(Todd Manning wrote the following review of the new record by the Chilean thrash band Ripper, which is set for release on September 30th by Unspeakable Axe Records.)
For many, and myself included, Ripper’s 2016 full-length Experiment of Existence was a highlight of that year. The songwriting on that opus was a deft combination of classic Teutonic Thrash and proto-Death Metal with hints of technical musicianship added in for flavor. Now these Chilean madmen are back with their newest release, Sensory Stagnation, once again with Unspeakable Axe Records.
Personally, it took a couple spins of Experiment of Existence to realize what high-caliber musicians Ripper actually were. There will be no such delayed appreciation though for Sensory Stagnation. All the previous influences are present — vicious high-speed riffing a la early Kreator and Sodom, with dashes of Dark Angel and early Pestilence as well — but the technical aspects of the music are more prominent in these songs. Make no mistake, the feral attack remains completely intact, only the alchemy of the elements has been somewhat altered.
Sensory Stagnation kicks off with “Dissociation”, which is really an instrumental introduction clocking in at under two minutes. Yet it illustrates the key components of Ripper’s sound. The guitar introduces a melody underpinned by a heavier riff while the ever-present bass guitar weaves its way through the mix. Things properly get going with “The Unreal”, where they give a true tip of the hat to the classic mindbending sound of early Atheist. Just past the one-minute mark, the tempo ramps up with a more brutal riff and pounding drum work. Here, they are able to punish the listener while impressing them at the same time with their agile guitar work.
The title track is next up, and it keeps things fierce and fast. Imagine early Kreator being covered by Watchtower and you might be honing in on the Ripper sound. And while the promo material name-checks Atheist, it is just as appropriate to mention Sadus, who also constructed technical Death Thrash, and at least on Swallowed in Black, they stood with the best of them. And while Sadus had Steve Digorgio on bass, Ripper has its own bass virtuoso in the form of Pablo Cortés, whose awe-inspiring lines are a constant throughout this release.
“Like a Sacrilege” illustrates Ripper can also lay waste with more groove-oriented material, perhaps bringing to mind Forced Entry or even, believe it or not, Gothic Slam. The album closes with “Terror Streets”, a true return to speed and ferocity. Here, they are at their most Death Metal; the opening volley sounds like Repulsion with modern production and Atheist’s Tony Choy on bass. They never really let their collective foot off the gas pedal, as if to remind us that despite their technical advancements, they aren’t called Ripper for nothing.
If there’s one criticism that can be leveled at Sensory Stagnation, it’s the short run time. Whether this is considered a full-length is unclear, but since it clocks in at a solid twenty-minutes, it’s probably better to consider this an EP. But still, the quality of the material on display here is so good that it will be worth whatever you pay for it. There are a lot of bands who give a lot more quantity, but few that provide this much quality.