Saturday, 11 May 2013

Newsted "Metal"

Jason Newsted was always just a tad out of place in Metallica. He came in to the band just months after the death of bass legend, and arguably the best metal bassist to ever record an album, Cliff Burton. Immediately after joining the band he faced sort of an initiation by his band mates. My personal favourite story is that when he would sign autographs for fans, he would write “bassface” and when other members of the band signed the same item, they would cross out the “b” in “bassface”...yah you get it. Even after the initiation ended he was still just the new guy in the band, and that always held a spot in the memory of the band and older fans of the band that he couldn’t seem to live up to despite being an excellent bass player. Jason himself at many times during his career still to this day has mentioned Cliff as being the best bass player to ever live, to demonstrate that he knew he wasn’t ever in Metallica to be better than Cliff.

He was, however, fortunate enough to capitalize on the fact that he entered the band at the height of their careers, recording the Grammy nominated ...And Justice For All (infamously losing to Jethro Tull) and then recording what most (but not I) would call the best metal album of all time; Metallica’s self titled album, better known as The Black Album. After releasing the less than stellar Load and Re-Load albums (by this point the band said sayonara to thrash metal and concentrated more on the bluesy metal sound of their self titled album) as well as a few other projects with the band such as the Garage Inc album and the live symphony metal album S&M, Jason was starting to get burned out and (rightfully so) didn’t like the direction the band was starting to take and suggested a hiatus. The notion of a hiatus was rejected by the band, so Jason quit, and he says has never regretted doing so.

After leaving the band, he started his own band Echobrain (which was actually started while he was in Metallica), joined Canadian heavy metal band Voivod, had that controversial stint on Rockstar Supernova and even joined Ozzy Osbourne for a bit. Probably the best thing to happen to him though was getting inducted, with Metallica in to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He most recently started his own band, simply called Newsted, with drummer Jesus Mendez Jr. and guitarist Jessie Farnsworth, as well as Staind guitarist Mike Muchok as a touring member.

The band has as of yet released a four-song EP simply called Metal. The album is unique in that Jason not only plays guitar and bass, but he also produced it and sings lead vocals, and you wouldn’t believe me when I say he can actually do a hell of a job belting out a good old time metal sounding lead vocal. It has a very old school thrash metal sound to it, almost sounding like Motรถrhead at moments.

The album starts off with a classic Metallica thrash sounding Soldierhead, with a fast riff and hard pounding drums. Jason displays his vocal range...well it’s not a range really. Picture Lemmy Kilmister and the way he sings, not his voice but the way he sings with his voice, and that’s how Jason sounds in this song, but that just makes this song, and album, sound even more like a classic metal album. Should he try singing for another style of music, it wouldn’t go at all, but as long as he is singing for a heavy metal band, which is the only style Jason would ever play in the first place, his vocal style is fine.

Godsnake slows down the pace a bit to fit a more “doom metal” standard. This time Jason hits a few higher notes with his voice in creepy fashion, matching with the songs horror-esque riff to make the song sound as dark as possible, with controversial lyrics to boot.

King of the Underdogs has a bit of blues-rock influence to its slow intro, which shows a good deal of musicality. The song turns in to a 6 minute epic. This song leads in to the albums concluding track, another 6+ minute track called Skyscraper, this time showing somewhat more of a groove metal sound mixed with the bands thrash sound. For the most part the song is structured similarly to every other song on the album in terms of its classic metal riffs and break downs and intense vocals.

The end result is an EP that almost completely rebirths the sound of thrash metal. When bands such as Metallica are struggling to find their thrash sound again after years of playing blues-based heavy metal and other past thrash companions such as Megadeth belt out metal album after great metal album but still haven’t quite found the thrash sound that made them what they were 30 years ago, Newsted revitalizes the scene almost completely. Simple heavy song structures and harsh metallic vocals that don’t involve “screaming” make Metal an album that any metal fan sound get and should enjoy. To my surprise it’s widely available for purchase, and cheap, wherever albums are sold. They will also be on this year’s Gigantour with Megadeth, Black Label Society, Hellyeah and Device 


King of the Underdogs” –­ It’s a difficult task to review a four-song EP, it’s even more difficult to pick a highlight, but luckily King of the Underdogs made this choice easy. This song, as mentioned earlier, displays the best musicality. What I mean by that is it does not maintain the same pace throughout. It starts off like a simply hard rock song, maybe even a grunge song, slow and low, only to eventually pick up in to a metal song by all definition. Only it doesn’t end there. The song maintains a sort of slow doom metal sound during its verses, but picks up to a fast thrash metal song for its chorus. It may be six minutes long, but it keeps its listeners attention all the way through, which any six minute or longer song should.



8.5 (Out of 10)


Track List:

"King of the Underdogs"  

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