So this was a no brainer for me, right? It’s common knowledge that I adore ancient China and think there’s a wealth of untapped potential for metal bands hidden in one of the longest-running human civilizations on Earth. So seeing a group named after Sun Tzu (though misspelled because metal I guess) and an EP named The Forbidden City filled me with glee. This is the exact kind of thing I’ve been yearning for, and only Ripped to Shreds has been really attempting to do. Well, it turns out the other two tracks aside from the title track are named “Kunoichi” (a female ninja, obviously Japanese instead of Chinese) and “Ko’muso” (the nonverbal “Monks of Emptiness” of the Fuke Zen sect of Buddhists in Edo-era Japan that wore woven baskets on their heads and traveled around playing a bamboo flute). So clearly their interest lies a bit further east than their name would imply, but whatever, still a subject I’m interested in.
However, these influences only show up outside of the lyrics in the shamisen riff in the bridge of “Kunoichi” and the shakuhachi interlude in “Ko’muso,” as the rest of this is simply straight-ahead pummeling death metal. This isn’t a bad thing, most bands pull from these cultures for aesthetic reasons anyway, and I’d certainly expect the same for a bunch of bogans out of Adelaide. This is a short one, but it’s pretty beefy and punishing, so it’s a worthwhile listen for pretty much any fan of death metal. It’s meant to be more of a teaser for their upcoming second album than anything, the followup to their self-titled debut from eight years ago. They pretty frequently drop into slow, crawling sections ala Autopsy, but the real excitement comes from the fast parts that dominate the record. The abundance of tremolo riffs and double bass call to mind a band like Vader, with vocals that are much deeper and more incomprehensible (akin to more contemporary brutal death metal bands). It’s guttural and nasty and frankly quite a lot of fun. Special mention goes to “Ko’ muso” for being a bit slower and more atmospheric in the back half but still managing to stay engaging, a trick that doesn’t work as well when they do it on the other two tracks.
I can only really say so much about The Forbidden City simply because it’s so short, hitting the 19-minute mark purely because “Ko’muso” is over eight minutes long and draws itself out for quite a long time. The title track is an absolute ripper, and “Kunoichi” feels like an audial jackhammer. In contrast, the lengthy closing track is instrumental in the second half and shifts the mood quite a bit thanks to its dialed back intensity, but they all work for what they are. It’s simplistic and punishing death metal with little else to say, and sometimes that’s just fine! It definitely makes for a filler review of mine, but it kicks a lot of ass, so I recommend it anyway.
The Forbidden City was released on January 30th, 2020 on Lavadome Productions and can be purchased through the band’s Bandcamp.