Having conquered the modern US thrash scene within the span of a single album, Vektor have built tremendous expectations for its follow-up that they have more or less met with Outer Isolation. I'm not going to come out and say that this is a better album than Black Future, because there are a few tracks in which my attention seems to disappear more readily than others. But it's damned well rounded, tightly sprung, flawlessly executed progressive death/thrash which holds the riff on high about everything else. Edge and elegance are wrought from the band's science fiction extrapolations, and once again they have successfully meshed the vision of Voivod, the stern and vicious vocal energy of the Teuton gods Destruction, and the hyperactive pulse of Florida's death/thrash pioneers Atheist and Hellwitch into a pulse pounding fusion.
It doesn't start out on its best footing, but the creative ledge is wide enough that "Cosmic Cortex" never comes close to plummeting over the side. Eerie, clean guitars are matched with sprinkles of ambient feedback as they erupt into a shifting haze of Voivod-like dissonance and pure force via classic Destruction, with some thrifty melodic tremolo bursts. This is a better thrash song than most other bands will release this year, and yet it's nowhere near a highlight of the album. I was actually surprised at just how much I loved the new renditions of their earlier tracks from the Demolition demo. "Tetrastructural Minds" sounds 100% improved, with rabid spasms of bass, alien cleans, and inspiring, melodic spikes that show the Arizonian's mastery of complex, compositional considerations. The once latent beauty of "Venus Project" is also brought to the fore here, with its amazing, plucky intro evoking the perfect inauguration to the slicing rhythms inherent to the verse, and those wild descending dual-melodies in the bridges. "Fast Paced Society" is also dragged out of the dust, though I didn't like the song quite as much as its peers.
Highlights of the newer crafted material include "Dying World" with its bass-driven, almost space surf-worthy intro, extraterrestrial melodies interspersed with angry, mid-paced thrash chugging and vocals that feel like Schmier if he'd been placed in solitary confinement for a few months. I love the way the riffs shift at the 2 minute mark, so groovy and almost industrial in their precision. "Dark Creations, Dead Creators" also achieves much in its briefer, 3:25 run, from a moody intro to a number of biting riffs as it gradually accelerates. It would also be remiss not to mention just how good the closing title track is. Granted, it's not as 'epic' or stretched out as the 10+ minute opener "Cosmic Cortex", but "Outer Isolation" really develops that feeling of being lost in some unfathomable void, first with the slow accumulation of its saturated, almost folksy electrics, and then a twisting vortex of riffing that recalls all of the progressive German thrash masters like Paradox, Deathrow and Vendetta. Fucking marvelous.
Vektor might have lost its element of surprise here, after spinning the world around with their proper debut Black Future, and I don't really think Outer Isolation progresses that album's formula in any heavily noticeable way. This is more a stride in production, since I felt that the guitars were thicker and even more punchy than before, and the vocals even more effective if they're mildly less dramatic. To an extent, this album 'plays it safe' with the prior's formula, but only as safe as manic space-thrash could ever be. That said, Vektor once again deserves the accolades it reaps due to the fact that they take this music so seriously. That they do such a knock out job in both writing and production, and that they don't treat thrash with the same abusive, derivative lack of grasp that so many of their peers do. Sure, you can trace this band's roots to a number of others, but how they merge them is indisputably unique.
Thrash and death metal have always been enormous inspirations for me personally, and I make no jest that the former is probably my favorite of metal's sub-genres. So it's a distinct honor to have a band like Vektor taking the music forward without taking the piss, and Outer Isolation, even if it's not perfect, is another formidable exhibition of intelligent craftsmanship and unbridled energy which will sate expectations and attention spans time and time again.
Verdict: Win [8.75/10] (beginnings of a mind adrift)