American thrashers Flotsam and Jetsam are back in 2021 with a frankly ferocious new album, Blood In The Water, an album which sees them carrying on and in fact extending the good work started by their last two releases, 2016’s self-titled effort and The End of Chaos from 2019.

I said in my review for TEoC that the band seemed to have finally carved a niche for themselves in the metal arena where they and their fans can be happy – heavier than Metal Church, less mental than Overkill, was the crux of what I was banging on about, basically – and on Blood In The Water they carve that niche deeper and make it more well-defined. Everything about this album develops themes started previously, culminating in the hard to beat trad thrash anthems that bookend the album, the title track and the stunning 7 Seconds.

In between all this there’s a hell of a lot to enjoy; Brace For Impact bears all the hallmarks of classic F&J, as does the excellent Dragon. But it’s not just the song quality that goes further on Blood In The Water; the whole band put in killer performances, with drummer Ken Mary again giving a thrash masterclass behind the kit, giving the whole sound the rock solid base in partnership with new four string rhythm buddy Bill Bodily it needs to flourish. Likewise Michael Gilbert and Steve Conley, now seven years into their axe partnership, display an understanding and empathy for one another’s playing that sees them developing into one of the most lethal guitar duos doing the rounds – and then there’s vocalist Eric ‘A.K.’ Knutson

In a style of music that often sees the vocalist as the first one to weaken in a veteran unit, Erik A.K. shows no sign of the ageing process catching up with him on BitW; in fact, his wounded dog howl seems to be intensifying with age, powering dramatic tracks like A Place To Die over the edge with superbly controlled, thunderous vocalisation. If you’re a long term fan of this band like me, it’ll be a joy to hear the man going about his business on this record, I assure you…

Great stuff, then, and easily one of the best releases in this band’s long and not always successful career. To hear them firing on all cylinders after so long is a joy but, perhaps more than that, the rejoicing lays in the fact that the band are doing all of this on their own terms without a hint of compromise. More power to their collective elbows!

Blood In The Water releases on June 4th.