To Live Is to Die
The Making of Flotsam and Jetsam’s Doomsday for the Deceiver
The arrival of Flotsam and Jetsam’s debut album caused a stir on many fronts. Doomsday for the Deceiver may have been released by Metal Blade—one of America’s leading independent metal lights—on Independence Day in 1986, but it was the Brits who took an exceptional shine to the pack of Arizona wild dogs (repped by Flotzilla, their jacked-up, Godzilla-meets-anglerfish mascot). Famously, Kerrang! gave the album a review glowing enough to power the grid of the band’s Phoenix home, topping high praise with an improbable six out of a possible five “K” score.
Granted, Kerrang!’s hyperbole concerning Flotsam’s classy-yet-blue-collar, energetic-but-virtuosic thrash was fully justified. Ribald hook-up anthem “Hammerhead” was a stadium-sized ripper powered by Jason Newsted’s walking basslines; “Iron Tears” had the guitar tandem of Edward Carlson and Michael Gilbert playing off drummer Kelly David-Smith’s precise pounding to deliver an infectious staccato shuffle; “Desecrator” combined galloping classic rock with sinister speed metal; and the title track was an epic, progressive marvel. Then there was frontman Erik “A.K.” Knutson, who quickly shot to the top of metal’s vocal pack with an unbelievable range, contagious vocal lines and the ability to punch holes in cloud cover, especially with the classically inspired, high-pitched harmonization in “Fade to Black” and “She Took an Axe.”
The hard-working quintet had a classic at the ready, one which the press had rolled out the red carpet for. But as quickly as the future appeared to be theirs for the taking, all plans were detoured after Metallica’s Cliff Burton was killed and bassist/bandleader Jason Newsted secured the gig that every thrashing four-stringer would have traded their grandma to get. For all involved, Doomsday for the Deceiver meant different things. For Newsted, it was an inadvertent stepping stone to 14 years spent with the biggest band in metal. For Gilbert and Knutson, it was the first of a 15-album career that continues to this day. For David-Smith and Carlson, it was the dominating force of their creative lives until they both stepped down in 2014. For thrash metal fans, it remains a genre highlight and one we are elated and honored to induct into our Hall of Fame.
Need more Flotsam and Jetsam? To read the entire seven-page story, featuring interviews with the members who performed on Doomsday for the Deceiver, purchase the print issue from our store, or digitally via our app for iPhone/iPad or Android.