One of my earliest review assignments here at Angry Metal Guy was for the sophomore album from unsigned Orange County thrashers Madrost. With the benefit of hindsight I was a tad generous with the scoring, however, Into the Aquatic Sector proved a highly competent and ripping affair of sci-fi themed retro thrash, bolstered by death and prog elements. Fast forward to 2017 and Madrost is back for another round of thrashing fun, but this time the musical quotient has been flipped. The wordy The Essence of Time Matches No Flesh rings in some carefully calculated stylistic changes. Vektor similarities and old school thrash vibes still remain but are now more evenly balanced with raw and ambitious progressive death. So with the band choosing a pathway of reinvention, how successful is this makeover and can The Essence of Time cash in on Madrost’s obvious potential?
While I miss some of the more straightforward and meaty thrash songs from their previous album, there’s still plenty to like about the direction Madrost have embarked on here. Lead-off track “Eyes of Deceit” paints a good picture of Madrost’s change in tact. Pushing forward with dense, muscular rhythms, otherworldly melodies and proggy injections, these elements are complimented by the song’s aggressive backbone and the raw-throated barks and screams from vocalist/guitarist Tanner Poppitt, who dispenses with his high-pitched shrieks from the previous album. There’s a slickness and confidence emanating from these less conventional and challenging structures, without forsaking the band’s rugged riffcraft and caffeinated energy. “The Silence in Ruins” kicks into thrash mode effortlessly, featuring tasty bass, rapid fire axework and excellent pacing, coming across a bit like a slightly cruder, less sophisticated Vektor and mostly hitting the mark.
Overall, Madrost have crafted a far denser, more complex beast that requires deeper dissection to isolate the nuances and wrap your head around the knotty structures, although the bulk of the album’s lengthy seven tracks offer a semblance of headbanging immediacy and rip-roaring thrash explosions. Accomplished musicianship and generally solid song construction leads the way and the proggy elements and softer passages don’t detract from Madrost’s overriding aggression and oodles of speed on display. While I admire the band’s willingness to push the boundaries of their sound into exciting dimensions, like many modern metal albums there’s a serious lack of self-editing that bloats the album, despite its relatively concise 37-minute duration. Most songs could have benefited from some astute trimming. For instance, the relentlessly pummeling progressive thrash of “Abstractions” feels overlong at nearly six minutes and is brought down slightly by ill-advised processed vocals that sound rather silly and out-of-place. Similarly, “No Future” and closer “Dimensions” are filled with some great ideas and outstanding musicianship, but feel a tad long in the tooth.
However, when Madrost get the balance just right the results are quite impressive. “From Sand to Dust” is a reasonably efficient ripper, deftly coalescing death, prog and ’80s thrash into a technical, blasting juggernaut, featuring taut drumming, searing guitar work and playful experimentation. The aforementioned “The Silence in Ruins” is another strong example of Madrost firing on all cylinders and keeping things nice and direct while maintaining their progressive edge. Sonically, this shit screams for a dynamic, high fidelity production to lend these ambitious arrangements the breathing space required, but it’s dynamically stunted and loud, although I approve of the stripped back sound and tones of the instruments.
Quality-wise, The Essence of Time Matches No Flesh occupies a similar level to Into the Aquatic Sector and is an enjoyable and adventurous ride. And what the album lacks in the instant gratification of its predecessor it makes up for with a far more ambitious brand of progressive death-thrash that rewards detailed and extended listening sessions. Madrost’s stylistic rethink may require some ironing out and refinement, but there’s more than enough evidence here that the band is on an intriguing pathway to greater things. Also, it probably doesn’t help that Terminal Redux made such a whopping impact within a similar musical context. So while guilty of overreaching at times, Madrost remain an entertaining and underrated act worth keeping an eye on and The Essence of Time Matches No Flesh is well worth checking out for fans of quality sci-fi progressive death-thrash.