Flotsam and Jetsam - The cold 3.5/5
3. The cold
4. Black cloud
5. Blackened eyes staring
6. Better off dead
7. Falling short
10. Secret life
Without a doubt the best and most important band to emerge from my home state of Arizona, Flotsam and Jetsam has released their 10th studio CD in their 25 year history.
There’s been a lot of ups and downs over the years, starting with the penultimate blend of speed and tight, clean melody on their first 2 masterpieces, but with their later CDs eliciting more modern dread then widespread acclaim from their fans. There has still been a lot of quality stuff in the intervening years, but enough disappointments and mediocrity that 2005's ‘Dreams of death’ was surprising in its return to glory, not perfect, but much more consistent in terms of theme and avoiding any more odious “modern” metal trends, along with a couple of blazing speedsters that truly warmed the heart. I thoroughly enjoyed that CD.
Despite their most famous member having left for Metallica after their first CD, the metal cognoscenti know that the backbone of Flotsam and Jetsam these 25 years have been guitarist Edward Carlson and Eric "A.K." Knutson. Eric’s vocals were compelling when we first heard them, a majestic and imperious singer belting out over high octane thrash, and, while those vox have changed a bit, they still retain most of their presence and power. While both members are on this latest opus, Carlson has since left the band to be replaced by former guitarist from the old days, Michael Gilbert. The rest of the line-up has been remarkably stable of late, with Mark Simpson on guitars as well, Jason Ward on bass, and Craig Nielsen on drums.
Overall, I found this CD a slight notch below its more cohesive predecessor, but with better production and a sense of diversity in the songwriting that makes it somewhat more interesting. Overall, it’s still extremely effective and entertaining, and it’s hard to imagine any fan of the band not being able to thoroughly enjoy it, even if they might at the same time be mentally ticking off 3 or 4 of the band’s superior CDs.
The band opens with “Hypocrite”, which reminds me of one of those late-80s songs from a thrash band like Anthrax or Megadeth, where the metal power was still there, but the song had been tightened up and simplified. Punchy, succinct, and polished. “Take” breaks out a massively compelling and brooding melody and quickly gets stuck in your head. The title track is next, which completely brings an abrupt change at style, as crystalline clean guitar work weaves a mystical spell, but ultimately builds up to an unusual chorus where Eric’s anguished 2-note chorus resonates over an almost discordant background. “Black cloud” then again changes up the atmosphere with a crunchy anthem which has a much more tongue-in-cheek sense of despair, and what passes for musical playfulness in speed metal. “Blackened eyes staring” takes you back to a more mystical feeling, apparently meshing up with the cover artwork for the CD. “Always” has more of that slightly-less-serious feel, while, “K.Y.A.”, breaks into something that can’t be construed as anything less than an adolescent rant that’s like a school yard bully put to song. (Yes, that stands for “Kick Your Ass”, apparently they are still in junior high and not wanting to get in trouble with their parents. More something you’d see by a high school band in 1983, not 25 year metal veterans.)
So taken in its whole, there are some great moments, some strong moments, interesting moments, an occasional moment you could have done without, and when it’s all done you think, “Hmmm, this could have been better (‘Dreams of death’), but it could also have been worse, (‘Unnatural selection’ and ‘My god’), but I sure wasn’t bored listening to it, and there was enough of real Flotsam and Jetsam to still appreciate.
MORE REVIEWS... FULL REVIEWS
MORE REVIEWS BY CRAIG... CRAIG