Flotsam and Jetsam – Ugly Noise

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Review by Julian Handley

Metal Blade

Over the years Flotsam and Jetsam have been one of the most unpredictable and unreliable bands of the eighties American thrash movement. Having burst onto the scene with cutting edge, and a raw energy they contributed greatly in setting the standards of  the metal hungry, youth of the day. Their debut Doomsday for the Deceiver (1986) exposed the bands potential to the denim and leather clad hordes, ranking as a masterpiece among connoisseurs. Unfortunately the band also gained the attention of their peers, and subsequently lost bassist Jason Newsted to the emerging giants Metallica in their moment of need after the tragic death of Cliff Burton.

The second effort with new bassist Troy Gregory, was always going to be a major challenge given the debut’s success, but the band had since moved over to major label Elektra Records and expectations were high, whilst pressure was immense. 1988 saw the release of  No Place for Disgrace; this was intelligent thrash for the purists, technical, passion drenched and packed with melody. Another classic album by anyone’s standards, but the suited, greed merchants at Elektra dropped the band due to major league breakthrough failure. Next up came MCA, another fat cat, exploitation hub, baying for world domination through bad management. The third album When the Storm Comes, was weak, dogged with poor production, mostly average songs and a distinct lack of passion. For me this set about the demise of one of the most promising bands of the genre. The remaining nineties efforts were little short of embarrassing, seeing band politics take a grip, resulting in several departures and recruitments taking place.

The three, 21st century releases have all steadily improved, enough for Flotsam and Jetsam to progress with dignity. So to the newbie Ugly Noise, the albums cover depicts a beat up piano, neglected and discarded, which is a personal statement from a band that have been through some trying experiences. Anyhow the title track is the albums opener, dark and broody with a piano intro, gradually building in gloomy power, Eric A ‘A.K.’ Knutson is back on form with bleeding, tortured vocals, sounding very Dio like in parts. ‘Gitty Up’ is a rollicking, bareback rodeo ride, the drums and vocals galloping swiftly along in classic metal trade off. The album as a whole is very dark, yet sincere, full of anger and regret, perfectly expressed in the songs ‘Run and Hide’ and ‘Rage’. ‘Rabbits Foot’ ventures slightly into the Country territory that A.K. has toyed with in the past yet it fits in effortlessly as with this release there is no theme and there aren’t any rules. Ugly Noise is a very enjoyable listen and a clear fuck you to the soothsayers who declared this band dead and buried twenty years ago.

Flotsam and Jetsam - Ugly Noise8 out of 10

Track listing:

  1. Ugly Noise
  2. GittyUp
  3. Run and Hide
  4. Carry On
  5. Rabbits Foot
  6. Play Your Part
  7. Rage
  8. Cross the Sky
  9. Motherfuckery
  10. I Believe
  11. To Be Free
  12. Machine Gun