Reviewed: July, 2021
Released: June 4, 2021, AFM Records
Reviewer: The Elitist Metalhead
I am not sure why I did not give Flotsam and Jetsam as much attention when they debuted in 1986. Their first two albums are considered thrash classics and, while they did not achieve the success of any of the “Big Four” they did achieve notoriety for being the band that gave us Jason Newsted as the Metallica bassist immediately following the death of Cliff Burton. Vocalist Eric A.K. has one of the most solid voices in thrash metal and his screams on their fist two albums are infamous. They even did a metal version of Elton John’s “Saturday’s Alright for Fighting.” So why is their fourteenth full length album, BLOOD IN THE WATER, my first in depth look at this band?
I guess there are multiple reasons why. Timing is everything and I just think their timing was not the best. They released their debut album in 1986 and had to compete against some of the biggest thrash albums ever released. MASTER OF PUPPETS, PLEASURE TO KILL, REIGN IN BLOOD, and PEACE SELLS…. were all released in ’86. Then they release their follow up in 1988, and that album got lost in the mounds of thrash that were released in that year including SOUTH OF HEAVEN and …AND JUSTICE FOR ALL, the first Metallica album that featured the Jason Newsted…well at least they told us there was a bassist on the album. In many ways this was the beginning of the change in the thrash scene. As I revisit those albums today, they just did not stand up to what was being put out at the time. Not that they were bad albums by any stretch, it’s just that the scene was getting saturated and a scourge was about to plague us for what seemed like an eternity. I actually saw Flotsam and Jetsam in 2001. Eric A.K. could not do the tour so they recruited the legend James Rivera as frontman for the tour. James took me on the bus and introduced me to the band. They actually played their asses off that night….sadly to about 10 people in the hall.
So now it’s twenty years later and they just released BLOOD IN THE WATER; and while I speculate as to why their impact was not as strong with me years ago there can be no mistaken it this time, they are back with a vengeance. Let me start it off by talking about the unholy trinity…the first three songs. “Blood in the Water,” Burn The Sky,” and “Brace for Impact” have to be the strongest opening trio on any album in a while, especially for a thrash band. Let me tell you, I did not brace for impact and they caught me off guard. Crushing riffs, godly solos, and Eric A.K.’s incredible voice. This is one of those examples of a vocalists whose voice is as strong as ever, even after all these years. But as the album went on, I began to hear more and more layers and I realized that this is more than a thrash album. “The Walls” goes into European power metal direction with Eric A.K. sounding a bit like Andy B. Franck from Brainstorm in his delivery here. Very powerful song with a really catchy chorus. The fretwork here also needs mentioned. The melodic leads over the main riff are just brilliant. “Grey Dragon” takes us in an all out speed metal direction with some furious speed and monstrous riffing. Again another really catchy chorus with some guitar shredding in the background. The solos just blast their godliness into your ears.
So in retrospect I do believe I like this version of Flotsam and Jetsam better. I have given this album many listens while reviewing their classic catalog and what I hear is a mature band that is focused on writing strong songs with many layers and not allowing themselves to be boxed into any genre. Instead what we have here is a killer metal album. There’s some thrash, there’s some traditional, there’s even some power metal…and they were able to make a cohesive album out of it. That’s how it’s done!