It's in the nature of the reviewing game that you compare a new release to previous releases. 'The Cold' (2010) was an amazing album. It wasn't 'No Place for Disgrace', which will forever be THE Flotsam & Jetsam album for me and, I'm sure, many other fans of speed/thrash metal, but it was a really good album.
Put as plainly as I can, 'Ugly Noise' isn't as amazing. Don't get me wrong; as the 75 rating indicates this is not a bad album. I daresay there isn't a single bad song present on the album. In fact, with Run and Hide, Arizona's proud sons have come up with a song which for some reason moves me deeply with its melancholy and introvert, dark atmosphere.
So what's wrong? Again, plainly said: I miss one or two fast thrash songs. 90 per cent of the material on 'Ugly Noise' is slow or mid tempo. When looking at the tracklist, I start to get anxious around song four. That's when I need speed. If the up-tempo tune To Be Free had been there, I'd probably have been less restless. Or even the riff oriented Cross the Sky would have been a welcome fist of metal. Motherfuckery has a bit of it as well. Machine Gun also tends towards the speed metal I'm craving, and it's crammed up in the end of the album along the To Be Free.
The thing is this: Individually, all the tracks are strong and convey lots of emotion (as always especially because of Eric A.K.'s formidable voice) and leave room for the musicianship of each of the members of the band, backed by a great production and mix. These people know their stuff!
But as far as the flow of the album goes, the balance isn't struck in my humble opinion. When I listen to the entire album, I'm thinking that the storyline has been given up on in a
realization that many will just listen to one song here and another there in this age of iPod shuffle, iTune and whatnot. So for the old-fashioned geezers like myself who still prefer to listen to an album from one end to another and expect a 46-minute, balanced musical journey, there's definitely room for improvement (and a couple of speed metal hammers, of course).