After their previous three albums on Metal Blade, Flotsam and Jetsam have released their new disc Dreams of Death through a different label, Crash Music. This platter finds them going back to their older thrash metal roots as well as merging more atmospheric elements into their songs. Overall, the writing is more coherent, the guitar work is more exciting, and Eric AK's vocals are more effective. Dreams of Death may be their best album since the band's Cuatro/Drift days, featuring some meaty thrash metal riffage on the first song "Straight to Hell", which ties in with the brief intro track. This song is one of the most complex, rhythmically advanced, and heaviest numbers on Dreams of Death. Some great guitar work adds gripping melodies and matches the intricate vocals of Eric AK who offers an array of rich vocal deliveries throughout.
The best part of Dreams of Death is the band's noticeable improvement in songwriting, utilising plenty of melodic guitar lines that aren't afraid to explore thrash metal territory at times. Furthermore, there are solos on this disc aplenty. Rather than diving headlong into a groove-oriented style as most old school thrash band tend to do these days, Flotsam and Jetsam are still playing fierce rhythms and stormy guitar runs. Even the shorter tracks, which don't seem to be on the same level as some other songs, have at least a very satisfying guitar solo. The shortest song "Parasychotic" would be considered mediocre had it not been for the awesome guitar solo at the end. I detect some early period Voivod in this solo, which is a welcome similarity to these ears.
It is, however, the more atmospheric elements found on the songs "Bleed", "Childhood Hero", and the amazing "Bathing in Red" which truly diversify the album. Flotsam and Jetsam carefully inject fragments of acoustic guitars and weave them into a metallic tapestry, utilising curious drum and bass workout, overlapping guitar themes, and a fantastic vocal performance. Granted Eric AK is not screaming his lungs out in every song, he still does them all justice singing interesting lyrics ("Look in His Eyes") and rendering the songs more powerful. "Nascentes Morimar" is the instrumental finale of the album and one of the finest on the record. Tense yet overtly expressive guitar themes overlap each other creating thick tonal movements and are replaced by dark acoustic passages. No showboating on this song, but it's so well written, played and recorded that it will please many Flotsam and Jetsam fans. I highly recommend picking up the version with the bonus track "Out of Mind", which is also featured with a hidden track, as the song is absolutely essential and exemplifies the band's thrash metal assault. I love the guitar solo on this piece - it may be the best on the album actually. This is also the longest piece, running almost 12 minutes, but there's a brief silence after "Out of Mind" which ties in with the atmospheric untitled number. Granted it's not a real song per se, it really enhances the overall quality of the record.
Travis Smith has done a fitting artwork for Dreams of Death. It really matches the grey, bleak feelings conveyed. My only complaint would be the production, as it seems a little flat during some points. Strong dynamics and more clarity among the instruments would have rendered this a more amazing record. I believe Flotsam and Jetsam could reach really impressive results if they worked with a producer like Andy Sneap (Nevermore, Arch Enemy).
- Straight to Hell
- Look in His Eyes
- Childhood Hero
- Bathing in Red
- Nascentes Morimar
- Out of Mind (with hidden track)