For metal novices, the only time you’ll hear of the band Flotsam & Jetsam is when they are mentioned as the band bassist Jason Newsted left to join Metallica. For the rest of us, Flotsam & Jetsam remains one of the most underrated acts in metal over the past decade or two, and 1992’s “Cuatro” is another overlooked metal masterpiece from the 90’s that really went unnoticed, just like the band themselves. The first three tracks here; “Natural Enemies”, “Swatting at Flies”, and “Message”, are masterpieces, as well as “Wading Through the Darkness” and “Are You Willing”. What’s even more of a shame than the band’s underratedness, is the fact that “Cuatro” has been long out of print, and considering all the recent re-releases which are supposedly “re-mixed and re-mastered” (Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Megadeth), this album deserves it more so. If you’ve never heard Flotsam & Jetsam and you’re into old metal like old Metallica and Megadeth, Pantera, Slayer, Black Sabbath, and such, do yourself a favor and give this a look if you can find it.
Metal Album Reviews[RSS]
This album is clearly Flotsam & Jetsam’s Magnum Opus. The songs all flow coherently and with a precision rarely seen in any genre. The fact that this album was so badly overlooked is indicative of the early 1990’s when all the music critics were completely addled with the grunge movement. The music and the lyrics on this album are still current today.
I remember the first time I saw the video for “Wading Through The Darkness” on Head Banger’s Ball and the subsequent interview that went along with it. I was amazed and knew that I had to go buy this album immediately. If you appreciate truly excellent metal music that is masterfully written, played, produced, and lives outside of time, then “Cuatro” is for you.
You may only know the band as the one Metallica’s Jason Newsted used to be in, but these underground thrash metal legends had everything their mainstream counterparts had. Monster riffage, killer solos, pissed off lyrics, and fist pumping anthems. The group started in 1982 but didn’t get their major label break until 1990 (you know where the story goes from there). For their fourth album the group decided to tread the same ground as those thrashers that came before them; they went commercial. Say what you want, but it worked for Metallica and Megadeth, and Flotsam and Jetsam were no different. Well, except for the platinum records. Hey, it was 1990.
Thumping bass lines mixed with chugga-chugga fury set the pace for the album’s opener “Natural Enemy.” Pounding drums and melodic, yet edgy vocals take you the rest of the way. “Swatting at Flies” is all about the riffage and guitar licks. “The Message” almost sounds like early Queesryche as vocalist Eric AK treads falsetto territory. “Wading Through the Darkness” [sample] is an epic track that is almost movie soundtrack-like with it’s multi-emotional sections. “Double Zero” is about how it’s getting harder and harder to trust anyone. “Never Reveal” is a pure thrash assault with all guitars blazing and drums firing on all cylinders.
“Are You Willing” has one of those bass line intros that you won’t forget. Much like Megadeth’s “Peace Sells.” “(Ain’t Nothing Gonna) Save This World” experiments with sound bites. Five bonus cuts are included on this re-release. “Date With Hate” is the only fresh track as the rest are remixes (and one’s a video). “Wading Through the Darkness” returns as a radio edit and a decent industrial mix. You can watch the video too. “Cradle Me Now” is also presented as a radio edit. Get your copy now, only 2000 are being pressed.
Growing up as a metalhead in the eighties, the thrash metal scene was what I craved. Once the bigger acts got a bit repetitive for my liking, I sought out the underground stuff. I actually discovered Flotsam and Jetsam’s fifth album first, Drift, and was blown away by the musicianship. Cuatro is no different. In fact, the group finds a perfect balance between underground thrash and commercial thrash without selling out their sound. Cuatro is an undiscovered metal classic. If you look hard enough, you’ll find the group is still out there making noise.
In the early 90s many of the pioneering thrash bands began to alter their sound. One route was to take the more technical approach while others started flirting with what would become known as groove metal. Flotsam and Jetsam took a path similar to Metallica and Megadeth in that they slowed down the tempos and embraced a more traditional heavy metal sound. Cuatro, on the other hand, while perhaps more accessible compared to earlier efforts, is a severely underrated album.
On this album Flotsam embrace other music elements, yet without sacrificing their integrity. To be honest the music here is more reminiscent of something akin to Alice in Chains than Pantera. Overall its very melodic, but still aggressive and quite technical in certain areas. There are a few thrashy moments such as on the killer opener Natural Enemies, Never to Reveal, and Hypodermic Midnight Snack, but that isn’t the main focus on this record. A greater emphasis is placed on the vocal patterns and melodies of Eric A.K., who also gives one of his best vocal performances in the band’s history.
That isn’t to say the band has lost focus of their metallic roots, and far from it as there are some devastatingly heavy riffs at play. Swatting at Flies is such a brooding and powerful song. Even Wading Through the Darkness, which is the closest thing to a ballad on the album, has such tremendous weight and emotion behind its melodic dynamics. The guitar leads on the album are quite stunning and well crafted, and each song is memorable in some fashion, especially in regards to the strong lyrics throughout.
The sound they have on this album feels more like a true progression instead of a rushed commercialization. I can’t really compare it to their latter efforts because I haven’t heard much of their newer material, but anyone into their first two classics should give this one a chance. I may actually prefer it to ‘No Place For Disgrace’ now. I also find it to be a rather hard album to find, so definitely pick it up if you ever see it.
I don’t know what can. At least in terms of F’nJ. Natural Enemies is a fantastic number by these underrated thrash masters, and Swatting at Flies, with its offbeat riffs straight out of the heavy metal textbook, is so catchy you’ll most likely be hooked. Everything else on Cuatro is awesome as well, but the first two tracks stand out from the rest in my humble opinion. For me, the albums you MUST HAVE from Flotsam and Jetsam are Doomsday for the Deceiver, When the Storm Comes Down, Cuatro, and High. NONE of those albums disappoint. I’m not recommending F’nJ to my more hardcore brothers and sisters, because the fact is that they might be disappointed, and that’s Ok. As I’ve said before, fans of 80s thrash, Priest, Maiden, Sabbath, Ozzy, and maybe even some fans of 80s hair metal can be shown the way by Flotsam and Jetsam. A great metal band who deserves their time, even if it’s 20 years past due.