Our top 10 Flotsam and Jetsam songs list presents the music of an American band best known for its impactful contribution to the thrash metal scene. The band was formed in 1981 in Arizona going by the moniker Paradox—the band’s name evolved shortly after to Dredlox, then Dogz, and eventually Flotsam and Jetsam in 1984. Bassist Jason Newsted (who succeeded Cliff Burton at Metallica) was among the founding members of Flotsam and Jetsam before departing in 1986. In mid- ‘80s, Flotsam and Jetsam issued a number of genre-definitive thrash metal albums catapulting the band into mainstream success.
Unfortunately, the band failed to achieve massive success in comparison to its peers Slayer, Metallica, and Megadeth. Over the years, Flotsam and Jetsam has managed to issue a total of fourteen studio albums. Recent albums by Flotsam and Jetsam have seen the band find its way back to mainstream success. In this article, we take an introspective look at the ten best Flotsam and Jetsam songs of all time.
Flotsam and Jetsam’s Album Releases over the Years
In 1986, Flotsam and Jetsam issued its debut studio album Doomsday for the Deceiver through Metal Blade Records. Working on the production of the album was Metal Blade Records’ founder Brian Slagel, a music executive known for his work with Slayer, Fates Warning, Mercyful Fate, The Black Dahlia Murder, and Cannibal Corpse among others. Doomsday for the Deceiver is the only album by the band to feature bassist Jason Newsted who eventually joined the band Metallica.
Jason’s departure came sometime before Flotsam and Jetsam started touring in support of the album. Nevertheless, Doomsday for the Deceiver still managed to become one of the stand-out thrash metal albums of the mid- ‘80s. “Hammerhead,” “She Took an Axe,” “Doomsday for the Deceiver,” “Iron Tears,” and “Metalshock” are the best Flotsam and Jetsam songs from the album.
Flotsam and Jetsam members returned in 1988 with their sophomore studio album No Place for Disgrace, issuing the record through Elektra Records. Filling in the void left by Jason was bassist Troy Gregory, a current member of The Dirtbombs. Bassist Troy Gregory is also known for his musical affiliations with Killing Joke, Swans, Andrew Williams, Prong, Spiritualized, and Electric Six.
Some of the songs featured on No Place for Disgrace were co-written by bassist Jason Newsted. Working to make No Place for Disgrace a success was producer Bill Metoyer, a record producer known for his prodigious work with Morbid Angel, Slayer, Trouble, Fates Warning, Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, and Lizzy Borden among others. “Hard On You,” “Misguided Fortune,” “No Place for Disgrace,” and a cover of Elton John’s 1973 hit “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” are the most popular songs by Flotsam and Jetsam from No Place for Disgrace.
When the Storm Comes Down, issued in 1990, marked the band’s third studio album. The album was the band’s first record to be issued through MCA Records with its production works handled by Alex Perialas. Alex is best known for his phenomenal work with S.O.D., Overkill, Bad Religion, Anthrax, and Testament among other bands. “Suffer the Masses,” “E.M.T.E.K.,” “Burned Device,” and “The Master Sleeps” are the best Flotsam and Jetsam songs from the album.
In 1992, Flotsam and Jetsam members returned with their fourth studio album Cuatro. The album was the band’s second record issued through MCA Records with its production works handled by the Grammy Award-winning record producer/engineer Neil Kernon. Other artists who have worked with Neil Kernon include Elton John, Brand X, Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy, Queen, Yes, David Bowie, and Linda Ronstadt.
The departure of Troy Gregory to the heavy metal band Prong saw Flotsam and Jetsam settle for Jason B. Ward as its new bassist on the record Cuatro. Cuatro saw the band depart slightly from its signature thrash metal sound in preference for heavy metal and groove metal. “Swatting at Flies,” “Wading Through the Darkness,” “The Message,” “Cradle Me Now,” and “Natural Enemies” are some of the most popular songs by Flotsam and Jetsam featured on the album Cuatro.
Drift, issued in 1995, marked the band’s fifth studio album and last record issued through MCA Records. The album was also produced by Neil Kernon with the band going deeper into heavy metal influences. “Smoked Out,” “Missing,” “Empty Air,” and “Destructive Signs” are the top musical gems by Flotsam and Jetsam from the album Drift.
Flotsam and Jetsam would later rekindle its affiliations with Metal Blade Records issuing three consecutive studio albums through the label. The three albums include High in 1997, Unnatural Selection in 1999, and My God in 2001. Unfortunately, the three albums were met with a poor reception never making it big in the mainstream. The band returned with its ninth studio album Dreams of Death in 2005 issuing the record through Crash Music. Dreams of Death saw Flotsam and Jetsam blend its signature thrash metal sounds with progressive metal influences, a gamble that didn’t pay off as expected.
The Cold, issued through Driven Music Group (a label founded by Brian Welch of Korn), marked Flotsam and Jetsam’s tenth studio album. Once again, the band explored a blend of thrash metal and progressive metal elements. The result was songs such as “Falling Short,” “Take,” “Black Cloud,” and “Better Off Dead.”
Flotsam and Jetsam returned in 2012 with its eleventh studio album Ugly Noise. While he never featured on any track or reunited with his former bandmates, Jason Newsted is credited with co-writing some of the songs featured on Ugly Noise. “Play Your Part” and “Ugly Noise” are the standout tracks from the album.
In 2016, the band rekindled its way back to mainstream success thanks to the solid musicianship exhibited on its eponymous twelfth studio album. Flotsam and Jetsam was the band’s first album issued through AFM Records, a label (once) home to Annihilator, Doro, Whitesnake, Destruction, Fear Factory, Krokus, and Rhapsody of Fire. The album made it to the forty-sixth spot on the German Albums Chart.
Flotsam and Jetsam is the only album by the band to feature drummer Jason Bittner. The drummer is best known for his stint at the heavy metal band Shadows Fall. Jason Bittner left Flotsam and Jetsam to join the band Overkill. “Time to Go,” “Life Is a Mess,” “Seventh Seal,” and “Iron Maiden” are some of the best Flotsam and Jetsam songs from the band’s eponymous album.
The End of Chaos, issued in 2019, marked the band’s thirteenth studio album. The album was Flotsam and Jetsam’s second record issued through AFM Records. Bittner’s departure left Flotsam and Jetsam in search of a new drummer settling for Ken Mary. Ken has also worked with a number of artists/bands including Alice Cooper, Accept, House of Lords, TKO, and Fifth Angel.
Flotsam and Jetsam saw The End of Chaos achieve mainstream success in Germany and Switzerland. The album made it to the nineteenth spot on the German Albums Chart, rising to position fifty-seven on the Swiss Albums Chart. “Control,” “Prisoner of Time,” “Prepare for Chaos,” “Recover,” and “Demolition Man” are the most popular songs by Flotsam and Jetsam from the album.
The band continued its success streak with its fourteenth studio album Blood in the Water. Blood in the Water was issued in 2021 through AFM Records. The album was a mainstream success in a number of countries including Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands. “Brace for Impact,” “Reaggression,” “Burn the Sky,” and “Blood in the Water” are the best Flotsam and Jetsam songs from the album.
Flotsam and Jetsam’s Legacy
Despite not achieving massive success, Flotsam and Jetsam remain one of the most revered thrash metal bands of all time. Flotsam and Jetsam’s debut studio album Doomsday for the Deceiver was the first album to achieve a 6K rating in Kerrang!’s history. The band saw two of its albums grace the Billboard 200 Chart—No Place for Disgrace peaked at number one hundred and forty-three while When the Storm Comes Down peaked at number one hundred and seventy-nine.
Flotsam and Jetsam’s longevity in the music scene seems to be paying off with the band currently enjoying a three-album mainstream success streak. The renewed strength and persistence exercised by the band inspired our expedition to examine the best Flotsam and Jetsam songs of all time.
#10- Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting
Ushering us into the ten best Flotsam and Jetsam songs list is the electrifying hit “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.” The song is among the emblems of Flotsam and Jetsam’s short-lived relationship with Electra Records, having featured on the band’s sophomore studio album No Place for Disgrace. “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” is a 1973 hit recorded by Elton John and featured on his album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.
Flotsam and Jetsam’s version of the song stands out on the record No Place for Disgrace, thanks to its fast-paced and powerful metal riffing patterns. Other artists/bands that covered this song include Nickelback, Fall Out Boy, W.A.S.P., and The Who.
#9- Demolition Man
“Demolition Man” is one of the most successful recent thrash metal ballads of the twentieth century issued by Flotsam and Jetsam. The song was released as the second single off the band’s thirteenth studio album The End of Chaos. “Demolition Man” features a driving rhythm section that complements Eric’s vocal melodies.
Steve Conley and Michael Gilbert give us a taste of the harmonized guitar riffs and rip-roaring solos which add allure to the song. Vocalist Eric A.K revealed that this song’s lyrics were conceived when they were working on someone’s kitchen. The act of ripping things apart in the kitchen inspired the lyrics of this thrash metal ballad.
#8- Wading Through the Darkness
Cuatro, the band’s fourth studio album, was a successful record despite its slight departure from Flotsam and Jetsam’s signature thrash metal sound. “Wading Through the Darkness” is the best offering from this heavy metal/groove metal-oriented album. The song feels like a Metallica-Esque heavy metal ballad with the main focus here being the vocal melodies of lead singer Eric A.K.
Eric’s distinct vocal delivery on this song crowns him the pillar upon which Flotsam and Jetsam’s success is built. Together with the hit “Swatting at Flies,” “Wading Through the Darkness” received some airplay on MTV Headbanger’s Ball. Alternative metal aficionados will definitely love this pick!
#7- Doomsday for the Deceiver
Flotsam and Jetsam’s debut studio album is one of the most definitive records in the history of thrash metal. The album title track proves too powerful to leave out of our ten best Flotsam and Jetsam songs list. “Doomsday for the Deceiver” starts with an inspirational melodic intro only to evolve soon into a fierce and aggressive thrash metal affair. Spanning over nine minutes, this masterpiece rivals some of the fan favorite picks from the album such as “Iron Tears” and “She Took an Axe.”
#6- Escape from Within
Number six on our ten best Flotsam and Jetsam songs list is the charming hit “Escape from Within.” The song is among the standout tracks featured on the band’s sophomore studio album No Place for Disgrace. “Escape from Within” is not any typical thrash metal ballad—the song takes a special approach in its delivery starting with a melodic intro which slowly builds up into a fast-paced thrash metal ride. It is not a surprise that quite a number of the band’s fans would rank this hit higher than we did!
#5- Brace for Impact
In 2021, Flotsam and Jetsam gave its fans the album Blood in the Water, a record reminiscent of the band’s definitive debut studio album. One of the songs off the album Blood in the Water, “Brace for Impact,” is the archetypical song to Flotsam and Jetsam’s longevity in the thrash metal scene. This blistering pick was issued as the third single from the band’s fourteenth studio album, preceded by two remarkable singles “Burn the Sky” and “Blood in the Water.”
Vocalist Eric A.K. is on fire once again, unleashing an imposing vocal delivery in this angst-driven track. “Brace for Impact” finds the rest of the band members including newcomer Bill Bodily (the bassist) in a tussle to articulate their presence, resulting in one of the ultimate modern thrashers by the band.
#4- Iron Maiden
With numerous awards to its name and over ninety million album sales worldwide, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Iron Maiden are without a doubt one of the most successful heavy metal bands of all time. Flotsam and Jetsam didn’t shy away from showing their admiration of the UK heavy metal favorites with their frantic hit “Iron Maiden.” The song was issued as the first single for the band’s twelve eponymous studio album.
Michael Gilbert and Steve Conley’s twin guitar attack gives the song an intense feel while Jason Bittner (current member of Overkill) amazes us with his astounding and precise drumming skills. Spencer is not left behind having him deliver some killer basslines which add to the infectious feel of the hit “Iron Maiden.” Eric A.K.’s vocals on the other hand channel the song’s uncensored angst.
#3- No Place for Disgrace
The third spot on our ten best Flotsam and Jetsam songs list goes to the thrilling hit “No Place for Disgrace.” “No Place for Disgrace” serves as the album title track and opening track to the band’s sophomore album. The song is one of the three tracks on the band’s sophomore studio album co-written by bassist Jason Newsted who left for Metallica almost immediately after the release of the band’s debut studio album.
“No Place for Disgrace” is a six-minute thrash metal affair that attains every single characteristic of the band’s debut LP Doomsday for the Deceiver. However, the song’s delivery gets a tad bit more aggressive. We also get to experience the “softer” side of Flotsam and Jetsam three minutes into the song—vocalist Eric A.K. goes clean in his vocal delivery while the instrumentation slows down to an atmospheric melodic break. The song shortly after returns to the band’s signature blistering and thunderous thrash metal tunes almost without a warning!
#2- Suffer the Masses
“Suffer the Masses” is one of the most revered picks off the band’s studio album When the Storm Comes Down. This sweltering thrash metal hit manages to outshine most of the songs on the band’s third studio album thanks to its unique melodic nuances and great arrangement. Eric A.K. continues to showcase his vocal dexterity on this hit with the backing vocals adding some allure to the song’s chorus.
Guitarists Edward Carlson and Michael Gilbert present us with meaty guitar riffs and memorable solos that add to this song’s hooky feel. “Suffer the Masses” also feature some impressive percussions that keep up with the song’s thrash metal identity. Sadly, our list fails to feature the hits “E.M.T.E.K.” and “The Master Sleeps,” two standout tracks that give the hit “Suffer the Masses” a run for its money.
Number one on our ten best Flotsam and Jetsam songs list is the phenomenal hit “Hammerhead.” The song serves as the album-opening track to the band’s debut studio album Doomsday for the Deceiver. Musical gems like “Hammerhead” find Eric A.K. asserting his position as one of the most revered thrash metal vocalists of all time.
The lyrics to this anthemic song allude to a guy trying to shoot his shot at a woman he met. “Hammerhead” allows us to taste the muscular basslines by Jason Newsted and the razor-sharp riffs by guitarists Edward Carlson and Michael Gilbert. The solid musicianship exhibited by Jason in songs like “Hammerhead” placed him as the perfect candidate to replace the late Cliff Burton in the band Metallica.
Feature Photo: commons: Lilly Mpl.wiki: Lilly Mreal name: Małgorzata Miłaszewska, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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