Release DetailsLABEL Crash Music
RELEASED ON 7/26/2005
Flotsam And Jetsam
Dreams Of Death
posted on 7/2005 By:
The long serving Flotsam and Jetsam return a little older and weathered, but steadfast in their role among the keepers of the flame. Like most, I became interested in F&J in 1987, when nearly all metal fans were ravenous for any Metallica-related metal. Much the same way that we had found Megadeth not long before, we learned of Jason Newsted’s ex-band. Luckily Doomsday for the Deceiver represented the band and genre well, and soon after, No Place For Disgrace made a case that although not in the same league as the big four, F&J had the potential to ride the thrash wave to the big time. Whether it was the absence of Newsted, the stylistic shifts, or perhaps the dissipation of the Metallica-related interest, things began to slow down for F&J in the 90’s, although they continued to put out well conceived and highly regarded albums. After 2001’s My God, original vocalist Eric A.K. quit the band in a very public feud, but the band has put their differences aside in order to work, and returned with their first effort in four years.
Dreams of Death is a concept album, always a risky proposition. It is conceptually and musically ambitious effort, and if nothing else, one has to tip their hat to Flotsam and Jetsam for choosing not to simply phone in a rehash of well worn retreads. The strategy pays off, and even the parts that don’t work as well are more forgivable in the context of the larger story and album, which revolves around a protagonist haunted by the psychological effects of dreams and thoughts as well as the act of murder. The band serves up ample variety of tempos and melodies that effectively communicate the compulsions, confusion, and anguished remorse the character feels as he experiences the blurring of dreams and reality and the impact of his actions. After a toothless track of intro noise, the thrashy, finger cramping “Straight to Hell” lurches forward as a neck breaker and plot overview, which continues on the like minded “Parapsychotic”. But as the album and story unfold the band starts to vary its approach. The slower, swaying melody of “Bleed” tells of the character’s intrusive thoughts and builds to a massively thunderous climax that represents the giving way of his emotional dam. “Childhood Hero” is the story of the accidental killing of the character’s father, and it has the big chorus, melody, crunch and emotional elements to make it a lock as a fan favorite. This is followed by the mellow, beaten tone of “Bathing In Red”, which despite a few questionable lyrics, is also a stronger moment on the album. The album closes with another crusher, “Out of Mind”, although the track is diluted with extended silence at the end before a redundant collage of a bonus track is tacked to the end.
This kind of album needs and deserves a suitably polished production, but unfortunately Dreams of Death was shortchanged. The low budget sound muddies some of the more subtle instrumentation, but most problematic is that the vocals are mixed too high, which exacerbates the lesser production. Lots of good albums suffer from production problems, but while Dreams of Death is entirely listenable, the sub par sound initially camouflages a substantial portion of the quality of the album, making several listens necessary to really feel out all of the subtleties of the songwriting, which despite a few missteps is surprisingly solid, as is the musicianship. Full marks to Flotsam and Jetsam for continuing to remain creative even as elder statesmen. Dreams of Death is a solid offering from one of the stalwarts of metal.
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