Review Summary: Flotsam and Jetsam recover from a thirteen-year slump with a surprisingly heavy and modern sounding album.
Most people recognize Flotsam and Jetsam for one reason – Jason Newsted. Despite the fact that he hasn’t been with them since 1986, it seems to be the only thing that people can remember. It’s a shame because Flotsam and Jetsam have done plenty since his departure. They’ve released a string of great metal/thrash releases, most notably No Place For Disgrace
, and they broke into the mainstream with Cuatro
. Upon the release of Cuatro
it seemed like the band were finally going to receive the recognition that they deserved, but it didn’t happen. Like most metal bands, alt rock forced them back underground and eventually back to their original label, Metal Blade Records. Those late nineties Metal Blade albums spark many fan debates, but the general consensus seems to be that they were a result of the band’s disillusionment with the music business. With the band releasing no-frills thrash that felt very uninspired, it seemed like only a matter of time before they quit. Instead, Flotsam and Jetsam is back with their tenth album, The Cold
, and it is easily their best release since Cuatro
is the sound of a band that is totally reinvigorated and ready to push the boundaries of their sound again. Songs such as “Hypocrite” with its keyboard intro and huge opening solo show that the band are through rehashing the same tired thrash clichés and ready to do something exciting again. That excitement begins with some of the heaviest, most aggressive riffs that the band has ever played. The Cold
is full of huge whirlwind riffs that share time with crunchy grooves and a thrashy undercurrent that holds the whole thing together. Layered within a lot of these songs are also some of the most melodic passages of the band’s career and they contrast nicely with the heavier sections. Songs such as the title track benefit from the mellower verses by causing the huge crushing chorus to sound even heavier than it would have if the whole song had been aggressive. The band also makes use of the additional melody to compliment the heavier riffs and it gives them a progressive angle that they’ve never really had before.
The varying styles wouldn’t work nearly as well if the vocals weren’t up to the task, but thankfully the band still have original vocalist, Eric Knutson, belting out the lyrics like he hasn’t done in years. A comparison to Warrel Dane of Nevermore
would be a good place to start for those unfamiliar with this band, but know that Eric Knutson is the stronger vocalist. His melodic vocals are as powerful as the gruff shout that he also makes use of, and he pushes songs like “Better off Dead” to levels that they couldn’t achieve without him. The fact of the matter is that there isn’t a single aspect of this album that feels uninspired. The band shred through songs like “Falling Short” with a reckless abandon and pinpoint focus that they have been missing for quite a few years. This renewed vigor has definitely lead to the band’s best album in almost twenty years, but for the older fans they may even insist that it’s their best since No Place For Disgrace
That statement shouldn’t be taken to mean that Flotsam and Jetsam have “returned to their roots,” because they haven’t. The Cold
is a very modern take on no-frills metal that can’t help but carry forward some of the band’s early thrash sound. There are obviously other albums in Flotsam and Jetsam’s discography that do certain things better – No Place for Disgrace
is easily more thrashy and unrelenting and Cuatro
is more polished and refined – but none of their albums are as consistent as The Cold
. With The Cold
Flotsam and Jetsam sound rejuvenated and ready to prove that they still have what it takes with some of the heaviest riffs and strongest songs of their career.