FlotsamÂ and Jetsam // The Cold
Rating: 3.5/5.0 — Vaguely comebacky
Label: Nuclear Blast | Driven Music Group
Websites: flotsam-and-jetsam.com | myspace.com/fandj
Release Dates: EU: 2011.02.18 | US: 09.14.2010
OK, I’m gonna be brutally honest here. Flotsam and Jetsam hasn’t been good for a long long time. Although they get huge points for durability, perseverance and stick- to- it- ness, their last truly good record was Cuatro which came out way back in 1992. Few bands demonstrate the Angry Metal Guy’s Law of Diminishing Recordings in such a stark fashion. Their debut, graced with the presence of the soon to be long gone Jason Newsted, was great and considered a classic in some circles. The follow up was angry, thrashy and showed a young, hungry band with scads of potential and a limitless future. Sadly, after that the Flots hit the fan and album three was a directionless, amorphous (not in the good way) blob. Although Cuatro righted the ship, it was also their qualitative high water mark. Since then these Arizona based gluttons for punishment have soldiered on, releasing five albums worth of sub-par metal to ever dwindling patronage. With that tale of metallic tragedy behind us, welcome to album number ten, The Cold. Long ago I learned to approach new Flotsam records with low and/or no expectations so as not to be pummeled by disappointment most cruel. Usually, there were a few respectable tracks per album with the rest being throw aways. Naturally I approached The Cold armed with my standard Flots protocol and to my surprise, the thing ain’t half bad (or 2/3rds bad as they’ve generally been). Do we call it a comeback for the Flotsmeisters? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet huh?
Right away “Hypocrite” shows a noticeably tougher, more aggressive approach that veers away from the stripped down metal/rock hybrid sound they developed over the past six or so releases. The Cold is actually a partial return to their thrash roots and features much more intense riffing, more aggressive pacing and a venomous, raw performance by Eric A.K. who displays a seemingly ageless and powerful set of lungs. Basically, they sound really pissed about something and boy does it help. This new found energy and quality continue with “Take” which features a memorable chorus and some above average riffs. From there, as much to my surprise as anyone’s, the hits keep on coming and the quality rises with tracks like “The Cold,” “Black Cloud,” “Blackened Eyes Staring” and “Better off Dead.” This is by far some of the best stuff these guys have churned out in nearly twenty years. All feature improved song writing, riffs and the big catchy hooks that seemed forever lost in the desert. Perhaps the return of original guitarist Michael Gilbert played a role in what appears to be a revitalization of sorts but whatever the cause, this is a markedly better product than anyone had a right to expect at this point. Although Flotsam was always a guitar-driven band, the guitar tandem of Gilbert and Jason Ward seem much more out front and powerful here and they pump out some manly riffs and well done solos. The lyrics are often witty (especially in “Black Cloud”) but also very dark, cynical and bitter. It’s almost as if the band poured all their life frustrations out into one recording session. Not happy stuff but it works.
Although this is a solid release, not every song is a gleaming gem. “KYA” (Kick Your Ass) is one of their worst songs ever and makes me reach for the skip button fast enough to dislocate my shoulder. It’s the type of song that belongs on an album by a Grade Z metalcore act and it’s old before it even starts. As bad as this track is, considering the success ratio here, nine out of ten tracks are good and that’s way better than they’ve been averaging.
So, call it a comeback or what? Well, it’s clearly not the Flotsam and Jetsame band this time out and this is their best release in many years. However, their work product over the past two decades has been far too suspect for me to start predicting great things to come. It’s nice to see them crafting quality metal again, now let’s see them build on it. I bet Flotzilla is proud though.