Tuesday 6 July 2021

Flotsam and Jetsam - Blood in the Water (2021)

Country: USA
Style: Thrash Metal
Rating: 9/10
Release Date: 4 Jun 2021
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I enjoyed Flotsam and Jetsam's 2019 album, The End of Chaos, which was a serious return to form for a band I enjoyed immensely back in the late eighties. This continues that form but changes the sound a little in ways that fit well with that album. It's fast and it's heavy but it's a little more progressive, an odd observation given that not a song here exceeds five minutes. I suggested in my review of The End of Chaos that every track on it was condensed down to its essence and that goes double here. This is a set of cleverly crafted songs that get down to business immediately and do everything they need to do before handing the baton on to the next one. What's amazing is how effortless they make that seem.

It would be difficult to mistake this band for anyone else, because of Eric A.K.'s memorable vocal style and Michael Gilbert's recognisable riffage. They're both on top form here, as is Ken Mary on drums, a massively experienced drummer who joined them soon before that 2019 album. I love the drum sound here, not just because it's hard hitting but because the toms are more prominent than the bass drum in a way that emphasises just how hard he's hitting them.

However, their influences are a little more obvious here than last time around. There's always been a lot of Iron Maiden in the Flot sound but there's more than usual here; it's especially obvious on songs like The Walls. There's a lot of Queensrÿche here too, their modern prog metal approach mixed into a thrash bedrock. Cry of the Dead sounds like Crimson Glory in its slower sections but, when it ramps up and Eric A.K. escalates his vocals, they're back in heavy Queensrÿche territory. There's some Dio in the slower sections of songs like Brace for Impact too, the way that his best always sounded crammed with power even in softer moments.

Another observation I made about The End of Chaos that's worth repeating is that this album feels as if it's being played by a young band, full of vim and vigour and oodles of energy. There's almost a punk urgency to the closer, Seven Seconds 'til the End of the World, even if it manages to slide in a moment of strings. However, Eric A.K. and Michael Gilbert were playing with Flot as far back as 1984 and, while Ken Mary wasn't, he's been in the business that long, as he was playing for Fifth Angel back then and Alice Cooper soon afterwards. This isn't a young band but they're doing a damn fine impression of one thirty-five years on from their debut.

I should mention Steve Conley on the other guitar, as he was on the last two albums, and new fish Bill Bodily, who joined on bass in 2020, replacing Michael Spencer when he left for the second time. I have to say that I heard the drums a lot more than I heard the bass here, but the back end is notably heavy and tight. Grey Dragon, in particular, leaps out of the gate like it has to be somewhere yesterday and, even if Eric A.K. stamps his authority on it with an unusual chorus, it's the rhythm section that owns it.

I like this a lot, maybe more than I expected to and The End of Chaos is on my highly recommended list for 2019. There's no doubt that this is just as good, but I think that it's even better, with its riffs just as meaty and the hooks even more memorable. It isn't really treading any new ground, but it's going to be hard to imagine this particular recipe brewed up any better. If you like your metal fast, heavy and tight with clean vocals that are as powerful as they are hook-laden, then this may be the best album you've heard in a few decades.

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