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'Flotsam And Jetsam'
(AFM Records)
Release Date: Friday 20th May 2016

Johnny Main

johnny main

flotsam and jetsam

Founded in 1981 under the name Paradox, Flotsam And Jetsam's initial line up included bass player Jason Newstead who left the band in 1986 to join Metallica after the untimely death of Cliff Burton. Prior to this event, the band got started by a bunch of high school friends who were all looking to play cover songs of bands such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, MSG, and UFO. The line-up was bolstered in 1982 by the addition of Eric A Knutson who had been recruited after they'd seen him singing 'The Goodbye Girl' at a high school talent show.

It was in 1983 that the band renamed themselves Flotsam And Jetsam after writing a song inspired by a chapter of JRR Tolkien's The Two Towers, and the newly christened band made their live debuts in local clubs in and around California as well as getting the chance to share stages with bands such as Megadeth, Armored Saint, Alcatrazz, Malice, Exciter, Mercyful Fate, Riot and Autograph.

By 1985 line-up changes were being made and the 17-year-old Michael Gilbert stepped into the band just as they released two demo tapes, 'Iron Tears' and 'Metal Shock'. The 'Metal Shock' demo provided the with the first opportunity to make a promo video for the track 'Hammerhead' which was recorded in the band's living room and a live video at the Bootlegger Bar in Phoenix, both of which led to interest from record labels.

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Eventually signing a deal with Metal Blade records, the band recorded and released their first full length album, 'Doomsday For The Deceiver' in mid-1986 with Newsted departing shortly after. Michael Spencer, who was in the Sacramento based band Sentinel Beast, was hired to replace the void filled by Newsted in 1987 as the band singed a deal with Metallica's label Elektra Records. The band's second album, 'No Place For Disgrace' hit the shelves in 1988 which included a cover of Elton John's 'Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting' for which they shot a promo video. It was during this time that they opened for King Diamond in the US before heading to Europe to support Megadeth, Testament and Sanctuary in Europe.

By 1989, Flotsam And Jetsam had signed a new deal with mega-giants MCA/Universal and began to work on their third album, eventually titled 'When The Storm Comes Down' which was to be released in 1990. They followed this up with 'Cuatro' in 1992 and 'Drift' in 1995. A two year hiatus followed where the band didn't do any recording or touring but they returned in 1997 with 'High', which saw them return to Metal Blade Records.

Their seventh album, 'Unnatural Selection' was released in 1999 with 'My God' following two years later. At that time Knutson had founded a country band, the AK Corral, and he left Flotsam And Jetsam for a short time to pursue his side project, eventually re-joining in 2001 for a series of live dates in the US. The band drifted from label to label for their next couple of releases ('Dreams Of Death' in 2005 and 2010s 'The Cold'), before their 2012 album 'Ugly Noise' was released.

In June 2013 the band headlined at the Warriors Of Metal Festival in Columbus, Ohio and then undertook a European tour with Sepultura. The following year, they toured Europe another four times (racking up some forty shows) and they are just about to release album number twelve, simply titled 'Flotsam And Jetsam'. After the numerous line-up changes within the band previously, this current line-up has been together for just over three years but the album is one of the most cohesive and enjoyable the band have released in some time.

flotsam and jetsam

There's a solid selection of fast tracks here including 'Seventh Seal' which has guitarists Michael Gilbert and Steve Conley sparring in the solo section and it's great to hear that they've not lost any of their fire. Along with that, there's 'Taser' which has the vocals of frontman Eric A Knutson very much in the background compared to some of the other tracks. However, it's drummer Jason Bittner who is very much the star of the show here with his astonishing pace whilst the twin guitar work shows how in tune Gilbert and Conley are.

'Creeper' has more of a doomy sounding intro with Bittner showing his skill once again before bass player Michael Spencer gets in on the act showing what a formidable rhythm section these two are. The track actually has a nice long instrumental intro (nearly 90 seconds) before the main guitar riff kicks in and it doesn't really stop after that.

It's arguable that 'L.O.T.D.' is the fastest track here and plainly put, it's four and three quarter minutes of pure thrash Metal and a master class in writing and performance. Everything just works here and this could very well be a future classic track - certainly I hope they're decide to include this on their upcoming tour as it could be a show-stopper.

'Life Is A Mess' is more of a mid-paced number during the intro but it doesn't take long for the tempo to speed up. Again, it's Bittner who shines here, though, with his complex but tight drum fills while the guitar riff trundles on. This seems to be another classic in waiting and it's a definite favourite of mine already.

It's not all fast numbers as shown by 'Verge Of Tragedy' with its long and slow intro before the main guitar riff which is soon joined by the thundering bass of Spencer which comes to the fore. It's the mid-paced efforts like this that allow Knutson a chance to stretch himself vocally while the easy to remember chorus doesn't take long to in bed itself in your psyche.

When I first saw the title 'Iron Maiden' I genuinely wondered if they'd actually covered that Iron Maiden track! I'm fact it's not a cover but a very Iron Maiden-esque sounding numer that ends up being a real highlight of the album for me. Knutson gives a Bruce Dickinson sounding vocal performance while the guitar work that leads into the guitar solo is reminiscent of the trademark Maiden sound. One of the least thrashy numbers here, it's a hugely enjoyable track.

'The Incantation' is a slow and meandering track with an acoustic guitar adding an extra layer to the sound during another long intro but this merely serves as nothing more than an intro to the next track, 'Monkey Wrench' which is another favourite of mine from the first listen. Once the slow build up has been negotiated, it's another fast track with a killer guitar riff. Knutson's performance has a touch of menace about it and his vocals are boosted in the chorus by some backing vocals while it's the guitar riff that keeps driving the song onwards.

As far as the guitar solo is concerned, that's something else! It might be quite late into the track but it's the cherry on the top of the cake as far as this number is concerned. Could these two tracks serve as the opening numbers for the band's upcoming tour? Sounds like a great idea to me!

You can see the official lyric video for 'Iron Maiden' here:

You can see Flotsam and Jetsam live here:
Thursday 15th September – Z7, Pratteln
Friday 16th September – Backstage, Munich
Saturday 17th September – Circolo Colony, Brescia
Sunday 18th September – Rockfabrik, Ludwigsburg
Wednesday 21st September – La Laiterie, Strasbourg
Thursday 22nd September – La Belle Electrique, Grenoble
Friday 23rd September – Le Moulin, Marseille
Saturday 24th September – Metronum, Toulouse
Sunday 25th September – Razz2, Barcelona
Tuesday 27th September – Custom, Sevilla
Wednesday 28th September – RCA Club, Lisbon
Thursday 29th September – Hard Club, Porto
Friday 30th September – Arena, Madrid
Saturday 1st October – Stage Live, Bilbao
Sunday 2nd October – La Machine, Paris
Tuesday 4th October – Audio, Glasgow
Wednesday 5th October – Voodoo Lounge, Dublin
Thursday 6th October – Club Academy, Manchester
Friday 7th October – Underworld, London
Saturday 8th October – Lucky, Rjissen
Sunday 9th October – Indua, Drachten
Tuesday 11th October – Storm Club, Prague
Wednesday 12th October – Hirsch, Nürnberg
Thursday 13th October – Kubana, Siegburg
Friday 14th October – Conrad Sohm, Dornbirn
Sunday 16th October – 7er Club, Mannheim

'Flotsam And Jetsam' tracklisting:
Seventh Seal
Life Is A Mess
Iron Maiden
Verge Of Tragedy
The Incantation
Monkey Wrench
Time To Go
Smoking Gun
Forbidden Territories

Flotsam and Jetsam are:
Eric A. Knutson – Vocals
Michael Gilbert – Guitar
Steve Conley – Guitar
Michael Spencer – Bass Guitar
Jason Bittner – Drums

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