Flotsam and Jetsam: The Band

Flotsam And Jetsam are a true anomaly in the annals of thrash and arguably the most underrated entity in heavy metal history. True fighters, the Phoenix-based five-piece led by originals Eric “AK” Knutson 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 fan-base were 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.

L/R: Steve Conley, Michael Gilbert, Ken Mary, Eric “AK” Knutson and Michael Spencer

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. Their “Flotsam and Jetsam” (2017) eponymous 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. That record was a successful rebirth of the band’s classic sound for listeners of the modern age, an all killer no filler collection of tracks rooted in the best sauce of the band’s hailed beginnings, showing a rejuvenated energy and top-notch musicianship.

Now their most recent album “The End Of Chaos”(2019) is loaded with 12 crushing songs that clock in at nearly 50 minutes, so for traditional thrashers there is plenty bone to chew on. Reinventing themselves is as high as a risk for bands that have been in the game as long as Flotsam and Jetsam has, as it is trying to keep themselves relevant in their musical endeavors. In a metal subgenre like thrash or speed, penning a record that sounds modern and fresh while still remaining true to their roots is easier said than done for any new band, let alone for three decades veterans.

Despite how high the bar was set with their previous album, Flotsam and Jetsam has not slacken the reins, and “The End Of Chaos” is nothing else but the band at the very top of their game. If the Phoenix disciples arose from their ashes in 2016, now the mythological bird is angry, and out for blood. Flotsam and Jetsam goes for the jugular from the get-go and they are pulling all the stops in the process.