Hard as it may be to believe, Void Ripper is in fact Animal Flag’s fifth full-length album, and a more-than-worthy followup to 2016’s LP. While the project has always been the brainchild of Matt Politoski, this is the first album featuring the current lineup of Zach Weeks, Sai Boddupalli and Alex Pickert. This time around, the group have crafted an explosive and comprehensive group of songs that Politoski described to Modern Vinyl as a three part process of “order, disorder, and re-order.”
As you might imagine, “disorder” implies a certain chaotic and loud element when applied to a band’s music. In the case of Animal Flag, that’s nothing new. Anyone that has seen this band live can attest to their absolute mastery of dynamics, and while that mastery is hard to capture on record: Void Ripper comes damn close. The production, courtesy of bassist Zach Weeks, is about as raw as it gets, with pounding drums often threatening to drown out other instrumentation.
The first track “morningstar” sets a haunting mood, before quickly falling away to the behemoth that is the title track. “Void Ripper’s” main riff could have easily been on a Black Sabbath record and people wouldn’t have known the difference. The imagery and sheer force of emotion portrayed by the song are made all the more impressive by the fact that there are only five lines worth of lyrics. “Void Ripper” and “Five” both end with recordings of Politoski’s mother reciting prayers, which create a kind of duality when paired with the near-constant lyrical theme of his recent loss of religion.
“Candace” is perhaps the best example of that loss on the record, with lyrics that come close to mocking the “Time and Place” method of justification inherent in Christian doctrine. Something that Politoski has talked about at length in interviews. Other, less explicit imagery can be found in song’s like “Stray” and lead single “Why,” the latter of which covers an entire life story, from birth to death, in a single three minute period. The former serves as a wake up call or a new beginning from the one-two punch of the title track and “Candace.”
Void Ripper is a taut 9 songs, but somehow manages to pack about as many dynamic shifts and lyrical themes as you could possibly want out of an album. There’s an ever present feeling of existential angst that seems to threaten both the musicians and the listener, but the realization that these thoughts are not unique to just one person is a comforting one.