South America? Space? Spine-shifting metal?
Prior to thrash legend Simon Pheonix’s awesome comprehensive primer on Chilean maniacs Ripper back in June last year, I was unaware of their existence. And prior to their new album Experiment of Existence, the top shelf of the thrash category of my metal library was gathering a little dust. This album blew the dust off, 3 coats of lacquer and several of my epidermal scale layers. It’s that fucking great.
Last year a few of us depraved bullet-belt clad relics of a seemingly forgotten era were pleased with a couple of thrash albums; for me in particular they were Besieged and Profanator. But while Besieged offered a sound more akin to the death-tinged Arise-era Sepultura, and Profanator had some serious mid-80’s Slayer vibes, they really made me keen for some pure chaotic South American thrash. This is where Ripper deliver in spades. Experiment of Existence sounds like it belongs in the gap between albums like Schizophrenia and Beneath The Remains. Now I don’t want to make direct comparisons to Sepultura but… what am I talking about?!? Of course I fucking do, I love those two albums and revere them as two of my formative metal albums.
As soon as you click play on the incredible album opener “Magnetic Solar Storms” your ears will be swarmed by a million tiny fists, their spike-clad wrists perforating your eardrums as they charge through your tympanic membrane, trampling your unsuspecting cilia on their way into your brain, where they will assume residency. TovH’s very own Moustachioed Bear described it to me as “one of the best thrash songs he’s heard in years,” and guess what? I don’t argue with bears. The production throughout the album has that killer 80’s feel but without the poor sound quality. You can turn this one right on up to 11, which is what I’m sure you’ve already done anyway.
Everything about this album is ferocious; from the menacing vocals, the top-quality riffage, to the overall tempo in which the snare is almost never sitting at half-time, it just rips (sorry, I had to). The solos are well executed and had me getting callouses from the shredding being performed on the steering-wheel of the work truck. There were even some differing lead-tones used in parts which was a nice touch. While the leads might not have been as instantly recognisable as Andreas Kisser’s, they still encompass a broad variety of techniques and are an integral facet of each track.
With that said, the enormous bass sound more than makes up for any minor qualms you might have about the solos. The bass on this album is on another level, both in terms of presence and prowess. Pablo undeniably adds more to these songs than most bass players add to entire albums. There are a plethora of moments where he not only strays from the root note pitfall but rather carves out vast expanses of space, filling them with brilliant runs and creative wizardry. Offering more than just a nod to Paulo Jr.’s tapping solo at the end of the classic “Stronger Than Hate” (check the end of “Stellar Evolution”), he even takes a shot at a classical-interlude akin to ‘”The Abyss” with his bass solo “Chromatic Fantasy.” At the time of writing this, I do not have the lyrics available to me, but from what I can assume from the great cover art and the song titles, it has a sci-fi theme and to think Vektor (interview) and Voivod are releasing albums this year too, 2016 is shaping up to be the year of space-thrash. No complaints here.
If I try to be critical (my natural state) I can only really find a couple of minor gripes with this album. One is the album pacing. I feel that after coming out of the gate so strong with the first handful of tracks, things die down a little towards the middle. Not so much in terms of speed but in terms of memorable songs. This could just be a function of the freshness of the album. I suppose it is inevitable that some tracks will stand-out more than others at first, and I don’t doubt for one second that each track on this album will be given plenty of time to appeal over the years. This is one of those albums I would like to see the kids of today begging to be played in full at a live concert on its 20 year anniversary in 2036. My other problem with this album is that because I’ve been using it as a morning adrenaline rush while driving, I’ve been getting to work earlier than normal and I fucking hate my job.
At a time when many thrash bands are blending other elements to form a fusion of styles, most commonly blackened thrash or the slightly comical cross-over crowd, it is refreshing to hear some bands are content with putting out pure quality thrash. Unspeakable Axe (interview) clearly see there is a genuine desire for this type of metal and have wisely picked them up for this release. I sincerely doubt fans of the genre will rate this less than a 4/5, and I’m sure many will think it deserves a 5/5. I’m going to sit in the center and give Ripper’s Experiment of Existence –
4.5/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell