Andrew Lee rooted down in the death metal scene last year with his band Disincarnation‘s only demo. The band promptly broke up after the release, propelling Lee to operate as a solo artist named Ripped to Shreds. Armed with the only Disincarnation song he wrote by himself and seven new tracks, Lee has disinterred a compelling and successfully diverse death metal album that nauseatingly reeks of rot.
Between the opening notes of “Craven Blood” and the artwork for 埋葬, it’s clear Lee is going for a sound and aesthetic both torn from an ancient grave. Lee exhumes OSDM influences like Bolt Thrower, Entombed, Dismember, Asphyx, and Grave, and creates his own Frankenstein’s monster of death metal, but one made in his own image. The classic Swedish buzzsaw guitar tone is all over 埋葬 as Lee single-handedly navigates cold and musty passages of crushing death metal, racing grind, and crusty doom below the dilapidated tomb on the album’s cover.
Hit play on any song and you’ll be greeted by something entirely different. “撿骨” comes rushing out of the gate like an even more pissed off than usual Bloodbath track, while “罌粟花” somberly walks through the veil with slow and brooding Khemmis-like lead guitar work. I’d also like to take this opportunity to mention the vocals on the ending section of “Open Grave.” Next time anyone or any press release compares vocals to shrieks or any type of painful outcry, remind them that they ain’t got shit on “Open Grave.”
It feels impossible to talk about 埋葬 without diving into the name and meaning behind the record. Lee explains to Decibel the name of the album, pronounced mai-zang and meaning burial, saying “it’s a reference to Entombed, whose influence is obviously all over this album, and on the other hand, it refers to how Asian-Americans are ‘buried’ and invisible in the nation’s discourse, which I felt was relevant as the album is a pure reflection of myself.”
He adds that he wanted to explore Chinese history as a topic for death metal because he feels it’s “uncharted territory.” His choices are still extremely metal. For instance, “Yellow River Incident, 1938” covers the largest act of environmental warfare in history when the central China Nationalist Government flooded the river to stop Japanese forces during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The incident left about 500,000 dead, many Chinese civilians, and blighted the land for years to come. Lee’s music might sound morbid, but dig into the song topics and you’ll find they’re just as heavy lyrically.
埋葬 is gripping. It’s a masterclass in drawing upon old-school influences but saying something artistically that couldn’t have been said before all its predecessors had spoken. 埋葬 is one of those albums that every single track I was convinced the dropoff would be shortly after, because come on – nobody can keep it this interesting this long. But it never came. The composition on 埋葬 is unreal. There isn’t a riff or solo that goes by that doesn’t seem to have some sort of pre-determined endpoint. It’s as if Lee sat down and purposefully wrote every single line to flow together as one piece, as opposed to mashing together sections or looping riffs as a vehicle for vocals and solos.
Speaking of solos, holy hell. The solos. It’s clear Lee can play well with the intensity and speed of the riffs strewn about 埋葬, but then you get to songs like “God Worshipping Society” and your skull is knocked clean off your shoulders. Basically, every time you think you have 埋葬 all figured out, just know that you don’t. At all.
埋葬 sounds disgusting but it’s still well-produced. It’s tough to call this intentionally lo-fi because really, you can distinguish all the instruments from one another and it sounds good. Gross, but good. Lee clearly put thought into lead and rhythm guitar tones, as well as getting a good rhythm section going. So great music, solid old-school sound with tons of modern flair, and brutal topics that aren’t just the musings of some third-rate sci-fi writer. As far as death metal goes, this is the one to top this year.