Gig review: FLOTSAM & JETSAM – The Underworld, Camden, London, 18 May 2015

Support Acts: Bliksem, Desolator

Monday evening gigs are events that I normally like the plague but, then again, it is not very often that you have a band like Flotsam and Jetsam visiting London for a show – especially one focused on their first two classic and much loved albums.

Having been promised a lengthy chat with Flotsam’s charismatic singer Eric A. Knutson, I arrived in Camden early enough to conduct what turned out to be an enjoyable and pretty informative interview, get all my albums/CDs/DVDs signed (yes, I am a massive fan) and ended up spending another ten or fifteen minutes chatting with Eric about the state of the world economy and how beautiful, he reckons, Greek women really are.

Following the culmination of a great trip down remedy lane with Eric’s assistance, I made my way to the venue in time to watch UK Speed/Thrashers Desolator performing what was, sadly, the last song of their set – a fast shredding piece that nice to hear but pretty generic in nature.

Twenty minutes later, it was time for the second opening act of the show to hit the stage – a five piece Thrash Metal combo from Belgium called Bliksem. Impressed by Peggy Meeussen’s short interpretation of Guns N’Roses’ “Welcome To The Jungle” during the band’s sound check, I decided to give the Belgians my undivided attention and the result was quite rewarding indeed.

Though plagued by a heavily distorted sound that often drowned Peggy’s attitude-driven vocals and performing in front of what must have only been a hundred or so people, the band, nevertheless, tackled the task at hand with sheer professionalism. Guitar driven, energetic and, at times, incorporating elements that one would not necessarily associate with a genre like Thrash Metal, the band’s music registered with a large section of the crowd – a crowd was pretty vocal in its appreciation towards songs like “These Tales Of Tragedy” and “The Life On Which I Feed”.

Half an hour or so prior to Flotsam and Jetsam hitting the stage, the main floor of the Underworld looked relatively empty still and, annoyed though I felt, I decided to make my way to the very front of the venue and offer my childhood heroes the support that, I for one, felt that they truly deserved.

It took the band and its roadies a good twenty minutes to complete its sound check, but once I heard the sweet tone of Michael Gilbert’s guitars coming from the monitors placed right in front of me I knew that tonight’s show was going to be pretty special indeed.

Kicking off with “No Place For Disgrace” was a great decision indeed as the said classic contains one of the best riffs ever featured in a Flotsam album and features the type of pace and melody that are guaranteed to get the crowd going from the word ‘go’. I was quite pleased to see a bunch of guys and girls in their late teens head bang intensely to the tunes of “Desecrator” and “She Took An Axe” – two compositions that enabled Eric A.K to flex his impressive vocals chords in ways that singers half his age find impossible to do.

Don’t ask me to tell you what was happening during “Suffer The Masses” because, at that stage, all I was doing was head banging constantly while singing the lyrics of the said composition at the top of my voice, much to the detriment of poor Michael Gilbert who had to perform his impressive leads positioned less than a meter in front of me.

“Giddy Up” is one of the songs from the band’s latest studio album “Ugly Noise” that really stood out so its inclusion in tonight’s set was both fitting and positively welcomed, paving perfectly the way to the all time classic “Dreams Of Death” which, for me, was the highlight of the band’s set.

Sadly it was at that very point in the show that sound problems began to make their unwelcome presence felt. First song to suffer was “Hammerhead” as, out of the blue; Michael Gilbert’s guitar totally disappeared from the mix. It was to Steve Conley’s (second guitarist) credit that he managed to keep the song going while Gilbert was moving around his amp in frustration, trying to figure out what went wrong.

Facing similar problems during “I Live You Die” and “Iron Tears”, the band managed to soldier on and treat the situation with the professionalism and, at times humour, expected by a band of Flotsam’s status. A killer rendition of “Swatting At Flies” signaled a return to normality and by the time “Me”, “Der Führer” and “Smoked Out” were performed you could actually see smiles reappearing in the faces of these battle-weary Metal veterans.

While “Hard On You” received a very positive reaction by the crowd, it was seconds after the opening notes of “Doomsday For The Deceiver” were performed that the two hundred or so punters finally went crazy and, in doing so, offered a nice note to the completion of the band’s main set.

Strict curfew rules meant that the band’s return on stage had to be short and to the point, and the task of bringing the proceedings to an end was assigned to “P.A.A.B.” – a composition whose riffs and melodies still ring inside my head as I write these very words.

Had I been the one tasked to organise the band’s London show there are a few things that I would have done differently. First, I would not have chosen to book a show on a Monday evening as this pretty much guarantees limited ticket sales.

Secondly, I would have opted for a venue not necessarily bigger but one whose equipment can support a band whose music is as refined, complex and demanding as that of Flotsam and Jetsam’s.

Actually the list goes on and on but I do not want to bore you with all that as, the fact remains that, the show that I had the privilege of attending on the evening of the 18th of May was, nevertheless, pretty special indeed. Flotsam and Jetsam are, without a shadow of the doubt, one of the most criminally underrated Metal bands out there – a band constantly willing to push the boundaries of its music, regardless the personal cost.

Next time they play in a town near you, do make the effort of attending their show, even if it’s on a Monday evening – bands as special as these deserve all they support they can get!

Flotsam and Jetsam Set List

“No Place For Disgrace”/ “Desecrator”/  “She Took An Axe”/ “Suffer The Masses”/  “Gitty Up”/ “Dreams Of Death”/ “Hammerhead”/“I Live You Die” / “Iron Tears”/“Swatting At Flies”/ “Escape From Within” /“Me”/“Der Führer”/“Smoked Out” /“Hard On You” / “Doomsday For The Deceiver” Encore : “P.A.A.B.”

Review by Yiannis (John) Stefanis

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