Flotsam and Jetsam
Blood In The Water

I know what you’re thinking, “Why the hell is Flotsam and Jetsam‘s latest full-length, Blood in the Water, being reviewed now, months after the album’s release in June”? Well, I can give you two reasons for this. First, and this is the most important reason, Blood in the Water is 100% THE SHIT. This album is so damn good it blows my mind, which leads me directly to my second reason; people need to be told how excellent  Blood in the Water is. Upon its initial release I saw a few blurbs here and there about the album, but that was about it; and nothing I did read gave me any indication that the material contained in this, the band’s fourteenth studio album, was this good. I mean this may just end up being my favorite release of 2021 when it’s all said and done, and how can something that fucking awesome not get its proper due.

I won’t lie, while I am a fan of the band I haven’t really kept a running tab on the group’s progress and or discography. Sure, I still have my original vinyl pressing of Doomsday for the Deceiver, and yes, I concur that No Place for Disgrace is grade A, top notch material (hell, I even like the 2014 re-recording of said album), and I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I would rewind the cassette to listen  to “Suffer the Masses” over and over, as I would cruise around in my sweet ass Firebird back in the early ’90’s. Though for the majority of the group’s career, my following has been sporadic at best. I checked in here or there, found some good stuff sometimes, even seen ’em live, but honestly, most of the band’s offerings were not necessarily anything to write home about. Yet the last few releases sees the band climbing metal’s ladder of success quite impressively, culminating in, what is without a  doubt,  their best release in awhile.

Powerful, aggressive, stirring, emotional, epic, catchy, full of finesse, and more than capable. All of these adjectives and more could easily and aptly describe Blood in the Water. Every single one of the album’s twelve tracks are a blistering representation of a band that is firing on all of its cylinders. Is it thrash, speed, progressive, classic and/or traditional? YES! It’s all of those things and so much more…okay, okay, lets be real. It’s obviously a thrash metal album, I don’t think anyone could really deny this, but the album is so much more multifaceted sounding in its presentation. Much like  Nevermore or a band of similar ilk, Flotsam and Jetsam are more than what they appear on the outside, and while they clearly can fit into a certain class or niche genre, they blur the lines subtly and marvelously. In fact, more than a few times, Blood in the Water reminded me of Nevermore in their ways of melding memorability with a darker sense of classic and progressive heaviness within a track’s structure. Plus, much like the late, great Warrel Dane, Flotsam‘s long time vocalist, Eric A.K., has only gotten better over the years. His voice is just as powerful as ever, and if the man has lost anything in range or ability in the past four decades, which I don’t think he has, it clearly doesn’t show. In fact, Blood in the Water sees the man quite possibly sounding the best he ever has. His pitch and his control and command are simply stunning, and those sing-a-long choruses; my God, those choruses are to die for. And what’s doubly awesome is that they’re found in every single track, affording more than a few moments for listeners, like myself, to indulge in plenty of  embarrassing opportunities to sound like a cat being stretched on the rack.

And lets not forget about the actual music taking place within Blood in the Water. If there’s a single highlight that stands over the others I haven’t found it.  Everyone of these tracks are my favorite. Yeah I know, an album with every song being your fave is an oxymoron, but dammit I can’t help it, they’re all just so good. Even with the album being a tad long in the tooth, clocking in at 53 minutes, I found myself consistently engaged and even left craving for more when it was all said and done. For me, the enjoyability of every single song  leaves quite a conundrum of which track(s) to even mention and throw praise at for the sake of this review alone. So much so that I decided to let Fate pick the tracks of discussion, literally. Pulling out my ol’ faithful dodecahedron (okay, it was really just a pair of standard dice), I let possibility take the reins and choose the songs of discourse, matching the die results to Blood in the Water‘s track listing, a bit of a juvenile tactic, but honestly a fun one.

And looky here, good ol’ chance did it right, doling out to us the album’s opener and title track, “Blood in the Water” and its full frontal, massive and furious sounding attack of that aforementioned mix of thrash, power, and traditional that make up Flotsam and Jetsam. The song, pulling you in right from the start, has just the right amount of intrigue and allure mixed with an epic quality and pummeling bite that sounds so natural and flawless. Its sing-a-long chorus enhances the overall memorability factor and the instrumentation is simply striking. Seriously, drummer, Ken Mary, is an absolute beast that drives not only “Blood in the Water” as a single, but drives Blood in the Water as an entire experience. The man is a powerhouse, and his playing ability and stamina rivals those half his age; and lets not forget the guitar work of  both Michael Gilbert and Steve Conely. The pair are pretty much everything you could ask for in metal guitarists. Their riffs are huge and heavy with just the perfect amount of technicality and their melodies and solos are fantastic, never underwhelming and never too much for the sake of too much.

Following up the album opener is “Burn the Sky” and it indeed is a scorcher of a track. A blistering and engaging cacophony of thrashing brilliance that’s taylor made for wrecking your neck. The varying tempos keep things fresh and thrilling, the song never  stalling out, even in its slower moments. A.K.’s verses having a flair that makes me imagine what Avenged Sevenfold could sound like with balls, while the chorus is, at the sake of sounding like a skipping record, a sing-a-long dream of a good time. The lead work? Fantastic. Soaring, emotional, and fucking killer.

I was totally stoked that my magical die chose “A Place to Die”, the song is so damn good, a heart pumping, blood pushing, thrashy ripping riffer with a chorus melody, vocal and instrumental, that knocks my socks right the fuck off. How the hell is this song so good? HOW?!? Nevermore and Testament like in its movements and structure, with a chorus that is as beautiful as it is visceral, the track is a definite winner. Fate threw me a bit of a curve ball with “Undone” though, not that the track is vastly different from the others or is filler, but it does have a slightly different air to it, kind of like if Alex Skolnik (Testament) was in Anthrax. It 100% works though and retains every bit of the band’s own sound and vision. And yeah, I’m going to say it again, the fucking choruses are simply too good to be true.

While I’ve said that all of Blood in the Water‘s tracks hit home with me, I particularly dig “Too Many Lives”. The song has a stellar brutal beginning that is sure to please the most ardent headbanger. Pulling shades of Ripper-era Judas Priest with some current day Death Angel while sounding every bit Flotsam is no simple feat, and the lead work is once again excellent. Ya know, the funny thing about letting chance dictate the course of song discussion for this review is that some of the album’s best moments/tracks I didn’t even mention, thus if you’re reading this and haven’t given Blood in the Water a spin then you’ll find plenty of metal meat still on the bone. I really have to hand it to the capabilities, and overt  creepiness, of today’s social networking and streaming algorithms. They definitely know what kind of stuff I like, for it was the constant bombardment of tracks from Blood in the Water being thrown at me during my workout sessions that ultimately lead to me taking notice and picking up a copy of the album.

Yeah, Blood in the Water has been out for a little while now, but so what. A lot of you out there, myself included, whether by deliberate choice or not, let this one go by you and I am telling you we were wrong in doing so. Dead wrong. Trust me friends, rectify this situation if you still fall in the category of  the uninitiated for Blood in the Water. Get up now and procure your copy, for this is what metal is all about. Holy shit, it is that damn good.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Kristofor Allred
September 16th, 2021

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