If any band has seen a career resurgence – no, actually a career resuscitation – it would be Phoenix, AZ’s thrash legends Flotsam and Jetsam. The band kicked off their career with two stellar but underappreciated (by the masses, at least) albums in the ’80s, faded into obscurity while releasing a series of forgettable albums, and over the past half-decade have stormed back into relevance with some of the most vital and compelling, if not moreso, albums as anything the Big Four have released in recent memory.
Now here they are with album number fourteen, Blood In The Water, which may just be what these grizzled veterans are smelling after charging back to the forefront of the thrash movement. The album opens with the title track, which is a relentless rain of blows upon our ears. The energy spewing forth from the speakers is exceedingly impressive for a band of any age, let alone a group of guys who have been at it for four decades.
“Blood In The Water” isn’t an anomaly, either. The band continues to deliver quality body blows over the next few songs, taking no prisoners on “Burn the Sky” or one of the album’s highlights, “Brace for Impact.” Thrash with a hint of power metal is the band’s signature, applied with aplomb throughout the album.
There are a few changeups in the middle, all of which work. “A Place to Die” stretches things out in a progressive fashion, with complex arrangement and intricate riffing, while “The Walls” is a more mid-paced power metal effort, which actually suits these guys quite a bit. It’s a song that would have been at home on Iron Maiden’s Brave New World album. And right at the midpoint of the album to break things up, “Cry for the Dead” slows things down and adds some subtle synth.
Ken Mary returns on drums, and hits them way too much here. If there is a fault to be found on Blood In The Water, it is the blatant over-drumming from Mary. It is rare that he gives other band members the chance to throw in a lick or break of any kind; every four bars he is filling the speakers with unnecessary tom rolls. Less isn’t often more in thrash metal, but in this case easing back a bit would have made a huge difference. Thankfully, the guitar solos still shine, though.
Steve Conley and Michael Gilbert return on guitar, and of course AK Knutson mans the mic. His voice has a drama to it more akin to some power metal vocalists than thrash, but it serves to set the band apart from the hordes of other thrash acts plying their trade. As always, AK adds another dimension to the songs. His ability to convey rage, futility, desperation, elation, and more is amazing at this juncture of his career.
The newest addition to the band is Bill Bodily on bass. Bodily has toured with the band before, and played bass on Contrarian’s excellent album last year. He anchors the band’s sound with an appropriately thunderous growling tone.
Twelve songs might be two songs too many but there are no real duds here, although the front half of the album is slightly stronger. Flotsam and Jetsam may not have been sure of what they had left in the tank before they started this project, but Blood In The Water is the work of a band that still has oodles of vitality.
(released June 4, 2021 on AFM Records)
Heavy Music HQ Rating:
Watch Flotsam and Jetsam – “Brace For Impact” Video