Friday, August 09, 2013

Newsted-Heavy Metal Music

Chophouse Records

Singer-songwriter/producer Jason Newsted doesn't need a long-winded introduction. While he's likely to always be remembered as and/or referred to as Metallica's ex-bassist there is so much more to Newsted. As I said upfront, and this is especially true if you call yourself any kind of heavy metal fan, for Jason Newsted (and his long and varied career) he is more then just the ex-bassist for this group (Metallica) or that group (Flotsam and Jetsam) so let's skip all of that and jump right into the aptly titled "Heavy Metal Music". Really, the title of Newsted's new album just about sums up what you should expect out of these 11-tracks with the most obvious starting reference point being Motörhead. Two of the 11 tracks present on "Heavy Metal Music", those being "Soldierhead" and "King of the Underdogs", did appear on the group's debut EP, "Metal", which was released at the start of 2013. As "Soldierhead" is such a killer metal tune to begin with (it was a high-light on their EP and it is a high-light here!) there's no reason to knock Jason and his band-mates for including it here. Speaking of Jason's band-mates, which are all top-notch if you ask me, Jessie Farnsworth (guitarist and backing vocals) and drummer Jesus Mendez Jr. (of the excellently named The Napoleon Blownaparts!) are carried over from the former EP's line-up. New to the group though is Staind's Mike Mushok who joined the band as their second guitarist after the release of  the "Metal" EP. Truthfully when I first heard that Jason had enlisted this one-time (and still currently?) member of Staind there was this nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach. We are talking about Staind after all. Part rock and part nu metal the band isn't exactly known for unleashing the kind of heavy and twisted metal that would suggest enlisting one of their guitarists. Thankfully though Jason Newsted was right and I was wrong (at least in questioning the band's new guitarist) as the addition of Mike Mushok only adds to what is a seriously overloaded metallic onslaught of a full-length debut album! Released on Jason's own record label, which makes Jason deserve a tip of the hat all the more, the album's overall Motörhead influence (that was also found on the group's previously released EP) doesn't start and end with the music as Jason's lead vocals, which are wonderfully raw and gruff, almost suggests that he comes from some part of Lemmy's extended heavy metal family tree! When he hits the mic he's off and going with Jason's angst being all too real. It was back in 2006 when Jason hurt his shoulder while attempting to catch a falling bass amp head. The end result of the accident was multiple surgeries and a few months off from playing. During that period Jason would end up expressing himself through his art with his paintings serving as a form of psychological therapy. The same can be said of Jason's new full-length album. There's little doubt that "Heavy Metal Music" is serving as another form of psychological therapy for Jason Newsted as the music within, which (at times) also recalls some early-Metallica (as well as some of Metallica's "Load"/ "Re-Load" period-mostly by way of some groove metal that also recalls, ever so lightly, Pantera) and the early years of both Pro-Pain and Prong, is the perfect kind of honest heavy metal in which to expel personal demons. As stated early on there, and it can't be overstated in the least, with "Heavy Metal Music" there is a lot of anger and frustration being unleashed through the use of honest to goodness, no-frills heavy metal/thrash metal. It also cannot be overstated that "Heavy Metal Music" is in no way a walk down memory lane for this underrated bassist/vocalist. Of course people, and I include myself in this category, are going to "hear" some of Newsted's earlier bands in these 11-tracks. That's only natural as Jason's career included stops in quite a few well-known acts. So, there's no harm in "hearing" the faint echos of bands like Metallica, Flotsam and Jetsam (of which he was a founding member as well as being the chief songwriter) or even Voivod. You might as well throw in Black Sabbath as Jason did play bass, at least live, back in 2003 for Ozzy Osbourne. I kid of course (as far as his brief time playing with Ozzy) although there is some of Black Sabbath's doom (the Voivod meets Black Sabbath track "Twisted Tail of the Comet" as well as "Nocturnus") and bottom-line heaviness to be found here. And with the band Newsted it's all about being heavy. In that regard this album should stand as a shinning example that real metal (not modern metal or any of the other new fads popping up these days) is not a dirty word. If you are also the kind of person that is longing for that kind of no-frills/no-bull heavy metal then Newsted is a band to really consider. Surely they will get some slack for being raw and old-school, which used to be a good thing before we started to drown under waves of overly polished & shiny albums, and Jason is already getting slack for his rough, almost hardcore punk, vocal delivery. If some people find those kinds of elements to be too unpleasant or too tasteless for them to enjoy then hey, that's all on them and they are welcome to their opinion. But for me (and I most-likely said the same thing about their previous EP) these cuts form an album that is better then what Metallica has been crapping out as of late and it's not even close! I'll also take Newsted any day of the week over his previous band if only for the plain and simple reason that this is down-to-earth, no egos involved, heavy metal. The same can't be said of his former band-mates. Here's hoping that Newsted (the band), which is way overdue anyway (as I'm not only in wishing that Jason Newsted would have gone and formed his own band right after he left Metallica), becomes an ongoing thing and that Jason finally get's the credit he so rightly deserves.

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