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Album Review: Ripped to Shreds – 埋葬 (Mai-zang)

This isn’t your grandmother’s Entombed worship: Andrew Lee’s solo project Ripped to Shreds may employ the ever-popular buzzsaw tone pioneered by the Swedes, but the project’s debut album is laced with a personality all it’s own. There’s a certain intricacy to the riffs that breathes life into 埋葬 while staying well within the realm of ‘dynamic’ and far out of the treacherous grasp of ‘pretentiously technical.’ Nothing crazy is going on with the songwriting, but it still manages to be markedly engaging and fun to listen to in its entirety, largely in part due to it’s constant forward progression. Ripped to Shreds is able to tastefully avoid the pitfall of relying on one good riff and trying to hobble through an full song with it. Don’t get me wrong, there is an abundance of fantastic riffs to be heard on 埋葬 (shout-out to the opening of ‘Open Grave’), but there’s too much creativity going into this project to waste it on one good melody. It’s worth noting that I found the second half (side B for you cassette creeps) to be considerably less memorable than the first, but the track ordering is logical and the album still manages to be an impressive output for a single man.

The production stands out as one of 埋葬‘s strongest facets, and one that gives the album a sinister sense of clarity. Each layer of Ripped to Shred’s inaugural release locks together and forms a tightly knit wave of sound that’s powerful enough to knock you on your ass within the first minute, but at the same time, they can each be singled out and appreciated in their own way. The drumming, for instance, which is notoriously problematic for solo projects, is laid down in patterns that suit the song structure logically and supply a vital part of the album’s intensity. When it works, it works perfectly, but there are a few moments where it sounds a bit mechanical. That being said, in regards to the mix, nothing gets drowned out and nothing steals the spotlight (except maybe that delicious guitar tone at times). It’s like watching a barrage of hellfire come down at you at a delicate, considerate pace so that you have time to appreciate exactly what’s in the debris about to destroy you. Why, does that ball of fire have a core made entirely of vocals reminiscent of early Horrendous? And hey, there goes a chunk of background on Chinese burial rituals! How lovely.

Regarding the album title, and overall concept: 埋葬 translates from Chinese to burial, or tomb. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that burial is a groundbreaking topic for death metal, but while death and postmortem rituals are touched upon throughout the full length, this release is more so a take on Chinese culture and history (19th century to early 20th century) from a death metal frame of mind. This allows for a uniquely thematic album, and an interesting spin on traditional extreme metal tropes. It doesn’t quite qualify as a gimmick because, as far as I can tell, the theme has no impact on the actual musical composition; there’s hard-hitting and intense death bits and some soulful, eighties-horror style doom sections, but nothing that screams ‘China’ beyond the lyrics, song titles, and album artwork.

Ripped to Shreds is like the reanimated remains of Andrew Lee’s previous project, Disincarnation. 埋葬 even includes a much stronger and more professional recording of the song “Talisman to Seal the Hopping Corpse Before It Steals Your Qi” off of said band’s one and only EP. But if that’s the case, then this must be one of those B-movies where the zombies are significantly faster and deadlier than any living person, because Ripped to Shreds is able to crush in a way that Disincarnation couldn’t come close to capturing. The production is the most noticeable difference but altogether Ripped to Shreds demonstrates a smarter and more coherent approach to writing love letters to the Swedish scene of old. Passing on this new album would be like passing on maintaining your ancestor’s burial site: it’ll only leave you haunted by shame and regret.

埋葬 is set to release on March 27th and will be available through Craneo Negro Records (CD) and Necrolatry Records (Tape). The album can be pre-ordered digitally through Bandcamp.

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