A lot of people think there are few substitutes for seeing a band live. To counter that argument one can point out that there is a great substitute: listening to an album roughly the length of a live performance in the comfortable environment of your choice. At home you can have drinks in real glasses instead of plastic cups. No one bumps into you or spills beer on your brand new Tevas, resulting in you having to hand-wash your beloved sandals with Listerine or diluted chlorine followed by mild soap in the shower. I mean, no death metal fan wants to deal with that. Also, if you’re a proponent or victim of frequent urination, you can easily put the band on pause a la Zack Morris in Saved by the Bell.
For those of you that do like to attend concerts, there is also good news: most bands play live shows. That’s kind of the reason they start making music. They get to put on their favorite clothes and get up on a stage and scream and twist and contort their bodies while banging their heads to the loud creations to which they give birth. They also love it when the audience gets really into it and screams along or perhaps runs in a circle or kicks at each other. At least that’s what a bunch of death metal bands enjoy (and all those hardcore bands from the 90s and 00s). Ripped to Shreds, the band that is the main focus of this here discussion, is a band that performs live. Heck, you can even watch them performing live in Taiwan whether you live there or not (but not actually “live” since it’s a video from the past), thanks to Al Gore and climate change.
San Jose, California’s Ripped to Shreds (live lineup based in Taiwan) is death metal. Pure, unadulterated metal of death firing on all cylinders with gatling guns blazing. (Not surprising, considering their name was taken directly from a Terrorizer song.) Their latest release, the Demon Scriptures EP, contains four cuts that differ vastly in length. The opener, “In Mourning” (喪家) is a four-minute attack of adult onset diabetes. The old school, Crate amplifier guitar sound will cause insulin levels in the body to spike and plumet as the pacing intensifies and the bass of the drums begins to bash into your cerebral cortex like the tale of a whale slamming into a tanker ship. An altogether balanced attack featuring Bolt Thrower riffs emerges and carries the track into its final assault, where guitar solos shred sonic fibers like sharpened katana through soft banana.
At just over three minutes “Nine Familial Exterminations” (株九族) presents a dizzying attack relying on thick chords and splashy cymbal work alternating with tom rolls. The mid-section presents a cavalry-like assault riff overlaid with guitar squeals and squelches. The drum work here is so good that it warrants a special mention. As Ripped to Shreds methodically march through different sections of this composition, the drums furiously herald the arrival of each section with an enthusiasm rarely found outside explorations for the Northwest Passage.
The other two tracks on the EP represent the most drastic of time differences. “Pseudoelixir” (江湖郎中) tears through bone and flesh in a near grind at forty-five seconds, while “Sun Moon Holy Cult Part I” (日月神教第一節) draws out its torture over more than ten agonizing (not in the bad way) minutes. The final track, that long one, employs plenty of doom to round out the sonic mix of what is their most impressive track. China cymbals crash as guitars lazily whine melodies that intertwine with the vocals making something of a metal version of a knotted snake. At times the cut rips, and other times it uses an inhaler to let everything breathe, combining the varied approaches of the first three songs into one cohesive platoon. Around roughly the seven-and-a-half-minute mark, the band drops into an almost psychedelic groove over which expertly-crafted solos are woven.
So, the main point here is that you want to set aside eighteen minutes for fun. That’s whether or not you enjoy going to shows or staying home on your couch. Remember to definitely use real glassware (perk of being home), and make sure that your loved ones are nowhere to be seen so that you can fully and properly embarrass yourself. And hey, if you’ve got the funds, head over to Taiwan and check out Ripped to Shreds live. Not sure if they provide glassware, so bring some in your checked luggage and then you can throw it in your cargo pocket for before you head out to the show.