlfriends puke still stinking up the van, and a handful of Overkill, Slayer, and Exodus tapes. ‘Death Warmed Over’ wasn’t the most advanced tape flinging around in 1987 but it was exactly the right time and place for their Dark Angel-esque brutal-yet-shrieking sound. They weave in a few hardcore punk breakdowns that could fit well into both Razor or Leeway albums of the time and the vibe of the album is pretty serious with “Corpse Attack” probably the heaviest resemblance of death metal on their plate at the time. They were a fine thrash band and if they’d continued on in this fashion I’m guessing they’d have been an average Gothic Slam or Defiance style band that arrived too late and did too little.
|Title [Type/Year]||Splattered Remains [Demo/1989]|
|Rating [4.0/5.0]||LISTEN on YouTube!|
Contrary to popular belief Erik Rutan wouldn’t enter the band until after the release of Ripping Corpse‘s second demo tape ‘Splattered Remains’. Most folks attribute his entrance into the band for this incredible shift in style but that’d be revisionist nonsense. One of my favorite bands of all time is Insanity and ‘Splattered Remains’ taps into that same frantic, brutal thrashing energy on a level just short of full-bore death metal. There were several bands touting this semi-technical, frantic brand of death/thrash (Ripped, Psychosis, Hellwitch, Devastation) but this demo would appear to show the most potential for usurping Atheist‘s debut at the time. Two years of touring and tightening up their act saw Ripping Corpse essentially debuting almost completely formed into a death/thrash band and I’d say ‘Splattered Remains’ is completely on par with the earliest Demolition Hammer tapes in terms of brutal thrash and just about reaching that Hellwitch level of technical intensity. Their influences became less compelling to talk about at this point because the intensity was (nearly) all their own but it is important to see that this type of band was the United States’ next generation of death/thrash beyond the innovations of Devastation (Illinois), Insanity, and the ilk and it came right as technical thrash metal began to represent the peak of underground thrash excess.
|Title [Type/Year]||Glorious Depravity [Demo/1990]|
|Rating [4.0/5.0]||LISTEN on YouTube|
Here Ripping Corpse increase to a quintet with the addition of guitarist Erik Rutan and no doubt the ‘step up’ you heard on the last demo will seem more dramatic by comparison until you’re a few minutes into ‘Glorious Depravity’. The focus on technicality clearly takes cues from Morbid Angel initially with angular, warbling riffs and stellar lead guitars but there is a level of complexity here that was entirely different from what Cynic and Suffocation were experimenting with at the time. It is more in line with something like Watchtower, (alternately Nocturnus) a wandering confidence that can barrel back towards urgent death/thrash at any moment. There is no wonder they’d gotten signed off of this demo; Bands like Jumpin’ Jesus and Hellwitch were nearby in terms of skill and ferocity but Ripping Corpse absolutely sounded professional (and damn catchy) on this short demo.
|Title [Type/Year]||Dreaming With the Dead [Full-length/1991]|
|Rating [4.75/5.0]||LISTEN on YouTube!|
I remember the first time I put on this CD, it was the Under One Flag version which I’d thought was a bootleg so I’d later trade it away for vinyl and I had gotten my first ‘real’ stereo (i.e. not a chintzy beatbox or $30 department store clunker) and I cranked it loud. It was a ‘chills’ kind of moment that I rarely get anymore and mostly came thanks to the crisped over guitar tone. Rutan has gotten praise over the last few decades but I think the mosh-bro death bluntness of Dim Mak‘s karate chop sound kinda kept Shaune Kelley from receiving the praise he deserves career-wide. He is a fantastic player and he’d written all but one of the tracks on ‘Dreaming With the Dead’, a record that is technical but never needlessly. It is amazing that they’d gone from a goofy Jersey thrash band in 1987 to a legendary one-off in the 80’s death metal lineage in less than four years, and without losing anyone from the lineup. Underground poets and dorks have poured their souls over this album for decades so I won’t whip out the thesaurus for this one but it is worthy of any hype it receives. An undeniable classic of death/thrash (and perhaps just death metal in general) I tend to stack it right in between Atheist‘s debut and ‘Syzigial Miscreancy’ and I consider that high enough praise. Streams of this album suck across the board from Spotify‘s (FUCK Spotify) quiet sound to YouTube‘s shoddy compression, so I’d recommend spending a few bucks on a physical copy if possible.
|Title [Type/Year]||‘Industry’ [Demo/1992]|
|Rating [4.25/5.0]||No Preview Available|
What killed the momentum for Ripping Corpse from this point on? A few things but the most vital stab was the issues with Kraze Records who would fold in 1991 and fuck over Necrosanct and Viogression in the process making all three records underrepresented. This three song demo appears as a sort of ‘best of’ their more forward thinking ideas from rehearsal tapes [CLICK/TAP here to listen to ‘Rehearsal 1992’] in preparation for a second full-length. Scott Ruth was fuckin’ nuts and you’d see some of his exaggerations eventually carry over to Dim Mak too, here he is a damn madman and it really scratches that Ripped itch if you thought they went too far on their second album. Who cares about this demo? ‘Dreaming With the Dead’ was honestly just a warm up, the sort of record every death metal band releases after years of working on their first batch of songs, this demo shows they’d had grand vision to expand their sound towards technical and nigh progressive levels. I’ll see if I can’t upload the full demo on YouTube sometime soon, even if you’ve already heard the ’92 and ’93 rehearsals along with the Unreleased ’92 album this demo is still worthy and features some of Rutan’s signature soloing chiming in for the first time.
|Title [Type/Year]||Unreleased [Pre-production Demo/1992]|
|Rating [4.5/5.0]||LISTEN on YouTube!|
The legitimacy of these recordings has never been argued but they are often lumped into weird packages between file-sharers online that include rehearsal tracks from ’92 and ’93. Discovering this unreleased second ‘album’ (along with Massacre‘s rejected ‘Second Coming’ demo) felt like a weird stab to the belly in the sense that some seriously good music that might’ve been considered classics today were left on the cutting roof floor thanks to artist (or label) disinterest. The music here is technical and appears to be heading in an ‘Unquestionable Presence’ sort of direction while still pulling in those brutal thrash ideas. The bass guitar work is fantastic throughout and really highlights the long instrumental sections as most of these recordings do not feature vocal tracks. You’ll understand why folks have been frustrated that this album was never finished since it first leaked online, the damn thing is a (Kelley written) technical death/thrash masterpiece that was stillborn and kept under glass. If you still can’t get enough after this [CLICK/TAP here and listen to Rehearsal ’93] a 50+ minute rehearsal of these songs will at least drive the dagger deeper.
As 1993 approached Rutan left to join Morbid Angel (and later Hate Eternal) and eventually worked his way into producing a variety of extreme metal bands over the years. Most of Ripping Corpse would go on form Dim Mak around 1996 and they remain an equally underrate presence today. Whenever I revisit the history of Ripping Corpse it shocks me how the build up to ‘Dreaming With the Dead’ and the fallout after it are almost more interesting than the album itself despite having worshiped the riff machine that is that album for years. If anything I hope I’ve convinced a few people to buy their full-length and we’ll all have to simply cross our fingers hoping a collection of demos eventually releases. Doubt we’ll ever get that second album in finished form, at all, but keep your crosses down-turned just in case.
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