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I didn’t know about the existence of Ripping Corpse until the late-90’s, but their fabulous musicianship totally blew me away so I had to track down other exploits by these folks. At the time the Internet was already turning into the ultimate source for all kinds of information, but it took me a while before I managed to come up with some data about the ex-Rippers. It was a public secret that Erik Rutan joined Morbid Angel after the band’s demise, but about Dim Mak I found out two years after “Enter the Dragon” was released. Shaune Kelley and Co.’s debut under the new moniker was an interesting, quite hectic and not very predictable opus with death, thrash and hardcore having a heated “debate” Kelley playing the role of the mediator with his impressive fretwork. It was the “core” side of this amalgam that was kind of worrying as it was drawing not yet traversed paths which later became known as deathcore, arguably death metal’s least attractive “offspring”.
So Dim Mak paraded for a bit as the unofficial godfathers of the deathcore movement, but the sophomore effort “Intercepting Fist” took them strictly into a death, to a lesser extent thrash, metal territory the core additives barely heard replaced by even more technical riff-patterns the latter bringing this album in the vicinity of the indomitable “Dreaming with the Dead”, Ripping Corpse’s only full-length. However, the band were also working towards the development of their own style which took a fuller shape on the album reviewed here.
Apart from adept martial arts’ practitioners, the guys establish themselves as major players on the death metal arena. Thrash metal again plays second fiddle like the opening title-track shows so well with its brutal twisted riffage Kelley providing dazzling guitar acrobatics on a very hectic, constantly shifting base. “Seeing Crows in Silver” is even shorter and more spastic, but is packed with virtuous technicality and maddening time and tempo changes which can literally cause disorientation. “Great Worms of Hell” calms the ball down with more melodic undercurrents which “cross “swords” with choppy breaks and a few more intense passages those smelling thrash before more brutal Suffocation-esque “skirmishes” invade the aether. “Devil Finding Mirror” brutalizes the environment with spasmodic blast-beats which are replaced by more intricate death/thrashing of the stop-and-go variety both sides alternating the whole time.
“Incident at the Temple at Leng” rushes forward with speedy technical riffs in a compelling Necrophagist-lиke manner the guitar pyrotechnics reaching dizzying heights Kelley outdoing himself with some of the most impressive guitarisms in his career, changing the pace at will also adding some absolutely stunning melodic tunes. “Notorious Vectors of Disease” carries on with the overtly busy technicality, an exemplary shredder sustained in a brisk overlapping fashion with a seemingly never-ending supply of ingenious hyper-active dashes. “Weakener” rages hard with some thrash sneaking in again, recalling Coroner’s “Semtex Revolution” from “Mental Vortex” on the more restrained sections, another shining example of geniuses at work; and “Windowpane” is even more puzzling with the initial “cocktail” of creepy busy riffage ala Disciples of Power which turns into the main motif with bewitching melodic leads added to the relentless cavalcade. “Perpetuating Corpses” is brutal technical death metal par excellence with precise, carefully calculated rhythms which cut the listener some slack with a slower surreal passage; and “Monolith” serves marginally more linear “carnage” the more laid-back moments carrying a bigger technical charge also clinging towards the warmer progressive side with their more dramatic flair.
What I particularly admired on the Ripping Corpse efforts was the meticulously measured guitar work which was cutting with surgical precision never wasting a single note, with not a single riff played just for the sake of it, an approach also characteristic of Coroner (think “Mental Vortex”, above all), and Psycroptic (“The Sceptre of the Ancients” in particular). Kelley follows this model here, albeit not steadfastly, as there are a few times when he gets carried away with a squeezing of multiple chords within a very small space (hello again, Necrophagist!), but overall his dexterity knows its parsimonious nature very well which can only be good news on a very volatile, ready to absorb anything at least a bit less standard, technical death metal canvas. The debut was too full of charmingly chaotic ideas to present this technique in its pure form; besides, the core part was there to ensure that the technical riff application wouldn’t dominate the landscape the whole time; the sophomore was on the right way by all means, but the band’s newly discovered vigour for the technical side of the genre made this opus sound a bit overdone with the riff density becoming overbearing at times. The right formula has been found on the album reviewed here the band having eventually found the way to walk with the finest. A formula which was applied unerringly on the next instalment “The Emergence of Reptilian Altars”, another testimony of these musicians’ abundant talents.
It’s quite interesting to observe the Dim Mak phenomenon; no one talks about them as some of the undisputable champions on the technical death metal arena of recent years. They’re seldom mentioned right next to Suffocation, Cryptopsy, Psycroptic, Defeated Sanity, Spawn of Possession, etc.; they remain in the background, like well trained, permanently on the alert guards waiting to interfere at the right moment. Not many knew about the existence of Ripping Corpse in the early-90’s, and yet they were one of the finest outfits to grace the scene at the time. Dim Mak are a tangible part of the music field at present, and their unobtrusive vigilant, barely visible ninja-like presence will always guarantee that the metal world will never be a dull or a dangerous place to reside in.