Five Heavy Albums that Changed My Life with Eric A.K. of Flotsam and Jetsam

Flotsam and Jetsam have been slogging away since 1984, with the thrashers recently putting out The End of Chaos, their thirteenth full-length. To celebrate the release of the album, we caught up with vocalist Eric A.K. to go down memory lane and find out what heavy albums changed his life.

Read on to see what ’70s rockers he dressed up as when he was a kid (one guess; c’mon), which metal classic scared him when he was young and what ’86 thrash album he feels changed the game for all of us, forever.

1. KISS – Destroyer (1976)
This is really my first memory of anything heavy. My friends and I would each pick an instrument and air jam to this record, pretending we were in front of thousands of fans. “Detroit Rock City” has an intro that gives you the feel that it is coming at you from down the street. When it hits, you have no choice but to pick up an air guitar and jam along. This entire record gave me my first real taste of aggressive emotions in music. I simply could not get enough. “God of Thunder,” “King of the Night Time World,” “Shout It out Loud.” We even all dressed like KISS for Halloween. I was an official member of the KISS Army. I wore the transfer tattoos; still have the poster of Ace Frehley on a Harley. I also had the 6’ x 4’ wall poster of the band and live photos of Gene sweaty, with the blood dripping down his face and the fire-filled stage set-up. This record opened up a whole new world for me. It really sent me into the abyss of the dark side of music.

2. Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast (1982)
What was this? Skeletons, demons, fire… What kind of evil was I about to embark upon? Even though a bit frightened, the band I had just joined was looking to head in this dark, aggressive direction. So, on the old turntable it went. This album sent my head and my musical taste into a tailspin. 666 had me scared. Was I going to hell for listening to this stuff? Will I be visited by nightmares because of this? By the time I got to “Children of the Damned,” I was hooked for life. With “Hallowed Be Thy Name” I realized this type of singing, even though it was not looked at as singing by most, at the time, was the most challenging and aggressive type of vocals out in the world, and I wanted that challenge. I must have listened to this record over and over non-stop for weeks. I soon became mesmerized by the Steve Harris bass lines and the harmonizing guitars. I was now deep into the process of shape-shifting into an official metalhead. There was no turning back at this point. Bruce Dickinson became a goal. A bar to shoot for when developing myself as a metal singer.

3. Judas Priest – Unleashed in the East (1979)
For me, this took the harmonizing guitar thing to another level. And how could this big, dorky, biker dude be spitting out these vocals? I still don’t know how he does it. “The Green Manalishi”… didn’t know what a manalishi was, but, man, was I enthralled. Couldn’t help but to bang your head to the rhythm. And when Rob hit the ‘oooh oooh’s in that song, I had to start developing my scream. The challenge of a career for any metal singer at the time was to mimic the screams on “Victim of Changes.” If you could get close to hitting these screams, you could hold your head up high around other want-to-be singers, who made up excuses for not following suit. The intensity of the end of “Sinner,” OMG. After hearing this song you soon know his vocal style and sound would never be matched. After singing this song and the music has stopped, you get that same satisfied and tired feeling you get right after great sex. This was also the first time I realized there were other places to play besides the good ol’ USA. The sound of the Asian crowd hanging on every note and every word gave me hope for the future of my band and my career.

4. Dio – Holy Diver (1983)
Just when I started listening to all the people telling me what a great singer I am and my ego started to grow, I listened to “Holy Diver.” Ronnie’s power and phrasing is something from another world. If you need a reality check as a singer, just listen to this record. Not only was he an amazing singer, but also a lyricist from another dimension. The melody lines this guy came up with changed and really threw my own writing style into a realm I didn’t even know existed. Combine that with the amazing solos of Vivian Campbell and the snare attacks from Appice… this record was a complete package, with no downsides. “Rainbow in the Dark”; what kind of demonic mind can take something as uplifting and safe as a rainbow and turn it into a dark metal lyric? “Stand up and Shout”; never heard this much snare before. It really fit. And Ronnie, telling me to let my emotions and aggression loose. This song was better than any of the drugs I had tried out at this point. “Caught in the Middle”; hooky as hell. I wore out this cassette in my car for weeks (that’s right—I said “cassette”). “Gypsy,” “Straight Through the Heart,” “Invisible”; these are songs you can never forget.

5. Metallica – Master of Puppets (1986)
You knew right away, after listening to this record for the first time, the game has changed forever. In the world of heavy metal, this was the Beethoven’s 5th. This record made everything up to this point tame and safe. The constant downpicking in songs that made aggression up to this point a simple yawn. This record changed every metal song written by anyone since. If you hear a metal song nowadays that is not influenced by “The Master” in one way or another, you aren’t listening close enough. This guy could not sing in the traditional manner of singing. Instead, started a whole new traditional manner of singing. One that is known as a metal standard, now. This record and this band put a country on a global map that no one even knew was there—Heavy Metal. The rest of us trying to muddle our way through the world of metal should take a moment once in a while and thank Metallica for what they have done for our industry. I still find it hard to not compare every album to this.