Flotsam and Jetsam - Dreams of death 4/5

Reviewed: 9-28-07


1. Requiescat
2. Straight to hell
3. Parapsychotic
4. Bleed
5. Look in his eyes
6. Childhood hero
7. Bathing in red
8. Nascentes morimar
9. Out of mind

Could this release be Flotsam and Jetsam's finest hour? More strong metal emerges from Arizona...

Strong words, of course, and it's simply safest to say that this is Flotsam's best CD since 'No place for disgrace', the sophomore effort that was more polished than their speedy melodic metal debut, but still had plenty of punch. Regardless, however, I agree whole heartedly with the positive things I've heard or read about this CD, and am mystified by the negative comments. This is not just a positive in terms of return to a better, more heavy metal, style, but it is also a return that is just plain magnificently executed.

The opener "Straight to hell" starts with a driving aggression that makes you think they are going purely old-school thrash, only belied by magnificent melodic chorus. "Parapsychic paranoid" is even more straightforward with speed and aggression. But while this CD bears not the slightest whit of modern corruption, industrial effects, bludgeoning down tuned guitars, or any of that nonsense, on the whole it is not a return to old-school speed metal glory, but an overall melodic metal CD where the greatest focus is on very strong songwriting. Indeed, the CD probably has more stylistically in common with Queensryche's 'Operation mindcrime' than it does with 'Doomsday for the deceiver'.

A possible complaint that I would not voice (but others might) is that the CD gets a bit mellower after the opening, slowing down a bit with ominous eastern power ballads about the dreams of murder. Also, despite the whole madness theme of the CD, the lengthy silence and quiet sound effects which interrupt the closing "Out of mind" I could do without. But this is simply one of the best written CDs I've heard in years. "Look in my eyes" is haunting many of my waking moments with its chorus cut into my brain.

I think it would be fair that those who only want to hear a driving, continuous tempo like the unrelenting 'Doomsday for the deceiver' will be a bit disappointed. However, those who are comfortable in the moderate range of tempo that characterizes "heavy metal" in general will find the magnificent compositions of the CD more than enough.

The CD is a concept album, loosely based on the song bearing the same name as this CD on 'No place for disgrace', and involves an individual haunted by dreams of murdering those around them, and the madness of what's real and what's simply a dream. It works well because of the songwriting and the lyrics, and it's at once a topic that fits well in the classic metal style, but at the same time is at least a bit different from what we've heard 100 times.

In addition to the songwriting, the other surprising strength of this CD is the venerable Eric A.K. Knutson's vocals. They simply sound stunningly good, not in the realm of piercing histrionics, but simply clear, emotional, emotional singing. It reminds us that even back in the day, when I drew a mental line between grunting, rhythmic vocalists who belted out "thrash", versus real melodic singers backed by velocity who delivered "speed metal", he was one of the true vocalists of the genre, a man who could flat out sing. Warm, regal, clear, and noble.

The music is otherwise solid, from most of the band members who have been around for some time. The production works well for me, it is a clear, somewhat bassy production with the vocals in the forefront. The guitars definitely come in last in the midst, and that may be a deal killer for some, but as much as I love my crunchy, full on guitars, there's plenty of that metal these days, and the guitar work is still great on this CD; plenty of great melodic leads, fantastic riffs, and driving speedy sections.

Want to just sit back, and completely enjoy a metal CD that captivates you with its fantastic songwriting? Look no further than this.




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