While the name may only bring to mind one band, Jason Newsted has had a far more accomplish career than those in the mainstream would like to admit. After his much publicized split from Metallica in early 2001, Newsted criss-crossed the metal map, including stints in Ozzy Osbourne's band, as well as the Echobrain project that had directly led to his departure. But it was where his career path dwelled later on that has come to define him, for better or worse. Having joined cult heroes Voivod in 2005, it appeared he was ready to resume his full time work at the bass strings. Yet, in a move that many found bizarre, he jumped ship in 2006 to helm a CBS reality series titled "Rock Star: Suprnova," where an ill-fated "supergroup" was formed and, almost as quickly, disbanded. Now with his own band primed and ready, Newsted seems to have recaptured his love of all things metal. On their aptly titled debut EP, the man who went from the top of the mountain to the bottom of the barrel in a decade still has something left to prove.
With little ceremony, "Soldierhead" crashes into place. There is certainly a more basic, stripped down approach than you would have expected, especially in the vocal realm. The guitars, played on the EP by Newsted and bandmate Jessie Farnsworth, have a catchy appeal, even though they come off as flat and predictable. Despite a formidable solo, there is always the feel of 20th century thrash limping into the 21st century. It stands to reason, then, that the more downtempo, groove heavy "Godsnake" would stand apart from the rest. It provides a suitable forum for Newsted's vocals, which aren't sharp or pointed, but rather merely passable. By the time he delivers the one liner, "don't you judge me," you probably already have, one way or another. And if you've reserved that judgment, you will be rewarded for your patience with the almost dastardly laughable "King Of The Underdogs." Floating somewhere between Metallica and Jane's Addiction, but with less intensity, this six minute thrash punk dreamer does little to rouse more than a single raised eyebrow. The gang backing vocals in the outro might even get your head moving; side to side in disapproval. There is slightly more success in the closing track, "Skyscraper," that manages to capture, if not borrow, a Megadeth aesthetic. It contains the most successful instrumental track on the album, with a slow paced, bending guitar riff in the bridge that is eroded each time the cry of "no war" and "no more" cuts through the mix.
The blame lies on us for expecting Newsted and company to regain the thrash stardom he had accrued in his Metallica days. A decade his passed, and we've all changed significantly in that time; not least of all, Jason Newsted. He's traversed the spectrum, gone here, there and back again. So to think we knew what to expect from this band, in this year, was simply arrogant. There are elements that work on the EP, and there are far more that don't. But the common denominator in each track is the dated, uninspired pseudo thrash that is charged with driving them forward. By no means is this a condemnation of Newsted or his bandmates as musicians. To the contrary, they perform admirably under the circumstances. However, as writers, as thinkers, as creators, they fail to deliver anything worth while here. It will be interesting to see what a full length offering brings to the table; perhaps they've kept the best tracks under lock and key all this time, waiting to unleash them upon an unsuspecting world. Or maybe "Metal" is the best we're gonna get.
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