Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A thrash band releases a classic album in the 80s, releases a second album afterwards that’s not quite as good, but still decent, only to continue to be mediocre for years afterwards, eventually falling into the alt/groove metal craze, then try to desperately resurrect their career 30 years later by trying to go back to their roots. It’s a story as old as music itself, bands starting off great, then losing all of their juice for years, only to try to go back to what they were first doing many years later. I’m sure even in ancient Egyptian times you had musical artists who got washed up. However a new twist has been put on this story over the past few years or so: these revivals are actually working. Satan has released two albums to high acclaim (one that I reviewed and loved), Iron Maiden totally revitalized their sound, fuck even Anthrax released their best album in a long time. There’s been this old school revival going on and I’m very glad to be reviewing during this time. Flotsam and Jetsom obviously fell for this tale, and similarly, almost 30 years later, released an album to somewhat high acclaim that tries to modernize what originally made their debut a cult classic.
And it’s so close to working. So damn close. On the opener Seventh Seal Flotsam shows so much potential and demonstrates that they do have the chops to still create a fantastic album. Seventh Seal brings this perfect balance between heaviness and clean riffs, along with a perfect track length, opening the album in a way that unfortunately none of the rest of the album even comes fucking close to reaching. The first 4 tracks are all fantastic for the reason that they don’t overdo it on the heaviness and “chugs”. I put that in quotes because it’s not really chugging, but more stationary riffs that don’t go anywhere, to the point where they sometimes sound more like mediocre doom metal riffs than anything belonging in a thrash album. The moment Verge of Tragedy hits the album takes somewhat of a nosedive into sameness and mush. Aside from maybe The Incantation and Monkey Wrench (which is really one track that’s separated into two for reasons I couldn’t explain if I wanted to), the entire rest of the album feels like when you just ranked up in your favorite video game and you’re really happy but your dad comes into your room and tells you that you’re a disappointment to your family because you’re at your dad’s house playing video games with no job at 24. And it’s like “oh great, it’s only 12 pm” and the rest of the day you just sit there playing games but it’s all so tainted by the crushing realization that you’re a sack of shit so you can’t have fun with the games. It’s one big mess of bleh, ugh, and I want to kill myself.
The large majority of the album feels like a big bowl of “I can’t believe it’s not groove metal”, where it has this tinge of groove metal without actually being so, so it just feels awkward to listen to. It’s like that one bit of popcorn shell stuck in your teeth that you can’t quite tell if it’s actually there or your imagination. It doesn’t really feel too awful, but it’s annoying enough to drive you insane and ruin whatever activity you’re trying to enjoy. I guess I could just describe this as “really heavy, slightly mid tempo thrash” and call it a day, but that just sounds like a cop-out.
I really do think that if they lightened up this album just a tad, and focused more of a faster paced kind of thrash, this would be very enjoyable. As it is, it sounds like an attempt to rekindle cult glory that just barely misses the mark, but that near miss pays a somewhat heavy price. The end result is an album that has moments, but ultimately sputters it’s way to a disappointing finish. It’s like going to college, except it takes 30 years, and you end up with a liberal arts degree and 200k worth of debut. At that point, it may be worth just quitting while you’re not as behind and things don’t get worse, because if this self-titled is Flotsam’s best attempt at a true revival, I really don’t want to see what happens when they get burnt out a second time.