埋葬 By Andrew Lee
Ripped to Shreds began as a collaboration between Andrew Lee on all instruments and BW of Draghkar on vocals in early 2016 to merge Bolt Thrower and Entombed in a crushing soundtrack to tales of China’s turbulent history. Early sketches of ‘Yellow River’ were written during this period, but the project was put on hold with the formation of Disincarnation. After recording and releasing a demo with them, Andrew grew dissatisfied with the direction of the band and resolved to fulfil his vision of violence alone. In late 2017 he finished the writing and recording of the solo debut album, and in early 2018 Necrolatry Records and Craneo Negro Records brought the album to life in physical format on cassette tape and CD.
‘埋葬’, pronounced ‘mai-zang’, is 36 minutes of ripping death metal, tempered by the old school Swedish scene and a heavy dose of UK crust/grind by way of Bolt Thrower. Musically it’s a love letter to my favourite bands and musicians, but thematically it’s a statement of my identity as a Taiwanese-American and an attempt to bring visibility to Asian-Americans in extreme metal. There are so many incredible war-themed death metal bands but they’re almost always limited to the European theatre, so I decided to showcase events from China’s late 19th to early 20th century period. ‘罌粟花’ (Black Seeds) in particular is inspired by the opium trade forced on China by foreign powers; two wars were fought by the British to ensure that opium kept flowing into China as they banned the drug at home for their own citizens. I didn’t want to simply just make a list of grievances and atrocities for this song, so I tried to mimic the effects of smoking opium in the music by creating a spaced out atmosphere.
I wanted to have a coherent emotional flow for each song, so all the songs started from a lyrical concept. I would write riffs and build off each riff to advance the lyrics. I did also write a lot of standalone riffs which I would pull in and modify as needed to fit. I set out to write a variety of different songs with different moods and tempos, and for a couple of songs I swapped or removed riffs if I felt like I was repeating myself too much. Including songs that I had originally written for a Disincarnation full length, the whole writing process took from January to September. I recorded everything in my parents’ basement; I had experience from recording/mixing the Disincarnation demo as well as recording/editing drums for the Draghkar demo, so I felt confident that I could produce a good quality sound without going into a ‘real’ recording studio. Unfortunately, my confidence was misplaced. I screwed up on the snare mic pretty badly, and it ended up being replaced by a sample when Damian from Horrendous revamped/mixed/mastered the album at his studio.
For the artwork, I chose the Han imagery as a compliment to the China-centric themes and lyrics. It depicts a traditional Chinese grave, a common sight among any of the mountainside graveyards, but solitary and abandoned. It’s representative of the Asian-American experience: buried, forgotten, silenced. Skadvaldur drew the art. The specific instructions I gave him were “a traditional Chinese grave in the foreground,” for which I provided several reference images, “misty mountains stretching far in the background, and the area around the grave should be extremely dirty and in disrepair”. Every year on the first day of the fifth month of the Chinese calendar, there’s a traditional holiday called Qingming Festival where families visit the graves of their ancestors, clean it, and make offerings. So for the grave to be in this shoddy state as depicted is a great disrespect to one’s ancestors. Malaysia celebrates Qingming a bit earlier than other culturally Han countries, so the tape release from Malaysia’s Necrolatry Records coincided with Qingming on 3/27.
Musically ‘Left Hand Path’, ‘Realms of Chaos’, ‘World Downfall’, and ‘Last One On Earth’ are the biggest obvious influences on 埋葬. Yngwie Malmsteen and Paul Gilbert are two lead guitarists that have been in my blood practically from the moment I picked up the guitar. Yngwie gets a bad rap for overplaying and being a blowhard, but his playing on his first three solo albums as well as Alcatrazz’s ‘No Parole From Rock and Roll’ are unimpeachable. Marten Van Drunen and John Tardy were my touchstones for the vocal tone, and Madison from Cloud Rat provided a lot of inspiration for my vocal/lyrical mindset. While vocalists like MVD have a lot of charm and charisma, I find the vast majority of death metal vocals to be insincere posturing. I still enjoy them in a cheesy b-movie horror sense, but I wanted to have the same type of raw emotion that I get from Madison’s performance.
Interview by Alex Milazzo – Copyright 2018 © Heavy Music Artwork. All rights reserved.