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Flotsam and Jetsam - Blood in the Water Award winner

Flotsam and Jetsam
Blood in the Water
by Kevin Lewis at 22 May 2021, 11:33 AM

FLOTSAM AND JETSAM are one of the preeminent Thrash Metal bands from the 80s. Formed in 1981 in Phoenix, AZ, they settled on this name in 1984. Four decades later, they are still one of the most prolific recording bands, tour constantly between records and continue to make some of the best thrash coming out today. "Blood In The Water" is their fourteenth studio album and will issue on AFM Records on June 4, 2021.

While FLOTSAM AND JETSAM are predominantly a Thrash band, they do throw in some Melodic and Power Metal elements at times with great effectiveness and efficiency. The title track kicks off the record with a nice intro that leads to a blazing fast riff. Steve Conley and Michael Gilbert are one of the premier tag teams in music. Ken Mary and Bill Bodily (drums and bass respectively) are one of the most solid rhythm sections in the business. And Eric "A.K." Knutson? He is an oft copied, but never equaled powerhouse of a vocalist.

Blood In The Water” is a fast-paced ripper of a song with something for all Thrash fans. Blast beats, pounding bass and guitars that fly in sync, only to veer off and do their own thing, then come back together and soar in unison. The fills and variable drum rhythms really give this song a lot of depth.

Next, we have “Burn The Sky,” the first single from the record. With the signature twin guitar work we’ve come to expect from a FLOTS song, it delivers exactly what fans want. A chantable chorus that follows an eloquent pre-chorus. Verses filled with angst and imagery. The tempo shifts for the various sections of the song are on point. This is band that can shift gears with the precision and expertise of a Formula One racecar driver.

Brace For Impact” is another of those galloping rhythms that are just a wonder to behold. The bass drum work of Ken Mary on this song is an example of one of the best in the business doing what he does best. “A Place To Die” is the song Bill Bodily shines through on bass. This rhythm section crushes it on every song, but sometimes they shine just a little brighter. And to the bands credit, they fully realize how important the bottom end is and they write to their strengths.
Next, we have the more melodic “Walls,” a song that gives us a chugging rhythm and some of the nicest gritty vocals on the album. The song is not as thrashy as the rest, but equally excellent. FLOTSAM AND JETSAM do melodic really well. Just go back and listen to some of their previous works like “Suffer The Masses,” “The Cold,” and “Ugly Noise”. Those are all tremendous songs that show the melodic side of thrash. Few can equal FLOTS in this realm.

Starting with a moody intro, “Cry For The Dead” is a beauty of a song with a ton of emotion and a desire to move beyond the past, though that is not always easy. Sometimes you need to stop and read the headstones. With phrases like “I can’t live without the ones I love” and “I can’t live without the ones I need”, it is obvious this is an homage to those who came before. Powerfully stated and presented, this is an early favorite from the record.

Wicked Hour” and “Too Many Lives” are both rapid-fire thrashers. With Eric hitting some of his signature higher end tones, these are sure to be fan favorites. The guitar work, the awesome rhythms, the vocal prowess, all combined into pure FLOTSAM AND JETSAM goodness. Focusing some on the variety of human conditions, the songs are relatable.

Going back to pure thrash, “Dragon," rips from the start and never lets up. One of the fun things on this song is the lower growls, definitely getting into the fry vocal arena. Eric often uses a lot of grit, but does not regularly go all the way down to Black or Death Metal growls. This adds an uncommon element to a FLOTS song and does it well. Whether it is Eric or one of the backing vocalists matter not, it fits the song perfectly.

Re-aggression” is probably the song that most screams standard FLOTS song on the record. There are a lot of songs that have this sound. The beautiful thing is, each is just as original as the next. This is the song that ties the bands early works to their current catalog. It is signature sound and style, feel and theme. This is the FLOTS we all love and admire. The cadence of the vocals is fantastic. This is FLOTSAM AND JETSAM through and through.

Now, we come “Undone”. The guitar work is interesting in this song. Lots of killer fills and racing rhythms. Ken and Bill both just smash this song. This is one of the most complex songs with the layered vocals and high-speed instrumentation with numerous shifts in pattern and rhythm. This is one of the songs that amazes the listener with the technical prowess of each of the musicians.

Wrapping this magnum opus up is "Seven Seconds ‘Til The End Of The World”. Destruction is imminent and the end is near. Again, the musicianship is just amazing. The drums are just exquisite. The bass is so solid. Frenetic guitar work from both Steve and Michael really propels the song along. Oh, and there is a keyboard interlude just for good measure. This is a fantastic final song for this record. It makes you glad you have the whole thing on repeat, because you just want more and more.

Once again, FLOTSAM AND JETSAM has proven they are one of the best at what they do. Top to bottom, this is a great record and ranks up there as one of the best Thrash Metal albums of all time. This is a band who never got first tier Thrash recognition, but in reality, not only holds their own against, the Big Four, but often bests them. This is not to take away from what the Big Four have accomplished, but to highlight there should not be a limit of four in the elite category. I would be hard pressed to limit it to ten just from the 80s in America. FLOTS ranks in there.

These guys have been consistent and are still putting out some of the best thrash in the industry today. This is a catalog I own and "Blood In The Water" is taking its’ place in the pack. Being 14 albums in and still rising is an amazing feat, but one that is apparently no problem for FLOTSAM AND JETSAM. Once again, a great record from a great band.

Songwriting:  10
Musicianship:  10
Memorability:  10
Production:  10

5 Star Rating

1. Blood in The Water
2. Burn the Sky
3. Brace for Impact
4. A Place to Die
5. The Walls
6. Cry For The Dead
7. The Wicked Hour
8. Too Many Live
9. Grey Dragon
10. Reaggression
11. Undone
12. Seven Seconds 'til The End Of The World
Eric "A.K." Knutson – Vocals
Bill Bodily – Bass
Ken Mary – Drums
Michael Gilbert – Guitar
Steve Conley – Guitar
Record Label: AFM Records


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Edited 09 June 2023

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