“I’m telling you, man—you’re dealing with five maniacs from a different dimension,” warns Erik Rutan as we launch into the interviews required to inaugurate Ripping Corpse’s debut and lone full-length, Dreaming With the Dead, into our hallowed Hall. You’re likely most familiar with Rutan via Hate Eternal, his time in Morbid Angel and production credits for half of the records in your collection. But back as the ’80s morphed into the ’90s in Red Bank, New Jersey, Rutan had just been drafted by four likewise self-professed lunatics who were already hell-ben
t on turning thrash and nascent death metal upside down. Ripping Corpse were powered like an out-of-control freight train thanks to guitarist Shaune Kelley, bassist Dave Bizzigotti and drummer Brandon Thomas’ attempts to fill every inch of space with rhythmic landmines. Scott Ruth’s poignant lyrics swung panoramically between savage descriptions of life around him and ferocious/fantastical depictions of fictionalized horror, all catapulted forward by his throat-searing delivery and background screams rooted in Japanese hardcore. The quintet was a seething mass of dizzying technique, forward-thinking irreverence and asylum-roof attitude that intended to upend extreme music before extreme music was ready.
The reactions were as strong, swift and varied as their sound; Ripping Corpse amassed a strong following in Dirty Jersey and New York, but couldn’t catch the attention of labels. And here is where the harsh reality of the music business and the clash between art and commerce worked its suspect and deleterious magic. After signing a promising, artist-friendly deal with Kraze/Maze Records—also home, at one time or another, to Biohazard, Piledriver and Exciter (as well as, curiously enough, Saga and Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush)—Dreaming With the Dead was unleashed onto a metal scene unprepared for its tornado of musical and personal insanity. But the band was prepared to keep pressing forward and force its music down the public gullet. Six months after the release of Dreaming, however, Kraze/Maze declared bankruptcy and Ripping Corpse were left high and dry, facing an uncertainty from which they never recovered. Additionally, the band would lack control over their own posthumous legacy—Kraze/Maze not only owns the rights to Dreaming, but has succeeded in blocking every attempt at reissue and recompense while continuing to profit with random pressings of the album.
Business hardships aside, Dreaming With the Dead etched a thrash/death metal high-water mark of innovation. The album not only begat mayhemic axe-slinging duels and enough tempo-shifting to blur 20/20 vision, but acted as the jumping-off point for everything from Dim Mak, Burnt by the Sun and Speed Kill Hate to bassist Bizzigotti’s present work with Living Colour’s Corey Glover and Rutan’s ongoing body of work on both sides of the studio glass. Understandably, there were many painful memories to overcome, but we’re happy the members of Ripping Corpse were able to confront and (overcome) the past in order to celebrate one of the most unsung works in ’90s metal.
Need more Ripping Corpse? To read the entire seven-page story, featuring interviews with all members on Dreaming With the Dead, purchase the print issue from our store, or digitally via our app for iPhone/iPad or Android.