SKULL636

FLOTSAM AND JETSAM, Metal Shock (1985, demo)

The skull:
Maybe I’m prejudiced against any comedy or mockery because I love the first several F&J albums so much (and I believe I can speak for the other BDS friar on that point, as well), but I always thought this skull design was completely killer. Dig the J stabbing its way through the chasms of the eyeholes, drawing blood to boot. The logo is one of the coolest and most stylish from the American thrash wave of the 1980s. Same can’t be said for the demo title font, which I swear I’ve seen used for “Live Wire” somewhere, whatever “Live Wire” is. I know I’ve seen it. And about a million other album and fanzine titles of the era. But yeah, the skull and logo? I’d wear a shirt with that on it.

The music:
Four songs here, only one of which appeared revamped on the next year’s debut, Doomsday for the Deceiver (“Hammerhead”). There is also, of course, “I Life You Die,” which appeared later, also revamped, on their perfect-expect-for-THAT-song second album. These versions are great — obviously rawer, but with a different guitar noodle here or a different Erik A.K. shriek there. Then we have “The Evil Sheik,” which boasts a variety of riffs that are all Armored Saint-meets-Omen, a few King Diamond-ish vocal moments, and an ending that is total Iron Maiden circa 1980. Overall it’s a good song, just not great enough to pass muster for the considerably speedier debut, and obviously the most derivative of any of the Jason Newsted-penned early Flots tunes. “The Beast Within,” now this is interesting. I always felt this song lacked something next to the other three, something that easily fit into a more traditional mold. It has that spandex-and-spikes vibe of the many bands of the era that had one foot in true heavy metal and the other in cock rock. I didn’t realize until today, in examining this skull and the music inside, that it’s actually a cover song. Weird choice too: a song from Stormtrooper’s EP, Armies of the Night (1985, Ironworks)Why? Was Jason Newsted out of ideas, or from Ironworks or Stormtrooper have some blackmail-worthy dirt on him? Incidentally, Stormtrooper featured guitarist Mick Sweda, who later went on to fame in King Kobra and then again in Bullet Boys. (No wonder I smelled hairspray.) I had to check out the original version, and it’s pretty killer, like a rougher, tougher early Ratt (and I love early Ratt). Very “early Metal Massacre comps” if you know what I mean. So, not a bad song, you just wonder why Newsted and Flotsam relied on it for their second demo. Weirdness.
— Friar Wagner

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