Flotsam and Jetsam

The Cold

Written by: RT on 08/03/2011 21:25:55

Flotsam and Jetsam have been around forever. Okay, so this might be a blatant exaggeration over the lifespan of the North American quintet but for almost 30 years now the band have created and re-created their brand of highly technical thrash metal almost to the point of exhaustion. Indeed their last release, 2006's "Dreams of Death" seemed to be the final resignation of a band that were tired and out of new ideas. The forgettable and often redundant music that "Dreams of Death" offered may have been pertinent in the late eighties but the lack of any perceivable relevance left the band in dire circumstances. And so we come to the veteran’s tenth studio recording "The Cold". A lack of expectation can sometimes galvanise a band, and with little hope of releasing an inferior record Flotsam & Jetsam have instead surpassed all possibility and, for the first time since the dawn of the new millennium, demonstrated their relevance and worth to the thrash metal community.

This reinvigoration of Flotsam and Jetsam may come as a surprise to those long term followers that suffered through the band’s most recent barren spell, but the vigour with which the band come out of the blocks is to be applauded. The integrity of the compositions is far removed from the shoddy conceptualisation of "Dreams of Death" and offers more in the way of complexity too. This heightened sense of direction is most prominent in the careful addition of melodic traces to many of the songs. The back-end of the album particularly benefits from these brief interludes as it successfully diminishes any possible predictability and breathes new life into tracks such as "Falling Short" and "Secret Life"; both of which flourish through the juxtaposition and contrasts offered by the carefully layered undertones.

Unfortunately, as with all new ideas, the possibility of heavy-handedness is always a conceivable fault, and while the majority of "The Cold" profits from these additions, there are hints of the band getting carried away. Take the overly-ambitious opening to "Hypocrite", by itself a typically aggressive opener marred by a strained air of progression. The eerie precision of the slow keyboard intro builds up a fantastic atmosphere before an obtuse deviation into by-the-book thrash shatters any purpose the intro served. It’s precisely this type of disillusionment that leads to the all too familiar lingering sense of trepidation that plagues the front half of "The Cold".

In spite of all this, the musicianship throughout remains steadfast and to the band’s credit the moods and ideas in "The Cold" never feel superfluous or rehashed. When it does all come together, "The Cold" is an excitingly robust and technically proficient experience that breathes new life into the thrash metal scene. "Better off Dead" takes all of the band’s strengths and moulds them into an intricate microcosm of the album, with melodious elements integrating seamlessly into the sharp guitar solos and pounding drum work. However it is Eric Knutson’s near-virtuoso vocal performance that binds the different aspects of the song into one all-encompassing whole. Although Knutson’s deft use of the flamboyant occasionally stifles the record, the standout tracks all utilise his idiosyncratic showmanship to similar effect. What this leads to is a good, sometimes great album with an unfortunate number of inconsistencies marring the record. "The Cold" isn't going to reinvent thrash metal; it is a surprisingly competent release from one of the veterans of the genre and thrusts a once-forgotten band into the new millennium.


Download: The Cold, Better off Dead, Falling Short
For the fans of: Metallica, Anthrax, Testament
Listen: Myspace

Release date 18.02.2011
Nuclear Blast

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