The mastermind behind the Death metal project Ripped To Shreds, Andrew Lee is back and this time, with a new line up which includes members of Trenchrot, Death Fortress, Funebrarum and Gridlink, he is set to unleash the second full length album in this project. “Luan” is another conceptual release, this one being centred around the more conflict-driven historical and classic Chinese literature. Blending folk tales with intricate compositions of brutally uncompromising old school Death Metal, “Luan” is an evolution of the initial sound offered up on the debut release “Mai-Zang”. Grindcore, Thrash, Blackened Metal… It all works its way in along with tales of vengeance and a sound which seems to have an unrelenting taste for blood.

The obligatory short instrumental/sample track “Intro” opens the release with an ominous and unsettling air, but that doesn’t last for long as the first proper track on the release; “Righteous Fist To The Teeth Of The Wicked” comes in sucker punch style and knocks you on your ass. Clocking in at just over 2 minutes in length, it is a surging shot of grindcore and death metal which doesn’t hold back. Tortured and feral growls, intense and unrelenting blastbeats and buzzsaw guitars, twisting riffs and sharp stabbing chords. It is all there and it doesn’t let up in the slightest. It is a fine way to introduce the release and from here on out, it lays down the groundwork of what to expect.

“White Bone Spirit” is based around the classic Chinese writing “Journey To The West” and one of the demons in that story, the ‘Baigujing’, a female, shape shifting demon which consumes the flesh of its victims by masquerading as those close to its prey or even people who have succumbed to it. With its slow and malevolent melodic intro, it begins to pick up pace, eventually erupting into a blackened-grind styled attack. Twisting turbulent riffs, piercing and wild shred leads and vocal ferocity give the track its uncompromising edge, drawing some comparisons to the early works of Obituary in places and this influence persists into the following track, “Eight Immortals Feast”. A track about the mythical figures who are revered in Taoism and Chinese Folklore, beings with the power to bestow upon people the ability to shape and influence the world around them, the track reflects this with a colossal death metal delivery. Fast to begin with, it loses any and all restraint and gets wild after a minute in and the straight forward approach of intense riffing and frantic delivery gets the job done sufficiently.

“Throes Of A Dying Age” could very well be a track which could be about our current situation. The massive wall of sound hits with a commanding presence and it’s gigantic, steadily moving colossal feel crushes all underfoot. Apocalyptic with how it feels, it has moments where it picks up the pace and cuts loose, but even when it does get faster and more intense, it retains that massive presence which helps it remain an uncompromising and intimidating musical colossus. “Interlude” is what its name suggests, another short transitional instrumental which serves mostly as a breather before the featured single “Opening Salvo” comes into play. Like an artillery strike, this crashes down with a LOT of force behind it. It is a great advertisement for both the band and the album and the best way to describe it would simply be unyielding. It just keeps unloading. Riff after riff is delivered with precision and a blistering pace and the lead guitar work is sublime, blending technical ability with flair and intensity and having everything simply fall into place the way it should.

“Massacre At Blackwood Cliff: Sun Moon Holy Cult pt.II” begins the final triad of tracks. Based off the serialised literature “The Smiling Proud Wanderer”, a story which details the mythological and philosophical aspects of the Martial side of China’s culture, it slows things down to a more controlled pacing, opting to simply crush all in its way as opposed to rendering it into splattered remains like the previous supercharged musical attacks. Sustained walls of chords, angry and explosive vocal roars and a few angular black metal friendly sections make up this beast of a track and it sets the stage for the eponymous penultimate track which is straight up aggressive death metal, something Ripped to Shreds can easily be called without anyone calling bullshit on it. Closing the release is “Remnants” which again opts for the controlled groove orientated death metal approach, this time adding a little thrash feel just to give a solid stomping groove which screams out for serious headbanging. More focused than some of the tracks, it closes the album and rounds it out well, showing that in an uncompromising death metal band like Ripped To Shreds, there are times when restraint is needed and can make a track just as solid as those which are free and wild.

In all, “Luan” is exactly what I hoped it would be. Having covered previous releases and noticed the trend towards a more extreme and faster feel, I can safely say that Andrew Lee seems to have found the right balance of influences and elements to sustain this project. The sheer aggression on offer from the music is exhilarating and the only gripe I have is that the album ends too soon – I want more!!

(8/10 Fraggle)