After consuming my fill of thick gourmet stew from doom heavyweights YOB and Pallbearer over the past month, it’s refreshing to get back to some no-frills meat and potatoes metal, courtesy of unsigned Californian thrashers Madrost. Firstly, the fact the band is unsigned is a little baffling, especially when considering the subpar tripe that winds up on labels these days. Not that Madrost are a particularly game changing or innovative band ready to set the metal underground ablaze, but they certainly have the chops and enough of their own identity to warrant a record deal. Into the Aquatic Sector, the bands second full-length, is a potent slab of no-frills thrash aggression stacked with killer riffs and a tight, high energy delivery that gets the adrenaline pumping. Madrost’s bloodlines trace back to the genre’s formative years, but this is by no means a half-assed derivative throwback. Madrost embellish their rough old school aesthetics with some modern sensibilities and death metal elements that jack-knife through their sturdy foundations. It’s simple, direct stuff and a real treat, especially during a particularly lean year on the thrash front.
At a shade over twenty seven minutes, Madrost condense their music into a perfectly concise and volatile cocktail, ripping in hard and getting the fuck out before overstaying their welcome. Front-loaded with livewire riffage, relentless drum battery and songwriting that’s savagely to the point whilst remaining memorable and laden with catchy riffs and vocal hooks, Into the Aquatic Sector is quite an impressive feast of thrash mayhem. Essentially, there are only six actual songs, with two of the tracks merely interludes, including the largely disposable scene setting atmospherics of opener “The Unknown.” I’m at a loss why so many metal bands choose to open their albums with pointless, time sapping intros, particularly in the thrash genre where it makes far more sense to cut to the chase and make a strong statement from the get-go. On the flipside, the watery sounds emanating from mid-album track “The Oceanic Prelude” offers a short and neatly executed moment of acoustic respite before the band launches back into full throttle mode again.
Amusingly named vocalist/guitarist Tanner Poppitt channels a style not dissimilar to that of the frontman for sci-fi prog thrashers Vektor. His main weapon is a decipherable mid-range rasp which occasionally gives away to a killer high pitched shriek. And he knows his way around a decent vocal hook as well. The instantly catchy opening riff of first ‘proper’ song “Frozen Beneath the Snow” makes an immediate impression, kicking off vocally with the aforementioned balls-in-a-vice scream. It’s a corker of a tune built around frantic drumming, cracking thrash riffs and flesh ripping hooks that sets the tone for the rest of the album. Although Madrost play thrash minus bells and whistles, they don’t stick too closely to the traditional thrash playbook. By incorporating plenty of blast beats, smartly deployed tempo shifts and smatterings of groove, the songwriting is varied enough to keep things interesting, while the songs themselves are memorable and distinguishable from each other.
Recognizing the importance of finishing on an upward curve, Madrost save a trio of beastly tunes for last. The speed-o-meter is cranked to the breaking point on the utterly vicious title track before it suddenly segues into a gentle acoustic break. It’s a surprisingly effective change of pace that gives way to one of numerous tasteful solos that emerge throughout the album. Aptly titled closer, “Depravity,” jabs and stabs with a madman’s glee while throwing some bloody fisted death metal uppercuts for good measure. Armed with a rusty serrated guitar tone and production that serves up clarity and heft without smoothing out the band’s rough edged charm, Into the Aquatic Sector doesn’t quite reach the loftiest heights of the genre, but it does satiate my thrash needs until something better comes along.
Into the Aquatic Sector is the sound of a hungry young band that has done the hard yards in the metal underground and is finally ready to land a significant blow on unsuspecting thrash fiends. Delivering a feisty compact thrasher that should appease quality starved fans of the genre, Madrost have emerged as a band to keep a close eye on. [And they deserve extra props for having the worst album art I’ve ever seen along with one of the worst album titles, maybe ever – Steel Druhm].