Throughout their thirty plus year career, Flotsam & Jetsam have been labeled as underrated and overshadowed by their thrash metal peers like Metallica and Anthrax. But with their latest album, The End of Chaos, Flotsam & Jetsam (F&L) have released the best thrash metal album of the 2010’s and solidified their position in metal’s hierarchy.
By combining elements of thrash, NWOBHM, and traces of progressive metal, The End of Chaos works as a collective showcase for each member’s talents. Each of the five members gets their moment in the spotlight throughout the album. For example, singer Eric “A.K.” Knutson’s performance on “Recover” is melodic and powerful. Knutson channels his inner Bruce Dickinson and layers his stellar vocals amongst the tight guitar riffs and pummeling double bass fills with precision and ferocity. Amazingly, he accomplishes this without sacrificing his tone and vocal quality.
The NWOBHM influences that spawned thrash are evident throughout The End of Chaos. “Prepare for Chaos,” “Demolition Man,” and “Snake Eye” all contain the galloping bass lines and twin guitar melodies that defined NWOBHM. Dual guitarists Michael Gilbert and Steve Conley deserve to be mentioned amongst the best metal guitar duos like Iron Maiden’s Adrian Smith and Dave Murray, as each of the albums twelve tracks is the best guitar offering of their career.
However, the highlight of the album is Ken Mary’s awe inspiring drum work. Each song is filled with machine gun like double bass beats, and his ability to shift from breakneck speed to slower syncopated rhythms gives The End of Chaos a progressive metal sound reminiscent of Dream Theater. While many metal drummers focus on speed or complex patterns, they often do so to the detriment of the song. But Mary’s ability to juggle complexity and speed is a testament to his talent and balances the stellar guitar work of Conley and Gilbert.
My expectations were mixed when first starting this album, but I can gladly say that halfway through the opening track I found myself headbanging and air drumming along with the band. In fact, this is an album that I can honestly say will be in constant rotation on my playlist throughout 2019, as it is the first metal masterpiece of this new year.