I often gripe about the general state of the current thrash scene and how it’s stagnating with a lack of cutting edge innovators and general over reliance on rehashing the past. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, however, more often than not I find myself looking back to the past and grabbing an old favorite to get my thrash fix. Already in 2016 old school thrashers have been grinning from ear to ear with the return to form of Megadeth and Anthrax, along with the enduring space-age proggy thrash of the recent Voivod EP. Fortunately there’s a heap of room for new faces to emerge and make an impact on the current thrash scene and show that young pups can be as equally wily as old dogs. Boasting a robust, supercharged thrash engine, fueled by old school Kreator and Sepultura riffs, Chile’s Ripper do what their moniker implies, tearing it up with pinpoint precise thrash workouts delivered with the typical toughness and raw edge of their South American roots. Ripper aren’t in the game to reinvent the wheel, nor do they pretend to be anything they are not, instead offering high quality, pretension free thrash executed with the tightness of a well worn pair of ’80s rock pants.
There’s much to admire about Ripper’s second album Experiment of Existence, beginning with the formidable bass work of Pablo Cortés. Playing a multi-pronged role that would make the great Steve DiGiorgio proud, Cortés cushions, accentuates and fucking dominates with his instrument, pretty much adding a whole new dimension to what is already a solid thrash foundation. Too often bass is an afterthought in thrash, relegated to a barely audible supporting role, thankfully Ripper are hell bent on bucking that unfortunate trend. The rest of the band pull their weight as well, from the speed riddled drum battery to the feverish death-thrash riffs and whiplashing solos, it’s a wild ride and fun one to boot. Built on genre staples of memorable, invigorating riffcraft and accelerated tempos, Experiment of Existence is a veritable ball-tearer executed with cold blooded intent.
Setting a course of destruction from the frenetic pace of opener “Magnetic Solar Storms” Ripper rarely let up, masterfully shifting between numerous high gears and showing a handy knack for subtle high speed tempo manipulation. The raw pulse raising barbarity of the rampant “Stellar Evolution” is wonderfully offset by the high-brow basslines and brief bursts of slightly slowed down groove. Moments of restraint are few and far between but effective when they do arrive. Although still embedded with blazing riffs and tempos, “Anatomy of the Galaxies” is a beautifully crafted instrumental, combining a touch of elegance, melody and slick melodeath riffs with the band’s brawny delivery. “Chromatic Fantasy” showcases the supreme skill of Cortés, recalling Cliff Burton’s legendary “(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth” without the extra embellishments, while later album highlights “Neuronal Unity” and “Spherical Energy” craftily balance proggy Death-like passages and jaw-jabbing grooves with blistering thrash.
While in many ways an accomplished and confident album, Experiment of Existence is not without a couple of issues. Although the instruments feature punchy, robust tones and the exceptional bass work is pushed successfully into the spotlight, predictably the mastering job becomes the album’s biggest drawback, crushing dynamics in the name of loudness. I’ve certainly heard worse examples of metal recordings with such a low dynamic range, but particularly when coupled with Ripper’s relentless delivery, it becomes a major hindrance that brings on some unpleasant ear fatigue during the album’s later stages. Meanwhile there’s slight bleeding present between a few of the tracks and the harsh barks of vocalist Venus Torment (a Chilean superhero or villain?) are serviceable enough but could benefit from a little more variation.
There’s a lot to like about Ripper’s potent form of breakneck, bass-savvy thrash and it’s definitely one of the more explosive thrash album’s I’ve heard recently. Pings of nostalgia never develops into derivative throwback territory and the deathly elements and super bass work lends Experiment of Existence its own individual flair. Hamstrung by poor mastering and a few one-dimensional elements, Experiment of Existence is otherwise a formidable album recommended for all you bloodthirsty thrash fiends.