"Ugly Noise"

(Metal Blade)

01. Ugly Noise
02. Gitty Up
03. Run and Hide
04. Carry On
05. Rabbit's Foot
06. Play Your Part
07. Rage
08. Cross the Sky
09. Motherfuckery
10. I Believe
11. To Be Free
12. Machine Gun

RATING: 6/10

FLOTSAM AND JETSAM explored the still relatively novel approach of "fan funding" to finance their eleventh studio album, "Ugly Noise" - an album that would coincidentally see the veteran Arizona thrash institution welcoming back founding guitarist Michael Gilbert and drummer Kelly David Smith (both absent since 1997's "High"), and, to boot, coauthoring a few tunes with original bassist Jason Newsted, who sadly stopped short of rejoining the fold himself.

Problem is, with all of these historical precedents in place, the band may find itself issuing a few refunds.

That's because "Ugly Noise", while far from reflecting its unfortunate title and being an outright dud, sounds nothing like the FLOTSAM AND JETSAM of old: the band that most fans loyal enough to open their wallets ahead of time, presumably, wanted to hear once again.

Instead, "Ugly Noise" divides its time between the MOR metal ("middle-of-the-road metal") heard on the title track, "Rabbit's Foot", "Play Your Part" and "Rage", and a curious interpretation of groove metal exemplified by "Gitty Up", "I Believe" and "Cross the Sky" - the latter bouncing along like these Arizona natives are trying to wrest the "desert rock" tag away from QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE.

Another daring experiment, "Run and Hide", is especially intriguing as it chugs along at well-under-thrash speeds, buoyed by what appear to be 1980s guitar synths (think JUDAS PRIEST's "Turbo", MAIDEN's "Somewhere in Time", etc.) while introducing ACCEPT-like baritone background vocals, for good-or-bad measure (opinions may vary).

Even the quasi-thrasher "Machine Gun" is inexplicably harassed by buzzing synths and the aptly named "Motherfuckery" buries the metal under sheets of acid techno, leaving only parts of "To Be Free" (note its razor sharp staccato riffs) and the bulk of "Carry On" to fly the thrash flag at all - albeit miles removed from the epic technical flights of mid-1980s F&J.

In sum, while you have to give FLOTSAM AND JETSAM props for having the nads to eschew a safe retreat to old glories (this being the path chosen by most of their still active '80s thrash brethren, after all), did they have to float perhaps the riskiest creative departure of their career with fan funds committed up front?

Based on the mixed musical evidence at hand, the answer is "probably not" (followed closely by, "where do I get my refund?"), but should you be one of the few people who actually expected a largely thrash-free, borderline schizophrenic FLOTSAM AND JETSAM album when you learned about their (almost) classic lineup reunion, then "Ugly Music" won't fail to entertain.


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