As I sit at my desk typing this review while Blade of the Ripper’s Taste the Blade plays on my shitty computer speakers, I find myself seized by in voluntary fits of aggression: My lip curls into a snarl, my fists clench, and soon I am pounding on the desk. Simply put, Taste the Blade makes me want to break shit, and I mean that in the best possible way. It is not with dizzying instrumental prowess, nor with bludgeoning brutality that Blade of the Ripper so inspires my outbursts of violence, it’s just that the songs are so god damned good. Taste the Blade is thirty seven minutes of the most memorable, anthemic, filler–free thrash I have heard in quite some time.
I have always admired bands who commit to a theme, be it Bolt Thrower’s obsession with war, Immortal’s tales of Blashyrkh or Impaled’s deranged medical professional personas. I find that when a band’s lyrical subject matter, album art, stage personas, etc. all project a unified theme it really helps the listener immerse him/herself in the music. While Blade of the Ripper are not quite as single minded as the bands listed above, they do come close. With cover art featuring a bloody knife, song titles like “Here Comes the Knife,” “Blade = Death” and “Blade on a Cold Dark Night” and effective use of horror movie samples, Taste the Blade is damn near the audio equivalent of a slasher flick. True, there are a handful of songs about Satan, that do not really fit the theme, but they do project a similarly malevolent aura and I am a sucker for Satan, so I will cut them some slack.
Blade of the Ripper’s style of thrash is firmly rooted in the eighties, leaning closer to the genre’s NWOBHM roots than the more brutal proto-death metal of the late eighties. Vocalist Adam Neal’s mid-ranged snarl cuts through the mix like a razor, rendering his lyrics of murder and mayhem perfectly intelligible. Neal even takes a crack at actual singing on a few tracks such as, “Black Wizard Spell” and “Nightmare in a Damaged Brain” and the results are surprisingly effective. The man is no Bruce Dickinson, but he manages to work very well within the limits of his abilities, never sounding awkward or forced. Drummer Chris Hamilton’s playing is thoroughly old-school: no triggers, no blast beats, and no double bass. In place of these modern drumming crutches, Hamilton relies on a firm command of dynamics and groove and the songs are better for it. Guitarists Christian Tonegawa and Mike Oerther’s riffs have a simple, meat and potatoes appeal, but are nicely spiced with some classic metal harmonies and flashy, yet musical solos. I can not really hear the bass, as usual, so I will assume that bassist Rodney Roads is staying in the pocket, where he belongs.
Normally, in thrash, and in any metal really worth a damn, it is the riffs that carry most of the musical load. Make no mistake, Blade of the Ripper are not at all deficient when it comes to good riffs, however, what really makes the band’s songs stand out are the choruses. Neal’s powerful delivery and plenty of gang backing vocals combine to make every track on Taste the Blade a head-banging, fist-pumping, computer desk smashing, shout along anthem (True, most of the songs are about cutting up young women, but I am apparently enough of a misogynist, that that fact does not bother me.). Honestly, there are more hooks on Taste the Blade than there are on a Britney Spears album. In fact it was this album that finally got that fucking “Womanizer” song out of my head. Thank Satan for that.
Blade of the Ripper are obviously not reinventing the wheel, but the band’s ability to get in, kick ass and get out in under four minutes, while still leaving a lasting impression is very impressive. I highly recommend Taste the Blade for all fans of quality metal.