April 30, 2008

CD Review: Flotsam and Jetsam - Cuatro

I have a vivid memory of when I first heard Flotsam and Jetsam. It was spring of 1993, the a group of friends went down to the riverfront following the senior prom to continue the party. While we were goofing around there in the late (early?) hours, a friend's car had this music blasting from it. I asked him who it was, it sounded pretty good. Turned out to be Flotsam and Jetsam's Cuatro, more specifically, it was the song "Swatting at Flies." I would not go so far as to say it floored me, but it definitely had a good sound and stood out from much of what I was listening to at the time (still being on a grunge kick at the time). A couple of days later I picked up the cassette (yes, I still listened to cassettes at the time), and to date it remains the only Flotsam and Jetsam music I have ever heard. Why? I don't know, perhaps that will change one day. Anyway, Metal Mind Productions is releasing a limited edition remaster with bonus materials in a digipak casing. It is limited to 2000 copies, so make sure you get it quick.

Listening to Cuatro now, for the first time in many years, I am instantly reminded of how good this album is, not to mention my expanded experience likely helps me appreciate it more now than I ever did then. With the passage of time, now fifteen years removed from that initial listen, I must say that this album has aged well. It is a shame that they never achieved the stature of some of their metal brethren of the era, as this album displays excellent musicianship, strong songwriting, and a sound that can appeal to the thrash metal fan as well as the average radio listener. Cuatro definitely has a broad range of potential appeal. If you appreciate metal give this album a listen, you will not be disappointed.

This album is far from brutal and it is nowhere near the heaviest music you will ever hear, but looking for that here would be missing the point. Don't get me wrong, there are some great head banging riffs to be found, just don't expect Slayer. Flotsam and Jetsam is more like a cross-breed of thrash and power metal, containing the riffs but also containing a healthy dose of melody behind cleanly sung vocals. It is a sound that is as unique as it is comforting. It is a welcoming sound that invites you and keeps you hooked until the last note fades.

It is difficult to boil down the best tracks, so many of them a really good. Seriously, the first five tracks are fantastic. Those first rate cuts are followed by a bit of a lull, although those songs are also quite good, before the quality amps back up for a strong finish. While this album is no different than any other in the existence of a lull, it is not something to be concerned about, as it is hard to remain at the level of the first five all the way through.

If I had to go through and pull out my favorite tracks, they would have to start with the in your face aggression of the opening track, "Natural Enemies." It is not the best song, but it is a fantastic tone setter for the rest of the album. Track two is not one to be left out either, "Swatting at Flies," it is a strongly melodic song that is easy to get into.

The fifth track is probably the best song on the album. It is called "Wading Through the Darkness." This song has a great groove, nice melody and strong vocals. It adds a layer of acoustic guitar that does a great job of adding depth to the song. It truly is a classic song.

Cuatro has a few excellent cuts as it builds towards its finish; among them are "Secret Square" and "Hypodermic Midnight Snack" (don't you love that song name?).

This special edition includes four bonus tracks including "Date With Hate." The other tracks are radio edits and a remix. The remix is an industrial version of "Wading Through the Darkness" and it sounds pretty cool. There is also the video for "Wading Through the Darkness."

Bottomline. A truly underrated gem of a metal album. This is hard evidence that they should be known for more than the band Jason Newsted left to join Metallica. They are much more than a cast off and with this coming back into circulation, albeit limited, it is time to give them some more well deserved recognition.

Highly Recommended.

Track listing:
1. Natural Enemies
2. Swatting at Flies
3. Message
4. Cradle Me Now
5. Wading Through the Darkness
6. Double Zero
7. Never to Reveal
8. Forget About Heaven
9. Secret Square
10. Hypodermic Midnight Snack
11. Are You Willing
12. (Ain't Nothing Gonna) Save This World
Bonus tracks:
13. Date with Hate
14. Wading Through the Darkness [Radio Edit]
15. Wading Through the Darkness [Industrial Mix]
16. Cradle Me Now [Edit Version]
17. Wading Through the Darkness [Multimedia Track]

Video for "Wading Through the Darkness"


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