Madrost – Charring the Rotting Earth Review

California’s Madrost have cultivated a solid track record of high octane thrash, spiced with deathly impulses and technical flair. The band’s last couple of efforts have made for solidly entertaining platters, packed with energy, riffs and lofty ambition. Kicking round the traps for some time now, Madrost is an underrated and confident band, continuing to improve. Charring the Rotting Earth is another ambitious step forward for Madrost, following the more progressive leaning death-thrash combo present on their 2017 album, The Essence of Time Matches No Flesh. Bands like Vektor, Xoth and Euphoria Ω spring to mind as contemporary influences, along with hints of later-era Death, and it’s clear that Madrost are busting their guts to continue stretching the limits of their sound. But with the evolution and increasingly challenging nature of their formula, can Madrost nail the balance between ambition and cohesive, quality songwriting?

Right off the bat a couple of things are evident. Firstly the production and musicianship is a step-up from previous efforts. While Madrost have always exhibited technical prowess, here the technical edges are sharper, with the bass playing of Richard Orellana, who also contributes some of the vocal assault, adds welcome beef and depth to the Madrost sound, offering an additional focal point. There is a hell of a lot packed into the album’s shade under half hour duration, with the shortened run-time a bonus to avoid excess and maximize impact. For instance, there are no meandering interludes, intros or outros in sight. Even the album’s shortest number, the just over a minute long “Pulverized” does what its title suggests. Compared to its lengthier, more ambitiously composed counterparts, it’s a blasty, punk-fueled thrasher that aims straight for the jugular and rips hard.

Steeped in ominous slow building atmosphere, opening cut “The Serpents Quest” creates tension before a satisfying release. Once it kicks into high gear, the song unveils a twisting, dynamic arrangement, flowing with breakneck speed, tempo changes, and the raw, searing high pitched vocals of Tanner Poppitt (also on guitars). Poppitt’s vocals are scorching in their feral delivery, though occasionally grate just a tad, a potential barrier for some listeners. Combining with Necro Nick, the duel axework is a frenetic, somewhat chaotic showcase of slippery riffage, old school thrash, shredding solos, and technical, progressively minded flair. Not everything hits the mark, but the performances are entertaining and refreshingly unhinged. Overall the material features plenty of impressive elements, though aside from a couple of standouts, including the excellent title track, recalling specific songs and riffs becomes murkier territory, with some arrangements a little convoluted at times.

Performance-wise Madrost continue pushing their skills to the limit from album to album, honing their already impressive chops. The material is often fast, technical and occasionally proggy in nature, however, the aggression remains chained to the forefront. A notable addition is the lavish, atmospheric keyboards from Xanthochroid‘s Sam Meador. These are generally well integrated into the Madrost‘s high octane attack, adding tasteful, orchestral flair, without diluting potency. They prove particularly effective on the impressive “Dying Thoughts,” and triumphant throes of the closing title track. Meanwhile the production offers a bit more breathing space for the individual instruments to shine through, however, I would have liked the drums to pop a little more. This is a minor nitpick, with noteworthy bass work and killer guitar tone shining.

Madrost is a reliably enjoyable and adventurous unit, and Charring the Rotting Earth is no exception. Yet there’s something nagging me about the album that is difficult to pinpoint. While I have enjoyed my time with Charring the Rotting Earth, and in some ways it feels like the band’s most accomplished and best written album yet, something is holding me back from scoring it with higher honors. Enjoyable in the moment, the songs aren’t quite hooking me in the memorability stakes, with a chunk of the material filled with cool moments and engaging segments, without quite coming together as a fully convincing whole. Qualms aside, Charring the Rotting Earth is another solidly enjoyable slab of technically impressive death-thrash which is an easy album to like and recommend. Hopefully Madrost can eventually hit the higher level they continue to hint at achieving.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8  |  Format Reviewed: 256 kbps MP3
Label: No Life ’til Metal Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: September 25th, 2020

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