Flotsam and Jetsam

The Cold

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Though they actually maintained a pretty regular recording schedule over the years, while many other thrash bands broke up and then reunited, Flotsam and Jetsam will unfortunately (and unfairly) only ever be footnoted in the annals of rock history as the band that lost bassist Jason Newsted to Metallica. And Dave Mustaine thinks he's had it rough, living in Metallica's shadow…boo-f**king-hoo! No, that shadow has certainly loomed much larger over Flotsam and Jetsam's career, as they weathered the innumerable years (including the brutal grunge era) of touring whenever and wherever they could while recording for a number of decreasingly invested labels, and gradually losing founding members along the way so that just a shadow of their old selves remained by the turn of the century. And yet, every time they were supposedly left for dead, the group showed signs of life via sporadic new studio albums (2001's My God, 2005's Dreams of Death) that, though notably inconsistent, still boasted a few flashes of glories past. The latest of these, 2010's The Cold, follows accordingly within this pattern, despite counting no original bandmembers save for singer Eric A.K. Knutson (who, admittedly, may be Flotsam's most recognizable sonic hallmark) and breaking away from familiar thrash templates for much of its duration (exceptions include "Blackened Eyes Staring", the Overkill-like "K.Y.A.," and the much memorable "Falling Short"). Mind you, were the songs on offer not maddeningly uneven in quality, this variety would be most welcome, especially in light of the tiresomely pervasive retro-thrash fad of the period. So, while melodic modern metal standouts like "Take" and particularly the ballad "Better Off Dead" succeed with little help from anything thrash, less fortunate efforts abound, including the deliberate, even-keeled, and ultimately boring title track (where the group sounds more like ‘90s Queensrÿche than themselves) and the formulaic groove metal of "Black Cloud," which simply never gels. The end results will hardly horrify persistent Flotsam and Jetsam fans, now long accustomed to slightly lower expectations, but neither will they herald a return to respectability for these long-spurned underground warriors; but then, at this stage in the game, survival itself is a badge of honor.

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