Monday, May 19, 2014

Album Review - Flotsam and Jetsam - "No Place For Disgrace 2014"

Phoenix, Arizona's Flotsam and Jetsam have quirked up the scene for over 30 years, harvesting a loyal cult following.  They've always been just a little too weird for the metal mainstream, but for those of us who dig deep for obscure 80's thrash metal The Flot's first two albums have gained classic status. After their debut LP "Doomsday for the Deceiver" was remixed and re-released to great acclaim, fans clamored for the band's follow up "No Place for Disgrace" to get the same treatment. Sadly, the band was unable to obtain the original master tapes. So they did next best thing and just re-recorded the damn thing.

The result is a pretty fun little trip for those of us in the cult, since the band has practically the same lineup today that they did in 1988 (only bassist Troy Gregory is missing). The production has a wonderful tinge of 80's-ness to it that many surviving thrash bands have discarded for more extreme textures. Instead, F&J have revisited the old sound, and just made sure that it was mixed way, way better than the muddy, bass-less original.

Those not familiar with the original LP will perhaps wonder what all the fuss is about, since "No Place for Disgrace" is very much an artifact of the 1980's. Flotsam and Jetsam weren't the most ground-breaking or technically astounding thrash band around, but I love them because there's just something intangibly odd about their music. F&J are known for unusual lyrics, and the title track's ode to seppuku is one of their most effective. I've always liked how the song slows down for a poetic description of the act, almost like time as stopped at that moment, before quickening again for the final, brutal verse.

Another gem is the gladiatorial smack-down "I Live, You Die", though it's not quite as snappy as the original version. My favorite b-track from the album, "Misguided Fortune" sounds miles better, with improved vocals and production to match those impossibly heavy riffs. And of course the band's thrashed out cover of "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" is still an absolute blast. It's such a perfect song for most pits that I'm amazed no other band thought of it first.

Overall, the sometimes iffy solos of the original album have been improved, and the riffs (the main attraction) sound so, so much better than they did before. Some of the tempos have been slowed down, and lead singer Eric A. K. doesn't go for a lot of the super high notes anymore. Both of these just take a little getting used to, and while a few of my favorite moments of the original aren't here anymore, there are some new ones to make up for them.

"No Place for Disgrace" isn't a canonized genre masterpiece like "Ride the Lightning" or "Reign in Blood". This is one for the fans and I think they'll be happy. It's a blast listening to the band revisit these old tunes, with far better production and just enough tweaks that the whole enterprise doesn't feel redundant. May The Flot continue to rock for many, many years to come.