May 9, 2009

CD Review: Flotsam & Jetsam - When the Storm Comes Down

In the 1980's, when it came to metal it was mostly about Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, and Slayer. Beyond them, there was Testament, Exodus, and Death Angel. However, after those bands, and probably a few others, there was one band I do not recall hearing anyone talk about. That band was Flotsam & Jetsam. Granted, my exposure to people talking metal was low, with only one true metal fan that I could call friend, I was stuck in the hair metal scene cutting my teeth on music fandom. Still, it was not until 1993 and the release of Cuatro that I really heard of them (it was probably also around this time that I learned this is where Metallica's Jason Newsted had come from). Anyway, When the Storm Comes Down was the band's third album, arriving in 1990, and their debut with MCA Records after parting ways with Elektra.

Taking my exposure to Flotsam & Jetsam a step further, the only album I had ever heard from the band, prior to the recent arrival of this re-release, was Cuatro. Now there is a gem of an album, filled with excellent tunes that have aged well. Before they could release that underrated album, they gave us When the Storm Comes Down, an album that is not nearly as strong as what would follow, but not without its charms.

The first thing that is immediately noticeable about this set of music is that the production is not very strong. The overall sound is a little muddy, and the levels seem to be at odds with each other, with the vocals dominating the mix at times and the drums stuck too far to the back. Also, unrelated to the mix, the songs are not terribly catchy, they are all over the map with the riffs and lead breaks. It is hard to put my finger on it, but the writing just does not seem to quite be on point.

Among the bands considered at the top of the thrash genre, Flotsam & Jetsam does not quite seem to fit. There are definite thrash stylings to their music, but they have a stronger melodic element, and the clean vocals of Eric A.K. These elements help them stand out a bit from the crowd, or at least put them into comparison to Anthrax territory, so far as the vocal styles are concerned.

When the Storm Comes Down gets off to a strong start with "The Master Sleeps," whose opening reminds me, quite strongly, of Anthrax. This cut has all the elements you need for a good song, speed, catchiness, and a general feeling that you are in for something good. However, the deeper in you get, the more of a mixed bag it becomes.

Now, I have not heard either of the albums prior to this, despite that, this album feels as if they are experimenting with their writing. Perhaps this muddled album is a result of a band in search of itself. After all, this was the first album to not have any influence from Jason Newsted, who was the primary songwriter on their debut, and whose work was also found in a number of songs on their sophomore set. Whatever the case may be, this is not the album that it could be.

As for the songs that you should focus on, there are a few in addition to "The Master Sleeps." The strong cuts include: "Deviation," "October Thorns," "Suffer the Masses," "6, Six, VI," and "M.T.E.K." "No More Fun" has a nice bass intro, but goes downhill pretty fast.

This is a re-release through Metal Mind Productions and as a bonus a 25-minute interview is included. It was originally included on the "The Master Sleeps" single. I listened to part of it, but found pretty much worthless. I would have much preferred a couple of bonus songs or live tracks.

Bottomline. Not the best from them. There are a few good tracks, but I cannot say I would be scrambling for more had this been my introduction to the band. Still, there is something to be said about their melodic thrash, it does stand out from the other luminaries of the day.

Mildly Recommended.


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