Band Line Up:
Eric “AK” Knutson – Vocals
Steve Conley – Guitar
Michael Gilbert – Guitar
Michael Spencer – Bass
Ken Mary – Drums
01. Prisoner Of Time
04. Prepare Of Chaos
05. Slowly Insane
06. Architects Of Hate
07. Demolition Man
08. Unwelcome Surprise
09. Snake Eye
11. Good Or Bad
12. The End
When describing how they feel about their thirteenth album, Flotsam And Jetsam pull absolutely no punches.
“The End Of Chaos is our heaviest release yet and we can’t wait to share the chaos across the globe.” This is according to founding Flotsam And Jetsam six stringer Michael Gilbert, who is backed up by his bandmate and drummer, Ken Mary: “This album kills. It’s all five guys with the gas pedal pushed to the floor for the entire album!”
If the above statements hadn’t peaked your interest or if you are not familiar with their music, then there are a few things you probably should know about a band that has been cranking out the riffs for over thirty years! In their earliest days they included a young Jason Newsted in their ranks. He honed his chops alongside the young musicians and paid his dues before joining Metallica in 1986.
Flotsam And Jetsam also have the prestigious honour of being the ONLY band to have had an impressive 6 out of 5 coveted Ks bestowed upon their debut album (Doomsday For The Deceiver) by Kerrang magazine! They have released a solid twelve records since then, and when summarising their career, consider themselves to have battled forward in circumstances that would crush other bands.
Their press releases acknowledges them as a “prize-fighter that refuses to kneel down, Flotsam And Jetsam tread onward with black eyes and bloody noses. It’s the youthful exuberance and a certain ‘we don’t give a flying fuck about age or time’ mentality.”
“We’ve been through a lot of crap,” A.K. closes. “For a while I had a lineup with me that was just together to go out on vacations then have the promoters pay for it. It’s a little different now, we are back to a real band making a stab at growing and becoming a bigger entity in the music industry. Our goal in writing a record, is to put out the coolest music we can.”
With that statement in mind, it’s reassuring to discover The End Of Chaos is an album that does indeed sound like a band who still has a lot still to give. From the start, it sounds cohesive and confident with a clear and crisp production courtesy of Jacob Hanson.
When A.K sings, “live your life without regret” over the melodic bass rumble of Prisoner Of Time, there is no doubting his sincerity, bolstered as it is by an affirming double bass drum push under some finger twisting riffs.
The dexterity of the guitar work is even more apparent on the album’s second song, Control. It’s heads-down thrash with a fist-clenchingly anthemic chorus. At this early stage in the album I am reminded of the sort of solid metal that Anthrax put out on their Worship Music LP. True to this comparison, the rhythm guitars are tight, with some right hand work that easily stands up with the best of the genre (check Snake Eye for some really impressive riffing).
At the other end of the guitar spectrum are the solos, all of which are intense and melodic and mostly cut to relatively short flourishes that impress without overstaying their welcome. It seems Flotsam And Jetsam have been in the business long enough to know that playing a bit less keeps people wanting more!
That aside, for me, the “man of the match” on this release is A.K. Knutson. He sounds in fine voice throughout. Guitarist Michael Gilbert has made a point of saying, “A.K.’s vocals are what makes our band and who we are. He’s very unique, there is nobody else like him. The dude gets better and better.”
It’s a difficult sentiment to argue with when listening to A.K.’s conviction throughout the strident gallop of Recover or the Voivod-esque Prepare For Chaos, which affirms, “He’s the real fucking deal!”
The rest of the band aren’t slouching either. Architects Of Hate has an intimidatingly powerful chorus and Unwelcome Surprise is a horns up banger featuring a fervent drum performance.
The End Of Chaos has a confidence that evidences a group of musicians with a wealth of experience. Each song bounds along with the sort of tough, sure footed exuberance that you would expect from a band who have been doing this for three decades…
But the album isn’t without its limitations.
As the final third of the LP continues along along an established template, it brings with it the acknowledgement that The End Of Chaos would benefit from at least one sure-fire classic to raise its game from a pretty good album to a REALLY good album. Whereas Flotsam And Jetsam can effortlessly throw down the riffs, there is a songwriting gear that they don’t quite shift into this time.
They get close. Demolition Man has all the fist pumping appeal of some of the best Saxon tunes, while the giddy verses of Good Or Bad brings an alternative and creative touch to proceedings.
Having stated the above, there is nothing actually wrong with Flotsam And Jetsam sitting squarely in their comfort zone. Final track, the appropriately titled, The End is a ferocious thrasher with an uplifting power metal chorus that plays the album out on a high.
Ultimately, this is a strong album that will please existing fans and has enough potential to win the band some new fans too.
The band intended to put out the “coolest music they can”. In summary, I’d say they haven’t done a bad job.
Play it loud.