I was a little surprised when I saw that Jason Newsted was working on a new EP. I was aware that he had been working as an artist while healing from a shoulder injury. I’m kind of glad he’s back. For nostalgic sake. Looking back, his albums with Metallica weren’t bad (by rock and roll standards), but for Metallica they were pretty bad. I like to think that it was their way of dealing with a guy who wasn’t quite right for the band. He has a style that isn’t quite hard rock or thrash, but more progressive. His playing on Metal is intricate, and his vocals bring back a time when having some balls in rock wasn’t looked down upon (I’m talking to you Fall Out Boy).
It starts off with “Soldierhead”, a song that could by all rights have been written on Master of Puppets. It’s got a great drive to it that really harkens back to the days when I wasn’t alive in the 80’s. With lyrical content that seems to have been paraphrased from War Inside My Head by Dream Theater, it makes for an ok start to the record. Not that it’s a bad song, but it seems to be a rehash of 80’s thrash.
The next song, “Godsnake”, has a laid back, doom approach, that’s a welcome change from Disposable Heroes Part II. Describing some kind of weird backwards universe where God is the serpent in the bible or something like that, to me, it’s tries too hard to be Black Sabbath (the song). Between the pounding drums in the background, the simple riff, and deliberate religious based lyrics, it’s just another throw away track to me.
“King of the Underdogs” is yet another not-good-enough-for-Metallica song. With a beginning that feels like it was the prototype of “My Friend of Misery”, once again Jason is just dodging the fact that he’s an incredible bassist, who could be doing much more with this song than he really is. It’s a decent change from all the super heavyness of the first two songs, but doesn’t really contribute much to the overall EP.
The finale of this EP, “Skyscraper”, is probably the best song of all of them. It’s got a great Fuzz Face driven riff, that invokes the feeling that he was listening to a lot of stoner rock while writing this. While the lyrics leave much to be desired (being themselves another rehash of the idea of war, further proving my theory that every band has written at least one song on the subject), I feel like I can overlook that flaw and instead listen to Newsted’s most passionate performance of this whole EP.
I’m going to be honest. I’m not a huge fan of Jason Newsted. His tenure with Metallica wasn’t during my favorite period, his bass playing was never really innovative (when you could hear it), and his backing vocals didn’t really sit well with me in the entire mix of the band. The being said, I am pleasantly surprised with his first effort as a solo artist. He’s taken all the stuff that’s great about thrash and added a dash of doom, thrown in some groove, and given a salute to the stoner styles of bands like Sleep. However, it’s also very derivative of what we’ve seen in the past. Overall, I’m giving this a 7 out of 10. If you’re trying to find a new idea of how music should be written, then keep looking elsewhere. If you just wanna rock out with some classic chest thumping, adrenaline music, then this is your Metal.
Pros: Sounds like classic metal. Really good playing.
Cons: Sounds like classic metal with no new thought to it. Really good playing that we know could have been better but isn’t.
Overall: Good start. I’m hoping to see good things from this band, but right now they need to really whittle down their style to one or two, because this feels like it was all over the place just to pump out a few songs for a $4 EP.
Special thanks to guest contributor John Tonello for this column.
Newsted “Soldierhead” Music Video