I have always been under the assumption that I saw Flotsam and Jetsam back in the day, around 1986. However, having no recollection I conducted some online research, and this triggered faint memories of being at the Hammersmith Odeon when they supported Megadeth promoting the “So Far, So Good… So What!” album, along with Testament. What a different world it was then; thrash metal was the kick in the groin the metal scene desperately needed and it seemed on the ever-increasing rise. Flotsam had released their now criminally forgotten lost classic, “Doomsday for the Deceiver”. The tragic death of Cliff Burton looked like it would spell the end for the Flots as bassist and main songwriter Jason Newsted left to be the next Metallica bassist. Flotsam survived as a band and continued to the extent that they now have released 12 albums. So when vocalist Eric A. Knutson asks for a pause for breath between songs and says “I’m nearly 50”, it really punched me just how long ago the thrash explosion took place. Anyway, more on the Flots later as there are two support bands before the legends hit the stage.
First on are Southampton three-piece thrash outfit Desolator. They are young, raw and thrash with enthusiasm, and are heavily influenced by early Metallica and Sacred Reich. The sole British group on the bill they provide the only up to date political statement of the evening with “Fuck the Tories -it’s the survival of the richest”. Entertaining enough but a bit of fine-tuning music-wise may be useful.
Five-piece Belgium band Bilksem enter the stage and immediately demonstrate they are a leaner and tighter proposition. Fronted by Peggy Meeusen, they deliver mostly mid-tempo pace thrash with occasional forays into faster moments. A few of their songs do have solid crunchy riffs but unfortunately don’t quite levitate themselves from just being grounded in the ordinary.
The Flots take the stage and unsurprisingly the classic “Doomsday…” album dominates proceedings. They attack the songs as if they are fresh and still genuinely enjoy playing them. In return the songs sound alive, vital and enormously classic. ‘She Took an Axe’ is blisteringly good and the band are incredibly tight. Things take a bit of a worrying turn halfway through the killer ‘Hammerhead’ as a guitar amp blows and I see vocalist Eric A. Knutson mouth the technical term “It’s fucked”. Somehow it gets sorted and they head straight into a colossal ‘Iron Tears’. It strikes me for the first time how the “Doomsday…” songs hint at an early Iron Maiden and NWOBHM influence as much as being influenced by the thrash scene. Of the more recent tracks played the best is ‘Swatting the Flies’ and ‘Suffer the Masses’ with its gigantic pulverizing riff and immense mid-tempo heaviness. The night closes with the epic ‘Doomsday For the Deciever’ and confirms just how monumental that track and album still is. Good stuff indeed.