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Pop Music Reviews : Brutes With Brains

October 19, 1987|DUNCAN STRAUSS

On its first album, Flotsam & Jetsam offered thanks to Metallica, Paganini and Kermit the Frog. And the Phoenix-based band's performance Friday at Fender's reflected the brute force, sophistication and humor suggested, respectively, by that triumvirate.

Racing through selections from that debut, "Doomsday for the Deceiver," and from its forthcoming follow-up, the quintet served notice that it belongs on that short list of bands that can crank out both brain-rattling and brainy speed-metal.

Flotsam & Jetsam barreled along with blast-furnace intensity, but the immense power was often balanced with surprising precision--not to mention multiple time changes. This definitely is not just another metal squad that roars loudly and carries a big shtick .

Most of the lyrics from "Doomsday for the Deceiver" were written by chief wordsmith, bassist and founding member Jason Newsted, who left the band to join Metallica a while back. Observers in speed-metal circles predicted that Flotsam & Jetsam wouldn't survive the loss. We'll have to wait for the next LP to see exactly how well the songwriting holds up, but on stage at least, new bass-man Mike Spencer and his four cohorts seem to be proving the skeptics wrong.

Second-billed Excel at times displayed the bludgeoning power of the headliner, but never the complexity or focused fury.

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