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Just like pretty much every other thrash band that achieved any sort of success, Flotsam and Jetsam changed their sound fairly drastically for 1992's "Cuatro." Gone are the extended thrash epics and fast riffing from earlier releases. Thankfully, also gone is the shitty production of their earlier albums; Neil Kernon does a good job of capturing the band's sound and updating it to pretty accurately match the sound that was popular at the time. Vocalist Eric A.K. has traded in his yelping for a more mature vocal style which is not only better but is much more suited for the music that the band was creating at that point.
The idea of a straightforward Flots album was definitely appealing to me; I wanted to hear the band create something that was heavy, yet rocked at the same time, kind of like Anthrax's "The Sound of White Noise." Sadly, despite some promising clean intros, the songs really fail to deliver once that they get going. As a whole the riffs are generally forgettable and do nothing to anchor the song. They add some heaviness and that's about it.
It would take a strong performance from Eric A.K. to save the album, and he really drops the ball here. Sometimes it sounds like he's singing to an entirely different song, and unlike John Arch, this does not work at all. As a whole his vocals really lack the hooks necessary to carry the songs and take them to the next level.
Guitar solos are largely absent, which is very disappointing because Gilbert and Carlson are fine guitarists and they really could have given these songs some much needed life. The solos that do appear are more spacey and atmospheric and instead of adding to the song, they just merely extent its length.
If one were to go down a list of things that one would think would be necessary for a former thrash band to make a good post-Black Album release (if one would enjoy those sort of releases like I do), this album would seem like a success. The riffs are still pretty heavy, there's good production, the vocalist is very talented at using a rock-style of singing, the only thing really missing are the great guitar solos that these bands (Anthrax, Metallica, Testament, Exodus just to name a few) were including in their new style of songwriting. However, none of those aspects that are mentioned above, except the production, are any good. There isn't a single song on here that is an overall success, in fact there isn't a single song that I would ever want to listen to again. Granted, not all of the songs are bad, most are decent enough and none are offensive to my ears, but there's just nothing that would make me want to come back to this album after it is over.
I hate giving this album such a low rating because it really isn't a terrible album, but it's completely ineffective. As mentioned earlier, there isn't a single song that is noteworthy and there's nothing at all that I can think of to really justify the purchase of this album. Maybe if one is found in a bargain bin (where I found my copy for next to nothing), it might be worth the risk. However, I would advise avoiding this release and perhaps seeking "Drift" or "My God" if you want to hear a good post-80's Flotsam and Jetsam album.