FLOTSAM AND JETSAM – “THE COLD”

FLOTSAM AND JETSAM – “THE COLD”
DRIVEN MUSIC GROUP (2010)

Metal Church - The Present Wasteland

2010 belongs to Thrash Metal! Why? Well, what else can you say when you know that the end of the first decade of the new millennium saw the release of some truly inspirational albums from legends of the scene like Sacrifice, Heathen, Overkill and Forbidden? Now, by the way, is the right time to add to that impressive list one more name, that of the Phoenix-based quintet Flotsam And Jetsam. Why? Simply because the same band that can boast that one of its founding members (Jason Newsted/bass) featured in the ranks of Metallica and the same band that can be proud to host in its ranks one of the most impressive frontmen of the Thrash Metal genre (see Eric A.Knutson), that same band is back with what is probably one of the their best efforts in a long time – the ten track ‘monster’ that is “The Cold”.

The thing I always loved about Flotsam And Jetsam is their open mindedness – a noble attribute that has been accompanying them throughout their career and which, in some releases, worked more against them rather than in their favour (“High”, “Unnatural Selection”). Well, even though the band is still committed to releasing diverse albums, with “The Cold” they managed to make the overall result sound both heavy and coherent – probably a direct consequence of their decision to rely solely on guitarist Mark Simpson for the creative process. Mark ensured that all songs, regardless of tempo and approach, came across not only as pretty heavy but also as compositions whose musical outlook combines both classic and modern elements – an approach similar to that followed by bands like Nevermore! Impressive stuff? You bet!

The opening composition “Hypocrite” may initially sound like a typical modern-day Flotsam And Jetsam composition, but it is only when confronted with its beautifully crafted melodic refrain that you realise how much work has been put into this album. “Take” is the first of the many of the album’s highlights – a composition with an intelligent and quite prominent bass tune, flamboyant solos and heartfelt vocal lines. The same-titled “The Cold” is filled with haunting harmonies and nice rhythmical changes and “Black Cloud” is a simple-riffed down-tuned mid-tempo monster, whereas “Blackened Eyes Staring” is a fast belter that all old-school Thrash Metal fans will certainly warm to. “Better Off Dead” is an emotionally charged gem, filled with various harmonic acoustic guitar themes, featuring one of Eric’s most impressive vocal performances to date, rendering it the best song of the album. The second part of the album is equally exciting – “Falling Short” betrays many influences from the works of the mighty Nevermore, “Always” moves at a more straight forward mid-tempo, while “K.Y.A” operating as yet another old-school pleaser and “Secret Life” as yet another great example of the band’s unique ability to successfully combine the classic with the modern and the mellow with heavy Metal elements!

I have always warmed, to a certain extent, to every Flotsam and Jetsam release; even the most demanding and diverse of them – the same releases that were released in the mid-90s and on which the music press turned its back whole-heartedly. What happened with “The Cold”, and which hasn’t been the case with quite a few of their previous releases, was that I was utterly mesmerised by it! I have no inhibitions whatsoever singing the lyrics of each song out loud, much to the annoyance of many fellow travellers on the London Underground, but I really don’t care! With the release of their tenth studio effort, Flotsam And Jetsam have proven that they are still an important entity in the Metal scene and a force to be reckoned with – if you bother to get your hands on a copy of this great album you will find out for yourselves the reasons why! All the luck in the world to you, Flots… you certainly deserve it!

John Stefanis

Rating: ****1/2 (4.5/5.0)


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