Flots and I are no longer seeing each-other. Things were going well enough and our relationship was actually getting better, but then Flots did something and I said some stuff and I realized it was over between us. It always happens when people go dredging up the past – Flots thought it was a good idea to re-connect with an old flame and I’m afraid I my comments on the matter were not favourable, so I decided to see other people. In all seriousness though, did anyone really prefer their re-recording of “No Place For Disgrace”? Should Metallica re-record “Master Of Puppets” or Sabbath have another bash at “Volume 4”? No. Some things should be left alone especially if you are not going to improve them in any way at all. But Flots and I have history, we have a past, and surely I couldn’t stay mad at them forever.
Besides, only original vocalist Erik A.K, guitarist Michael Gilbert and recently re-instated bassist Michael Spencer are still in the line-up from the one that thought that re-recording “No Place…” was a good idea (let it go Andy…just let it go…) and the two new guys have certainly brought some much needed energy back to the band. Shadow’s Fall drummer Jason Bittner in particular is fantastic throughout, as I would have expected, but when a band has someone of this caliber to structure the songs around then they are well on their way. Gone at last is the ploddy, slightly dirgy 90’s Flotsam & Jetsam, to be replaced by an angst-ridden vivacious sounding band, looking forward just as much as back.
This raw energy that the band seem to have rediscovered was something that started to drift away during parts of “When The Storm Comes Down” (and had virtually gone completely by the mid-nineties). There were signs of it returning on 2012’s “Ugly Noise”, but this sounds like a completely different band…which of course it very nearly is. Erik A.K. (the only member that was actually on that 2012 album!) sounds as comfortable and confident as I’ve ever heard him and he’s is great form. Guitar-wise…it’s always difficult to know who brings what to the table in a twin guitar band, so whether it’s the song-writing return of Michael Gilbert, the introduction of Steve Conley, or how they work together that’s sparked this speedier, more urgent attitude it’s hard to tell, but it’s certainly effective with great riffs and intricate solos cascading all over the album, right from the first track.
If anything, this is the album that should have come after “No Place For Disgrace”, but it has such a maturity to it that it’s time is obviously and correctly, now. ‘Seven Seas’, ‘Taser’, ‘Smoking Gun’ and ‘L.O. T. D.’ are right up there with their early speed/thrash approach, though ‘Forbidden’ in particular has it all – power, speed, cloaked melody, tenacious riffing, shredding solos and really could have been straight off “No Place For Disgrace”. But the band haven’t totally usurped their groove either as the aptly titled ‘Creeper’ is a prime example of. There’s even a track called ‘Iron Maiden’, that vocally and guitar-wise is a pure homage to Maiden themselves, but done in a very ‘I Live You Die’ type style.
So it seems Flots and I are friends again, the olive branch of this eponymous album has been gratefully accepted, but unfortunately there remains just a little regret on my part. Why? Well, I feel that if this had been the line-up that had re-recorded “No Place For Disgrace”, then it really would have been something worth hearing! I guess the people who get to see this line-up live have that to look forward to. But it is undeniable that this is a very welcome return to form for Flotsam and Jetsam and I’m really pleased that I gave them another chance.
(7.5/10 Andy Barker)