Ripped to Shreds – 劇變 (Jubian) Review

California’s Ripped to Shreds ascended to underground prominence on the back of a couple of killer LPs, 2018’s 埋葬, and 2020’s quality follow-up, 亂 (Luan). The brainchild of prolific guitarist/vocalist/composer Andrew Lee (Azath, Houkago Grind Time & a ton of other projects), Ripped to Shreds exhibit old school death metal soul and bloodthirst for carving a path that values the past, yet aims to forge ahead and cleave the opposition. As enjoyable as the first two Ripped to Shreds albums were, I am waiting for the band to really knock one out the park and achieve greatness. Boasting buzzsawing Swedeath qualities to make Entombed and Dismember proud, along with muggy whiffs of classic Floridian death, 劇變 (Jubian) also features an increased focus on technicality, proggy turns, and even smatterings of grind, melodeath and death-doom.

Despite wearing their influences on their sleeves, Ripped to Shreds are far from the cookie-cutter crop of death metal bands channeling those old timey feels. There is a freshness and vitality to their sound, hammered home by the rabid delivery, diverse songwriting angle, and raw, primitive vocals. 劇變 (Jubian)’s pronounced exhibition of technical shreddery and progressive inclinations, occasionally bring to mind contemporary trailblazers, Horrendous. Shifting focus and preventing formulaic rot setting in, thankfully, Ripped to Shreds maintain the feral old school charm and aggro edge, ensuring plenty of beef and neck-snapping riffs are on the offing. Lee’s strained, urgent and incomprehensible growls, screams and grunts lends the album a genuinely nasty, unhinged edge.

The extra nuance and complexity seeping through does not distract from Ripped to Shreds mission of intent. 劇變 (Jubian) is a complex and diverse album, featuring the most dense, intricate and melodic writing so far exhibited, without dulling the band’s blunt force edge. Opening salvo “Violent Compulsion for Conquest” sets the rugged wheels in motion, tearing through an intricate maze of rough, chaotic death, replete with oodles of blasts, tempo changes, and inklings of the band’s more adventurous spirit. However, the whopping ten-minute plus “獨孤九劍 日月神教第三節 (In Solitude – Sun Moon Holy Cult Pt 3)” signals Ripped to Shreds ambitious plunge into a long-form progressive journey of old school death. Length may not be quite perfect; however, execution is largely on point; the gripping twists, intricate layers, and memorable writing make for a riveting showcase. The show-stealing leads and evocative, doom-laden climax caps off a special tune.

Backed by a fully-fledged line-up, Lee has more freedom to expand his songwriting scope and technical chops. This is evidenced by the unpredictable, contorting compositions, grounded by riff-driven, cohesive structures. Lee adorns the sawing riffcraft with melodic leads and slashing solos. His ability to shred with the best of them hits another gear on this latest album, in addition to his wonderful contributions to Pharmacist’s immense latest platter. The increased technical flair and confidence feeds into the lively songwriting as well. Ripped to Shreds unleash a gnarly melodeath ripper courtesy of “漢奸 (Race Traitor),” with one boot firmly grounded in the murky underground. It marks one of several later album highlights. The blazing deathgrind of “Reek of Burning Freedom” leverages its off-the-chain intensity with melodic underpinnings and playful grooves, while “Peregrination to the Unborn Eternal Mother” thrashes, grooves and grinds towards a powerfully atmospheric, doomy outro. In particular, the doomy elements, and especially grind influences, sneakily infiltrating their sound, recall scene legends Terrorizer, Napalm Death and Brutal Truth, and are especially satisfying expansions.  

劇變 (Jubian) is not perfect by any means. There are some sequencing issues, vocals come be a tad monotonous on occasions, while a warmer, dirtier feel to the production may have enhanced the package, but these are all relatively minor issues. After multiple listens 劇變 (Jubian) has gotten under the skin and grown in stature, as the album’s more elusive hooks and subtleties firmly take hold. Ripped to Shreds is a formidable force in the overcrowded old school death metal scene, with Lee developing his outfit from a one-man wrecking ball into a more fully realized and potent entity. While perhaps not as immediate as its predecessors, 劇變 (Jubian) marks the band’s most complete effort to date, continuing a solid track record and evolving the Ripped to Shreds sound into intriguing territory.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Relapse Records
Websites: rippedtoshredsdeathmetal.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/rippedtoshredsband
Releases Worldwide: October 14th, 2022
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