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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Metal Louvre: Flotsam and Jetsam - No Place For Disgrace

Thrash legends Flotsam and Jetsam were put on the map mostly due to Jason Newsted's ascension to Metallica following his time in this group. They also gained a minor bit of notoriety in 1990 with their speedy and amusing rip on Elton John's "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting." In a way, lending a thrash kick to one of John's rare aggressive and mashing tunes was a slight bit of genius. Only Realm's blazing cover of The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" can top that.

While every serious metal fan has Flotsam's Doomsday for the Deceiver in his or her collection for its cult prestige, No Place For Disgrace might be the most consistent album in their catalog. This, even while dabbling in touches of progression that would later become their stamp from Cuatro on through.

No Place for Disgrace's album artwork, however, was monster bait if you were merely trolling through the metal section back in the day. Boris Vallejo's haunting interpretation of the Japanese suicide pact seppuku is one of the most eerie images to flood a metal record ever. And there's no Satan, corpses or pagan goats to be found. This is for real.

Most people are aware the ancient Japanese code of bushido mandated that any samurai royally screwing up or bringing dishonor upon himself or his feudal lord was obligated to take his life. As Vallejo vividly depicts, the offending samurai guts himself with a wakizashi while a standby lops off his head. In some cases, the lore of who the standby was presented its own code of honor, particularly if that samurai had the stones to do the beheading or not.

On No Place For Disgrace, Vallejo reveals no conflict between these samurai. The act is in full swing, the dishonored samurai is offering his final prayers before impaling himself, while his standby is more than committed to his part. There's a sense of twisted beauty to Vallejo's painting but moreover, a disturbing sense of resolve. Still, you have to wonder, is the standby struggling inside to do his duty or was he delegated to the task and eager to get it over with?

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