“Hell no!”, Flotsam And Jetsam’s master behind the microphone Eric “A.K.” Knutson exclaimed when asked if this was the band’s final swing of the axe! The End Of Chaos, out January 18, 2019, via AFM Records, certainly could be construed that way title-wise. But what do you do when you unleash arguably the finest hour in your 30-plus year career (2016’s genius Flotsam And Jetsam)? You head back to the dark n’ dusty garage to keep that momentum going. Let’s get one thing straight. Flotsam And Jetsam are a true anomaly in the annals of heavy metal history. The most under-rated entity in heavy metal history. Period. True fighters, the Phoenix-based five-piece led by originals A.K. and guitarist Michael Gilbert (along with longtime bassist Michael Spencer, guitarist Steve Conley and drummer Ken Mary) have been doing battle in the trenches since the early ‘80s. And although people point to their first album (1986’s Doomsday For The Deceiver ) as a game-changer, the band didn’t need the first (and only) 6K rating in Kerrang!’s history to gain accolades. There was much more to come, a helluva lot more. And without the ghost of Jason Newsted hovering – he jumped onto the Metallica freight-train just after the debut was released –Flotsam And Jetsam were off and running.
But sadly their melodic thrash brilliance was overshadowed by many. And that’s where the injustice lies. The brilliant follow-up No Place For Disgrace (1988) is still a mainstay in the live setting, whereas When The Storm Comes Down (1990) and Cuatro (1992) saw the band on a roll. But label fumbling and a serious change in the music landscape led to their metal hearts getting bruised and battered from all angles of the aorta. Record sales were stale, tours were thin, meanwhile quality-wise, they were heads and tails above most metal bands in the community. And it remains a travesty that future albums like the deeply emotional Drift (1995), the drug-frenzied High (1997) and truly under-rated My God (2001) to this day get overlooked. Their diehard fanbase was still screaming “Flotz ’Til Death”, but the band’s stock hadn’t increased in value, despite being led by one of the most gifted singers in the history of rock music.
“A.K.’s vocals are what makes our band and who we are,” Michael Gilbert hits the nail on the metalhead. “He’s very unique, there is nobody else like him. He’s a fantastic singer. But the dude gets better and better.”
So, no, The End Of Chaos is far, far from the end. Flotsam and Jetsam – the album – saw a band firing on all cylinders, writing/performing years younger than a band with three decades of power and glory notched on their bullet belts. The End Of Chaos is loaded with 12 crushing songs that clock in at nearly 50 minutes, so for traditional thrashers there is plenty of bone to chew on. Like 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. And the kinetic energy that they exude on stage is quite contrary to their street persona.
The End Of Chaos lead-off track, “Prisoner Of Time” blasts out of the gate with a frenzied rhythm section filled with a hearty dose of Mary-mastery double-bass, as A.K. screams with passion “Live your life without regret, don’t be a prisoner of time.” And time has been very kind to these legends, despite the roller coaster highs and lows.
“This album kills!” says Ken Mary. “It’s all five guys with the gas pedal pushed to the floor for the entire album!”
“Control”, “Demolition Man” and “Unwelcome Surprise” continues to set the tone with speed metal majesty and the band’s dual-axe melodies, taking a page out of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest playbooks, take matters to a different frenzied level. Check the video for said “Demolition Man” below.
“It was cool to have a new element of influence on this album with having Ken‘s drum parts to partner with and play in and around his playing that also go with the guitars and vocals,” Michael Spencer adds. “Glad to have had (longtime Danish producer, mixer, master genius) Jacob Hansen bringing this album to the overall sound and energy it has. Jacob really highlights A.K.’s vocal melodies, as well as Steve and Michael‘s songwriting, while the power of the rhythm section drives the songs.”
“Prepare For Chaos” is a purpose-filled and self-explanatory juggernaut as you “prepare to die!” “Architects Of Hate” is yet another monster affair that takes you back to the heyday of ‘80s thrash genius, yet with an infectious hook that only Flotsam can muster. Just a chaos of well-orchestrated chorus lines and you can easily hear “I drink the blood of everyman” being echoed in the live setting around the globe!
The End Of Chaos is “our heaviest release yet and can’t wait to share the chaos across the globe,” Michael Gilbert says with complete and utter confidence. And his riffs are his bragging rights.
There is not one moment to take a deep breath as closer “The End” sees Flotsam And Jetsam at the top of their game once again. Each member feeding off each other’s undying emotions, and collectively they are unstoppable. “I can see the end is taking over and it always brings me down,” A.K. recites with majestic grace. Yes, it’s bleak, but have you taken a look outside lately? But that’s the beauty. The angst and anger is an outlet. And for those with “Flots ’Til Death” tattooed on their headbanging forehead, we welcome the discomforting comfort.
“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. And 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. The End Of Chaos hits the mark.”
Right between your fucking eyes!
Words by Tim Henderson.