Flotsam and Jetsam – Ugly Noise

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy reviews the new album from Flotsam and Jetsam titled Ugly Noise, released via Metalblade Records.


1. Ugly Noise 04:10
2. Gitty Up 03:09
3. Run And Hide 05:28
4. Carry On 04:19
5. Rabbit’s Foot 04:17
6. Play Your Part 05:29
7. Rage 03:25
8. Cross The Sky 04:45
9. Motherfuckery 03:07
10. I Believe 02:53
11. To Be Free 03:08
12. Machine Gun 03:17

I’m only intermittently familiar with Flotsam and Jetsam’s back catalogue, but here are the broad strokes: in their early days they were fierce thrash contenders, by the mid-90s they’d arrived at a more polished sound, with Eric AK’s vocals tempered to a tuneful yawp which, combined with a considerably streamlined riffing style and melodic interludes, made them sound like a heavier Queensryche at times.  A lot of old school thrash fans dismiss material like their 1992 album, ‘Cuatro’ as an attempt to access a mainstream audience, but the music definitely had a drama and intensity of its own. However, it didn’t seem like they could muster up the same level of creativity from album to album and their subsequent albums are pretty inconsistent in quality.

I haven’t heard the previous albums they released after their brief post-2005 hiatus, but ‘Ugly Noise’ sounds like more of the same phenomenon – a middle-of-the-road, middle-aged thrash sound that’ll never recapture the youthful energy of the early speed-maniac days and that has only sporadically benefited from the additional depth and songwriting maturity that this many years in the saddle should confer. The main problem is that everything here has been done before; these songs often sound less like original compositions than collections of tried and tested maneuvers and stratagems. Even the newer elements in the sound are a couple of decades old.

In a way, the mid-paced stomp of ‘Play Your Part’ sums up the juncture the band finds itself in: they haven’t blazed the kind of protean, self-contradicting trail some of the thrash giants have in the past decade, but they haven’t arrived at the hard-won consistency of an Overkill either. They’ve mainly been treading water, playing a part they’re pretty much locked into by now, churning out material that’s just a bit proggy, kinda thrashy and not likely to light a fire under listeners – or to alienate an equally aging thrash audience who are willing to settle for something, anything, with a familiar label on the cover if it doesn’t sound core. There are some out and out clunkers like ‘Rage’ and ‘Motherfuckery’which chug along, some ill-advised electronic layers and never seems to go anywhere, sometimes sounding like a rejected pro wrestling anthem, and no out-and-out classics.

This is competent metal music that sounds like it’s stuck in the mid-90s retrograde action undertaken by metal acts who could have dreamed of mainstream glory a few years back and now had to find ways to evolve without overtly selling out to grunge or nu metal. There are lots of quasi-breakdowns and dissonant bits mixed in with the more melodic segments. The musicianship is effective if rarely stellar, dressing up some very prosaic ideas with facile embellishments. There’s no real reason to slam this album or to offer it anything more than weak praise, just remember not to set your expectations too high when you choose to spin this one.


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