In 2018, it’s surprising the number of projects that have come out of all types. There is so much access to so many things that it’s sometimes difficult to find the real gems. But don’t worry, they’re out there! Just take a look at the Bay Area’s Ripped to Shreds, the one-man old school death metal project from Andrew Lee.
In terms of raw sound, Ripped to Shreds is about as old school as is gets: wall of sound brutal guitars and pummeling drums. Lee himself has cited bands like Bolt Thrower, Entombed, and Asphyx, and he has definitely channeled them on this record. Lee strikes an excellent balance of groove and grind with his riffs, settling nicely into a great rhythm that hits hard with consistency. For those looking for death-doom with a little extra bite, look no further. All the songs on Mai-zang achieve this sound with a mastery of the combination.
The lyrical content is just as engaging. Lee is of Chinese descent and draws on that history for his lyrics, focusing on 20th century Chinese history. “Yellow River Incident, 1938” is about the intentional flooding of the Yellow River to halt the advance of Japanese soldiers during the Sin-Japanese War. “Red Annihilation” discusses the purge of communists by the KMT which kicked off the Chinese Civil War. It’s an interesting look at something different. Most death metal bands discussing war in their lyrics usually focus on the World Wars in Europe. These are new and unique stories discussed in the genre. This even applies to the album cover. Lee has discussed that he wanted the cover to have a Chinese connection. A grave falling into disrepair is a great insult in Chinese culture, so it clearly sets the scene for the album.
Everyone reading this is more interested in the nitty gritty. Ripped to Shreds has a relatively lo-fi sound that also sounds incredibly produced for a one-man project recorded after 12 hour workdays in his parents’ basement. Not only that, this is a fairly mature sound for a solo artist on his first album. Lee culls together a disparate number of influences and creates a very satisfying amalgamation of many subgenres. The first single, “Craven Blood,” shows everything Lee could pull from: death, doom, and grind. The track kicks off with a slow rising scale riff of the doom variety. It’s completely flush in that death crunch that gives it a little extra bite combined by the punctuated tom and cymbal slams. It’s cut off by Lee’s grunt leading into a death-style grinding riff into an absolutely blinding screamer of an intro guitar solo. Lee has discussed his love of Racer X and Paul Gilbert’s guitar work, and many of his solos are brutal takes on the blindingly fast solos produced by Gilbert’s work. It’s wonderful to hear and a unique take on death metal guitar work.
Bottom line: if you need some pummeling death metal of the old school variety, Ripped to Shreds is your band. It breaks some new ground in lyrical content which is a nice thing that death metal could use. Mai-zang gives you everything you could want in a record to rage to. Fans of Gatecreeper who are waiting for that next release, Ripped to Shreds will whet your appetite.
Mai-zang drops today via Necrolatry (cassette) and Craneo Negro (CD) and is also available for purchase on digital format at the band’s Bandcamp page.