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Flotsam and Jetsam will be eternally remembered as the band that supplied Metallica with a bass player. They should really be remembered for their music. This is the band's magnum opus, never to be approached even distantly ever again.
Flotsam and Jetsam were magnificent songwriters. The title track is a moving account of a disgraced samurai's final moments before absolving himself through suicide. It shows an empathy with the thoughts of such a character. The riffs, from the introduction to the finale, are original and memorable. Some of the subject matter for the remaining tracks on the album is a little lame ("I Live, You Die", "Misguided Fortune"), but even some of the thrash elite at the time were dealing in cheese of the stinkiest vintage at the time (anyone want crackers with Megadeth's "502" and Slayer's "Mandatory Suicide"?). Newstead was one of the main songwriters for the band before his departure, and his creativity, long stifled by the rampant egos in Metallica, shines through here, as he co–wrote the best tracks on the album.
Lyrics aside, the music is near faultless– the Egyptian sounding guitars and bass run on "N.E. Terror" are particularly impressive, the transition from the acoustic introduction to the power ballad–ish feel to the high velocity thrash out of "Escape From Within", the soloing throughout. The twin instrumental tracks, "P.A.A.B" and "The Jones" showcase some stunning riffs and solos without getting self–indulgent. As with many bands of the time, the drummer had a thing for showing his double kick drum prowess. In every song. Constantly. I like it! The production is sharp, clear and heavy.
What put many people off the band were Eric AK's seemingly helium fuelled shrieks. Even Candlemass' Messiah Marcolin would have been hard pressed to hit some of those high notes. Eric AK had strong mid–range vocals, but seemed obsessed with hitting the stratosphere as often as possible.
A definite highlight of the album is a beefed up rendition of Elton John's "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting", complete with shouted backing vocals, a double kick drum barrage, and even a piano!
As a demonstration of the heights thrash could reach at its best, this album is a must own for all dedicated fans of the genre. Unfortunately, the band could never escape from the shadow of a past member.