Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Review: Flotsam & Jetsam, "The Cold"

The last Flotsam & Jetsam record to make an impact on me was 1995’s Drift. While I know that some fans of the band will disagree, I consider that record one of their finest moments. I loved the more progressive slant, and as much as I like No Place for Disgrace and Cuatro, it remains my favorite record from the band. In all honesty, with the exception of High, which I found quite disappointing, I haven’t spent much time with the last few Flotsam & Jetsam records, but there was something about their latest effort, The Cold, that grabbed my attention quickly.

Musically, I’d say The Cold falls somewhere between Cuatro and Drift. The progressive leanings from the latter are there, but there’s more of a thrash feel to many of the songs. The dark mood of both albums remains on display in these songs. Though I’m a little reluctant to say a band that’s been around since the early 1980s sounds like a newer band, this record reminds me of Nevermore’s blend of thrash and progressive that kind of blurs the lines between the two, particularly on songs like “Falling Short,” which really wouldn’t be out of place on a recent Nevermore release.

There are a few songs here that will please fans of the band’s past output. “Take” is a fairly typical uptempo Flotsam & Jetsam track, as is “Always.” The latter has a nice groove on the bridge and a mocking chorus with a melody that puts me in mind of Alice Cooper.

Most of the tracks have that blend, though. Album opener “Hypocrite” starts with a brooding piano piece and an almost spoken vocal from Eric A.K. before blowing up into a Cuatro-style thrasher. “Blackened Eyes Staring” is one of my favorite tracks on the record, opening as a furious thrasher and moving into a progressive feel on the chorus reminiscent of Nevermore or Queensryche. The ripping “Falling Short” also draws a natural comparison to Nevermore. The wounded ballad “Better Off Dead” is another favorite. The song really reminds me of something off of Drift, and I love the line, “I can’t only not see light, I can’t find the tunnel,” despite its grammatical challenges.

The lyrics elsewhere bring some of the songs down, though. “Black Cloud” features some pretty bonehead lyrics, and the near-rapped verses may be a love it or hate it proposition, but the thrashing chorus more or less saves the song. “KYA” is a testosterone-loaded thrasher, but the juvenile macho bullshit lyrics ruin it. Eye-rolling turns of phrase like “I will kick your ass you crying pussy, I will kick your ass you silly girl” and “dress up like the girl you are and hide in the ladies stall” come off sounding more like the Internet tough guy on a message board that’s afraid of his own shadow in real life than a true badass. It’s a shame, too, because musically, the song is really solid.

Other tracks fall somewhere in between. The title track is one of the more interesting pieces, alternating between a soft spooky bit, a thumping hard rocker, a dark and moody progressive piece and a chorus that evokes the 1990s alternative hard rock scene. Album closer “Secret Life” I like, despite it being one of the lighter tracks on the record. There’s an interesting vocal melody going on in the song that sticks with me.

I’ve always enjoyed Eric A.K.’s vocals, and I think he’s one of the more underrated vocalists to come out of the 1980s scene, his attempts to sing country notwithstanding. His vocals are forceful and distinctive, and he doesn’t seem to have lost anything over the years. Guitarists Mark Simpson and Mike Gilbert provide some great riffage, and the rhythm section of drummer Craig Nielsen and Jason Ward are locked in tight. From a musical standpoint, it’s hard to find a weak point. It’s just a few of those lyrics that leave me scratching my head.

The Cold puts Flotsam & Jetsam back on my radar for the first time in years and makes me wonder if, perhaps, I might have shortchanged some of the band’s more recent efforts. It’s certainly their best work since Drift, and on par with anything in their catalog.


  1. Drift is also my favourite. You should check-out at least "My God" I love this one almost as much as Cuatro and Drift. The new album is very solid effort, no doubt about it.

  2. I am pleasently suprised, to read a review that I agree with.. My work has been reviewed many many times, and rarely do I agree with almost everything the reviewer said. With one exception, "Black Cloud", maybe you misunderstood the meaning of the song, but the way you've locked on to evrything else leads me to believe I had better listen to it for the 80,000,000th time again, and listen from that prospective. I love the music on "KYA", but the lyrics make me cringe. I must appoligise to the the flotsam fans for ruining an awesome song.... sorry shit happens.
    Including most of the adjectives, your review are my thoaghts exactly on the new flotsam record. I will put this at no. 1 on my fav flots list,just barely in front of drift and quatro. thanx for the honest,inteligent, and very favorable review - Eric A.K. -Flotsam and Jetsam

  3. Glad you enjoyed the review. The record has gotten me listening to some of the old stuff again, and I'd really forgotten how much I liked it. I'll give "Black Cloud" some more listens and see how it grows on me.

    I've gotten some recommendations from other fans for both My God and Dreams of Death, so I'm planning to go back and check them both out.

  4. Nice review, I think its the best album since Drift, being my favorites:
    1 - Dooms day
    2 - Drift
    3 - THE COLD
    4 - No place
    5 - Storm

    "My God" and "Dreams of Death" did nothing for me... i was loosing hope in F&J. This is a great comeback!!!!