Unless your band was busy co-opting the rebellious teen male hip-hop demographic for the purpose of propagating noxious, formulaic nu-metal, 1990s America was a tough, tough place for heavy metal bands to thrive and survive in. With very few exceptions (Pantera, System of a Down), most of the groups that tried doing something original or unique with the genre were shut out of the charts and confined to the deepest underground -- including Orange County, CA-based Mindrot. Had they been as prolific or persistent (or as good, let's be frank) as future post-metal godfathers Neurosis, with whom they shared many sonic traits, Mindrot too may have weathered that horrible decade to earn their just deserts in the new millennium. But, alas, they cracked too soon, leaving only two intriguing but imperfect full-length albums to document their largely unheralded passage and unfulfilled promise. The roots of Mindrot date back to 1989, when vocalist Adrian Leroux and bassist/keyboardist Matt Fisher began rehearsing, inspired by the brutal merger of death metal and doom taking place across the Atlantic thanks to bands like Paradise Lost and Anathema, as well as small doses of grindcore as pioneered by Napalm Death and Carcass. But even as early as their first demo, recorded in 1990, and a 1991 split single with Apocalypse, the young Californians already seemed determined to mix all of these influences together, resulting in a veritable progressive metal mishmash by the time they unveiled the Forlorn EP and Dawning LP -- both released by Relapse Records in 1995.
On Dawning, specifically, Leroux, Fisher, and their new partners in crime, guitarists Dan Kaufman and John Flood and drummer Evan Kilbourne, expanded those doom/death foundations with goth metal, hardcore, orchestrated ambient textures, and numerous ancillary sound effects, which together were responsible for those aforementioned comparisons to Neurosis (with whom they'd already shared a few stages by then). But Mindrot enjoyed even less success outside the extreme metal underworld than their upstate colleagues, and the collapse of Relapse's European distribution deal with Nuclear Blast around this time reportedly also nixed any chance of attracting new fans in those usually more metal-friendly territories. Nonetheless, Mindrot continued to labor at their craft and completed the recording of a second album, simply entitled Soul, in early 1998, which found them coalescing those numerous subgenres into a more cohesive and personal style of their own. Unfortunately, by March of that year, the group had given up the fight, and the straw that broke the camel's back wound up being the defection of drummer Kilbourne to join O.C. ska-pop band Save Ferris, of all things -- oh, the shame! And yet, tempting as it may be to connect this final "betrayal" to Mindrot's seemingly hopeless plight in the decade that left metal for dead, it seems the band had simply run its course. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia