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FLOTSAM AND JETSAM Blood In the Water

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Monday, June 7, 2021 @ 6:46 AM


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FLOTSAM AND JETSAM
Blood In the Water

AFM Records




After a very long stretch of mediocrity that culminated with 2012’s crowd-funded, self-released and unintentionally aptly titled Ugly Noise and a 2014 re-recording of 1988’s No Place For Disgrace, FLOTSAM AND JETSAM has been experiencing an unlikely, yet quiet welcome, creative resurgence.

Do-over albums are usually a sign that a band is either out of ideas or just plain desperate. Both of which may have been true in FLOTSAM’s case, since it has been one of the hardest-luck acts in thrash going all the way back to 1986 when – six months after issuing the debut Doomsday For The Deceiver - it lost founding bassist Jason Newsted to METALLICA. More misfortune and missteps would follow.

Though it boasted four-fifths of the original Disgrace lineup – minus bassist Troy Gregory, who had replaced Newsted back in the day - the 2014 remake was predictably underwhelming, failing to capture the spark of the first go-round that was recorded when the band was a bunch of feisty young bucks. Yet it did seem to re-ignite a long lost fire in FLOTSAM, if after the fact.

When the band returned in 2016 with its self-titled 12th album and new guitarist Steve Conley and drummer Jason Bittner in tow, it offered something of a return to form, embracing an old-school thrash spirit but presenting it with a modern aesthetic – not unlike what OVERKILL, TESTAMENT and DEATH ANGEL had also managed to pull off as they reinvigorated their careers after long rough patches. The End Of Chaos in early 2019 proved that its predecessor was no fluke – even after Bittner was lured away by the aforementioned OVERKILL – and indeed showed some improvement.

Blood In The Water, album number 14, brings with it another lineup change, with two-time bassist Mike Spencer departing and Bill Bodily taking his spot, but continues FLOTSAM’s recent upward trajectory, the longest such stretch in the band’s nearly 40-year career. It’s the best of the latest batch and arguably the band’s finest, fiercest work since the original No Place For Disgrace.

Some of the titles alone let you know what you’re in for here – “Brace For Impact”, “Re-Aggression”, “Burn The Sky”, “Blood In The Water” – and more than deliver on those promises. The title track sets the tone as the barnstorming opener, and it’s pretty much uptempo the rest of the way, powered by Ken Mary’s galloping drums. “Cry For The Dead” breaks things up at the midway point with something of a power-ballad motif, though its mournful tone and soaring choruses have an early QUEENSRYCHE vibe that makes for a stirring turn.

“The Wicked Hour” gets things rolling again with its authoritative chug and it’s a sprint to the finish from there. The album closes with the technical thrash flourishes and urgent fury of “Seven Seconds ‘til The End Of The World”, harking back to the approach the band employed so successfully on Disgrace and Doomsday.

Better yet, the material here is rock solid, nicely balancing muscle and melody, making even the most fast and furious tracks accessible and even downright catchy. There are hooks galore amid the gnashing riffs, money-shot choruses on nearly every track and nimble solos and tradeoffs from Conley and Michael Gilbert, who, along with vocalist Eric A.K. Knutson, are the lone remaining original members.

Knutson turns in a terrific performance here, perhaps benefiting from the COVID-prompted break from touring that provided ample time over the past year to rest his pipes. He kills it. Indeed, the entire band sounds refreshed and re-energized on Blood In The Water, which builds on the momentum of the last two albums. Those helped return FLOTSAM to the ranks of the relevant, this one makes the band a force to be reckoned with - again.

4.5 Out Of 5.0


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