Although the law of diminishing returns certainly doesn’t apply to the popularity and buzz surrounding San Jose, California / Taipei, Taiwan musician Andrew Lee‘s death metal project Ripped to Shreds, the smaller releases beyond 2018’s breakthrough ‘埋葬 [Mai-Zang]’ haven’t had a lengthy life on my own shelf thus far. That is to say that the hype and the first several spins of the ‘Eight Immortals Feast’ demo tape from this March and now this brand new EP ‘魔經 – Demon Scriptures’ are generally stellar but closer inspection reveals somewhat lacking depth. The balancing act on that first full-length impressed with craggy ‘Realm of Chaos’ heavy metal heft and the punkish, raw-ripped feeling of ‘Clandestine’ now leans towards a dirtier grindcore influenced style with a bit less charm than previous. I’m all for this thugged-out, grimy stuff as Interment and Nirvana 2002 are a couple of my all time favorites from the HM-2 addicted Stockholm syndrome crew of the late 80’s but, I’m not necessarily getting a consistent level of ‘serious-faced’ songwriting from Ripped to Shreds on these minor releases.
‘Eight Immortals Feast’ was clear as day with this death-grind direction between those drum-machine driven rhythms and the Insect Warfare cover that’d blurred the separation between Ripped to Shreds and Lee‘s grindcore project Skullsmasher. Old school Swedish death metal surely had its kicks of grind, usually of the Carcass-esque fashion between Excruciate and Uncanny but nothing as rabid as what Lee has worked up on “Pseudoelixir”, the middle child of three fairly standard songs that make up the brutal first half of this 18 minute EP. As always the dude’s frantic growling insanity, break-neck pace [thanks to drummer Kévin Paradis (Benighted, Mithridatic)], and buzzing guitar pedal wizardry practically writes itself with the heaviest Nihilist/Dismember influence yet emanating from the peak of “Nine Familial Exterminations”. It is worth noting that Paradis is one of the finest session drummers around today between recent performances on Drastus, Sutrah, and Musmahhu records, he absolutely kills it here. I’d probably have moved onto another release for review if ‘魔經 – Demon Scriptures’ was just another set of Swedeath buzz-‘n-blasters, as much fun as that stuff is there are real pros (and old favorites) who’ve long perfected the sound and the grind of it all. Some promising differentiation from that crowd arrives with the final track, “Sun Moon Holy Cult Part I”.
At well over ten minutes “Sun Moon Holy Cult Part I” plays out as if Lee were covering God Macabre‘s “Teardrops” without the second guitar and stripped down to a death/doom sound a la Doomortalis until giving way to an appropriately brutal middle section reminiscent of Repugnant. I really loved the almost improvised sounding discordance just past six minutes into the song but on repeated listens it’d more or less highlighted why I take issue with some of Ripped to Shred‘s looser, more energetic guitar compositions beyond ‘Mai-Zang’ and why they don’t necessarily compare with a lot of the ‘classic’ records I’ve used to reference their sound; Transitions are shaky at best in most cases and the flow of ideas isn’t always consistent. Bear in mind I do not head down this rabbit hole of thought for the sake of talking myself down from enjoying ‘魔經 – Demon Scriptures’ but for clarity that Ripped to Shreds as an entity is first and foremost interesting for their resemblance of underground classics and a unique musical personality is yet in transit for the project. “Sun Moon Holy Cult Part I” is a sign that variation, and some decent lead guitar work, will be a part of that continued differentiation. With the appearance of this song the threat of a brutal HM-2 deathgrind sophomore full-length appears less real. Ripped to Shreds still kicks ass.
Though the insane wretch of Ripped to Shreds‘ ‘Clandestine’-meets-grindcore style could use something beyond sheer energy to create interest, the lyrics continue to be interesting; Translating them using the internet only leads to a mess of understanding but learning what they’re referencing is definitely a fresh subject among death metal lyrics. The package as a whole remains noteworthy enough thanks to fine cover art and art direction in general to warrant picking ‘魔經 – Demon Scriptures’ up and continuing to keep up with the prospect of the project having legs. Moderately high recommendation. For preview I’d suggest pairing “Nine Familial Exterminations” with “Sun Moon Holy Cult Part I” to get right to the key points of interest within.
Noxious smells swell. 4.0/5.0
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