If you somehow missed Ripped To Shreds' new record 劇變 (Jubian), you need to listen to it right now. It seriously might be one of the best death metal albums of the year! We sat down with Ripped To Shreds frontman Andrew Lee to go track-by-track through the album to explore its influences, lyrics, and overall ideas behind the songs.
"Violent Compulsion for Conquest"
"Going back through my notes, this was actually the first song I wrote for the album. The project file was named "Bolt Thrower ripoff #12315135" and the first riff that I worked on was the blast riff that comes in at 0:50. It sounded a bit different at the time with different tags and ending variations. I think I was envisioning a Realm of Chaos-style song where it would switch between a couple of simple groovy riffs and fast blasting riffs, but it clearly got away from me very quickly; to me this sounds more like Obliteration/Autopsy/Morbus Chron than Bolt Thrower.
"It's funny how fast inspiration can take you to a totally different space. A lot of the initial riffs I came up for this one were bizarre, for a lack of a better word, with strange bending and odd rhythms. There wasn't a conscious decision to make this the first album of the song while I was writing it; I won't think about track sequencing until I've got about 5 or 6 songs mostly finished, then I'll play around with the song order and see what kind of songs need to be written to make the album a cohesive and smooth listening experience.
"Probably one of my favorite songs on the album because; A) it has the absolute sickest double bass performance I got out of Brian; and B) it has Dave motherfucking Suzuki on it. I got in contact with Dave through his Churchburn bandmates on Facebook, and he was gracious enough to throw down a super sick solo. Vital Remains was one of the first "real" death metal bands I got into in high school; I had Dechristianize on repeat and the solos were easily the greatest part of the album, so it was def a dream come true type of thing to have Dave play on my record."
"Split Apart By Five Chariots"
"'Split Apart' is one of two Entombed influenced songs on this record. I wanted to have something that had a ton of d-beats and the effortless groove that Nicke Andersson kept at the forefront of Entombed, but I came up with the gore intro first. I had my buddy Brandon Corsair (Draghkar, Drawn and Quartered, Azath) do some pitchshifter shit for the intro. I'm not totally sure when I came up with the lyrics for this one, but having a song be about cocks was absolutely a priority for this record, and the 'chorus' is built around that hook.
"There's this historical figure Lao Ai, though his story is almost certainly apocryphal, who was executed for seducing the Queen Dowager (mother of Qin Shi Huang) with his huge dick and attempting a coup. So I just wanted to scream 'Split apart for his giant cock' on the chorus. The Nile-influenced riff that comes in around 2:30 was pretty funny, when I sent Ryan the tabs for his parts he texted me a video with the Guitar Pro file playing and him going 'what the FUCK.' But he nailed that riff in the end. Usually I don't write super fast and technical riffs just cause they're a pain to perform, but I'm pretty sure I'll be doing more and more of those in the future, especially after adding Mike to the lineup as he's a sick shredder."
"獨孤九劍 日月神教第三節 (In Solitude: Sun Moon Holy Cult, Pt. 3)"
"I'm a huge Dream Theater stan (but only the Mike Portnoy stuff), so I had to do a part 3 of this series. Lyrically this is about the Dugu Jiu Jian swordplay style. The storytelling is presented from the point of view of Dugu Qiubai, a character from Jin Yong's novels, who had invincible kung fu, but longed to have a worthy opponent who could actually present a challenge. One of two songs on this record written entirely in Mandarin. I think it's extremely important for me to have songs written and sung in Mandarin on every Ripped To Shreds album, but it also becomes harder and harder for me to express myself like I can in English.
"I tried the 'only songs in Mandarin' thing on the Demon Scriptures EP which worked well enough, but I think it's necessary for me to write stuff in English as well. Musically I bring back the theme from '日月神教第一節 (Sun Moon Holy Cult, Pt. 1)' with some variations for this song, but it's mostly built on strange off-kilter riffs that build up tension for the big melodic melancholic resolution at the end of the song to mirror the lyrics. This has the most Holdsworth-esque solo on the record; actually I felt a bit like I didn't record enough solos for this record once I finished the solos for Pharmacist (which are all very Holdsworth influenced), but when I count up the numbers of leads and solos on RTS3 it's not so bad, especially with a bunch of the dual counterpoint stuff like on this song and 'Split Apart' and the oodles of harmonies on Hanjian. It'll still be a priority to have more solo solos on the next Ripped To Shreds though."
"This song was written to have a banger lead into side B of the record, since I knew that 'Sun Moon Holy Cult, Pt. 3' was going to be like 10 minutes long and close out side A. Musically it's a pretty straightforward mix of Entombed and Bolt Thrower. I don't often put triplets into Ripped To Shreds, but the breakdown in the middle of the song is built off a swingy triplet drum groove.
"Of course Entombed doesn't have that many blastbeats though; I think 'Revel in Flesh' is one of the only songs that Nicke blasts on, and maybe something off the Crawl EP. Chris Reifert [of Autopsy] is another big influence when it comes to writing drum parts, and he's another guy who barely blasts. But both Nicke and Reifert have incredible groove, which is something missing from a lot of modern death metal bands! I don't mean deathcore/hardcore style mosh riffs, but simple groovy riffs with syncopation to break up the monotony of only playing thrash beats or only playing blastbeats. Also they've got a great way of throwing in fills in unexpected places."
"漢奸 (Race Traitor)"
"Hanjian is the other song written entirely in Mandarin. Lyrically it's about how minorities are seen as representative of their entire race; you see an Asian kid doing well in school and it's like 'oh yeah, all Asians are great at math!' Or especially recently in the last few years, if you say something like 'man, Asians are hella racist' Americans or Europeans will take that and run with it 'oh yeah it's cool if I say something racist about Asians, they're all super racist too!' It's like no motherfucker, y'all have so many problems with racism in your own country. So don't even start trying to point fingers at other countries or ethnicities. So if you talk about problems in your own community, especially in earshot of the outgroup, it's like you're a traitor.
"I've always wanted to do melodeath; In Flames was the first metal band I ever listened to back in 2005 and got me started on my metal journey. This song isn't folky at all though; it's mostly pulling from bands like Eucharist, Intestine Baalism, or Horrendous. I wanted to keep it death metal and not wimpy, so riffs are still standard thrashy death metal riffs, no Gothenburg pedal point. I kept this one mostly in E so there would be a big shift in atmosphere when the low B string is used at 4:15. The second solo is a nod to Nobuo Uematsu and his crystal theme; Final Fantasy has been such a huge part of my life and the music is always beautiful. He's one of my biggest inspirations, so I played add2 arpeggios in a similar style to the crystal theme but arranged them in a more 'death metal' feeling.
"This was also the last song I wrote for the album, I finished writing around mid July and spent most of July and August revising and rearranging some parts with the rest of the band, and we started recording drums in late September."
"Reek of Burning Freedom"
"America's biggest export is 'freedom,' and it usually comes in the form of flaming napalm. I felt like either this or 'Violent Compulsion' had to be the lead singles for the album, and also the ones that suited a music video best because of the simple and direct lyrics. Although this song isn't exactly short, I feel like it's the most grindcore oriented of all the songs on this album, minus the very last one. It's like a mix of Terrorizer and General Surgery. But there's also a fair amount of Finnish death metal in this one too, especially when it comes to the super slow bridge riff before it gets back into the blasting. I think the solo on this song was the easiest to write out of all the solos; usually solo writing is the biggest challenge when I work on a song, even more than writing lyrics, but this one flowed pretty easily."
"Peregrination to the Unborn Eternal Mother"
"The only song on this album in drop A, all the rest are in B standard. I wanted to do something slow, menacing, and groovy, kind of like modern Danish death metal bands. The linear triplet fills at the tail ends of the riffs in the 'verses' are a direct nod to Nicke Andersson's fill style. This song, as well as 'Sun Moon Holy Cult, Pt. 3,' features the lowest vocals I've managed to achieve.
"I've also been threatening for years to sneak in a Limp Bizkit riff into one of my songs, which I did here. This one's a lot of fun to play live! Which was something that I had in the back of my mind for all the songs as I was writing, and not something I had ever had to take into consideration before. I also got a sample pad, so we could have the church bell sample going at the ending live.
"Scripture Containing the Supreme Internal Energy Arts that Render the Practitioner Invincible Throughout the Martial Realm"
"Discordance Axis is one of my favorite bands ever, and I wanted a fake out ending kind of like ;Leaden Stride to Nowhere' into 'Drowned' on The Inalienable Dreamless. To be honest, I've had a similar concept for the endings of both Luan and Maizang, but they're executed kind of differently. With the fadeout ending of 'Peregrination' and track 7 and 8 being separate songs, I think it's much more effective here. The riffs are a bit more melodic grind in the style of Cloud Rat or Gridlink though, not much in commin with Discordance Axis. We recorded this song at the very end of our sessions, along with 'Sun Moon Holy Cult, Pt. 3,' several months after starting, and the snare tuning had drifted because I wasn't paying enough attention. I ended up pitching up the snare in the DAW by I think a half step to match the rest of the songs."