© 2016 Author(s). We present results from time-resolved X-ray imaging and inelastic scattering on collective excitations. These data are then employed to infer the mass density evolution within laser-driven shock waves. In our experiments, thin carbon foils are first strongly compressed and then driven into a dense state by counter-propagating shock waves. The different measurements agree that the graphite sample is about twofold compressed when the shock waves collide, and a sharp increase in forward scattering indicates disassembly of the sample 1 ns thereafter. We can benchmark hydrodynamics simulations of colliding shock waves by the X-ray scattering methods employed.