Released: 2005, Crash Music
Flotsam and Jetsam are back! Well, no, that statement is rather false since that overwhelming sense of uncertainty about whether this is the band’s last album and how close they are to break up are still there, if not moreso, after the well publicized exchanges between vocalist Eric A.K. and bassist Jason Ward on the band’s message board. Not to mention drummer Craig Nielson’s claim that DREAMS OF DEATH is selling extremely well (even better than a couple bands on Gigantour) which was quickly followed by a news report stating the album sold 600 copies its first week and Craig changing his original statement slightly.
Throughout their career Flots has been the bumbling whipping boy, always taking a lot of flack yet never really fighting back. They started out so well, practically media darlings in the world of metal but quickly something went wrong. Not only did most of the press turn their back on them by the time WHEN THE STORM COMES DOWN was released on MCA but most of the metal world did too. The guys in Flotz still kept coming back though, throughout lineup changes, bad business decisions, label changes, just about anything a band can go through but after MY GOD was released (their last for original and long time label Metal Blade) things went south and everyone was quick to find out. Eric’s wish not to tour left the band with a bunch of live dates to try and fill but with no singer, leaving the band in a state of limbo for quite a while. This was until 2003, which saw Eric A.K. back with the band playing some sporadic live shows ending with a DVD release last year from their show in Pheonix.
2005 sees the band four years after MY GOD with a new album and a larger sense of uncertainty (due to the circumstances discussed above). In DREAMS OF DEATH the band has ditched a good portion of the overt groove and more experimental side that were seen on MY GOD. With this new release Flots have gotten both heavier and lighter at the same time, taking some of those old thrash elements and mixing them with their mid period MCA recordings; tending to give the album a feel of a CUATRO or DRIFT. Eric A.K. is still very capable vocally but if you had any hopes of him hitting that godly upper range he used to have you better ditch them now because it’s not happening. Eric seems more than happy to stick to his gritty mid-range that has gotten him through the last 13 years and if last year’s DVD is any evidence, he can’t really stray much out of that mid-range anyway. As far as production goes, the album is pretty dry and not very full or energetic (if that makes any sense to you) with Eric’s vocals taking up most of the room on the recording.
In “Requisical” the album starts off with a lot of distorted sound clips, various vocals, screaming, gun shots which eventually come to a head and lead into “Straight to Hell”. Starting off rather upbeat (especially considering the band’s more recent outputs) “Straight to Hell” comes out chugging before using an almost old school death/thrash riff tandem to segue into the song’s main verse. The main verse riff is mid-paced, chugging, and maybe even a bit over the top when sandwiched between sections that are based upon lead guitar sections layered underneath vocals. Eric’s vocals are doubled up at various moments in the song, usually used to help emphasize the vocal melodies which are rather plentiful. The thrashing sections and Eric A.K’s voice are what make this song for me the most, although it’s a bit too bad that the song isn’t just an all out thrasher. “Parasychic, Paranoid” is much like “Straight to Hell” in that it seems to oscillate between all out thrash sections and more mid-paced, slightly melodic sections. Though, this track is more thrash that anything else, some of the “hidden” lead work underneath the softer section is a very nice touch, adding some needed depth which isn’t found it’s rather repetitious structure.
“Bleed” is a more atmospheric track, likened to maybe “Trash” off of MY GOD though Flots don’t really make this one feel as emotional or as poignant. The song is filled with some rather enjoyable solos and at the 3:18 mark the heavy, rhythmic drumming and guitar riffing, added with some different vocals create a very impressive break between solos. For “Look in His Eyes” the band takes a bit more of a straight ahead metal chug, maybe reminiscent of the material on HIGH. The softer melodic chorus has extremely interesting lyrics: “I think I’m starting to go crazy over wanting to kill, I think I’ll never stop the craving to see blood start to spill, I see the outcome when your heart stops beating and I start to sweat, I love the moment when you’re dead but haven’t taken your last breath”.
In the last half of the album the band starts to get a bit more atmospheric, things get a little more sombre and certainly don’t feel as aggressive. They start to follow a lot of those softer choruses used in the opening half and let them grow into full songs. “Childhood Hero” starts off acoustically before a grooving guitar/drum section take over but it’s when the drums and guitar sync up during the pre-chorus that I have no choice but to let the song take over and just let things flow. “Bathing in Red” follows the lead set by “Childhood Hero”, going acoustic from the get go, though in this one the band doesn’t betray the songs original feel and emotion for some heavier, they merely add electrics to amplify the song’s feeling. “Out of Mind” starts of instantly heavy with Eric’s vocals sounding like they’re coming at you like a heavyweight boxer, first a right, then the left, looking for the knockout blow and just maybe getting it at this point.
I’ve heard DREAMS OF DEATH getting a lot of flack from fans and reviewers a like, but I don’t completely understand. This is a solid Flotz album and definitely fulfills my hopes for the album. It’s a strong release, just give it a listen and tell me the band isn’t firing on all cylinders... at least musically.