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.

They 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.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Fred Phillips
October 11th, 2010

Comments

  1. Commented by: Desperado

    Nice review man, pretty well summed up how I feel too. I love this album, it really suprised me, not saying I was expecting anything bad, its just the passionate songwriting and playing mixed with the good production made for a nice suprise. While most songs have decent lyrics, I agree about KYA, its a bit juvenile to say the least which is a shame since the music as usual is solid.

    Overall though I loved it and have recommended it to alot of friends.


  2. Commented by: faust666

    “I can’t only not see light, I can’t find the tunnel,” .. Man, that sentence is just fucked up.. Too bad coz it would have made a great line. Grammatical misadventures aside, this album is pretty damn good. Great review too ! Cheers !


  3. Commented by: Sándor

    Very good review and I agree almost completely. If I may suggest a “forgotten” record to pick up, I’d go for “Dreams of Death” (despite its less than good production). Very good album I think. Cheers!


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