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Old Dogs Learning New Tricks - 80%

Roffle_the_Thrashard, January 15th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2013, Digital, Chophouse Records

Thrash metal masterJason Newsted is back and ready for more. I watched his interview with Eddie Trunk on That Metal Show regarding his new solo project Newsted. He mentioned that he wanted this album to have an “old-school sound” to it. He pulled it off very well with an effortless sound and style. I hear so many other bands and some other metal subgenres within this EP and makes for a well rounded collection of songs.

The song on this EP that stood out to me the most was “Soldierhead.” It got my attention in a good way… and a bad way as well. The song starts off with a driving thrust that sounds like some songs from Toxic Holocaust, which I thought was really awesome. And then my balloon of hope started to deflate. Yeesh. The band, not even a full minute into the song plays a riff that sounds so similar to the end of the first chorus to “War Ensemble” by Slayer that I was fairly displeased. And it got worse. Very soon after, a discount version of the middle interlude of Slayer’s “Raining Blood” was played on the very same song, and there seemed to be almost no effort to cover up the similarities. "Come on Jason, mix it up" was my first thought.

So far I was not happy with this release. But I listened anyway because I know that Jason can do great things. I loved the bluesy and old-school sounding “King of the Underdogs,” “Godsnake”, “Skyscraper.” I could feel the same kind of grooves from songs like “Hole in the Sky,” “Heaven and Hell,” and “Fairies Wear Boots” by Black Sabbath as I did with those two songs, especially “Skyscraper” and “Godsnake.” Jesus Mendez Jr. provides a refreshingly loose playing style on his drum kit that mixes and blends in well with Newsted and Jessie Farnsworth’s groove intensive melodies. Not one member plays through the others. They all blend together in a deadly cocktail of music. Kudos to Chophouse Records for the spot-on production.

The lyrical content on this album was splendid. Jason Newsted’s lyrics of politics, religion and societal issues were paired perfectly with this collection of tracks. The lyrics teach lessons on ways to live one's life. The best example of this being “ Godsnake” which contains the following lines:

“Read to see don't judge this book
I need to be uncover for a closer look
(discover with a closer look, now)
No time for apology rename reality
First glance seems to be
The wrong way for you to judge me”

But rest assured, you can judge this album by its cover. What you see is what you’re going to get. You are going to get Jason Newsted’s message. You are going to get pure, true heavy metal. Mr. Newsted is a role model to us all. He never is never afraid to try new things and kept persevering. But never lost sight of his roots, and still played true metal because of that (unlike his former colleagues. We all know who those guys are). Jason is the King of the Old Dogs that can still learn new tricks.

Enjoyably generic. - 62%

Ibanezmancons, May 16th, 2013

'Metal' is Newsted's contribution to the growing list of releases entitled 'Metal'. It is barely a sufficient representation of the genre despite the (supposed) attempt, and may come as a disappointment for those expecting the ex-bassist from Metallica to hand his former band mates' asses back to them. Not this time.

'Solderhead' was the first track released and it is a solid speed-thrasher in the vein of Motorhead and Annihilator. Unfortunately, the main riff is rhythmically and melodically very similar to the guitars in the breakdown of Anthrax's 'Fight 'Em Till You Can't'. It isn't completely detrimental to the track, but it just feels a little too familiar. 'Godsnake' is a plain and uninteresting plodder, and despite the name not even a decent Danzig tribute. Newsted's adopted vocals sounds simply painful, and so it is somewhat of a relief to hear a more natural approach on the cheesy 'King of the Underdogs'. Why is it cheesy? The lyrics suffer from a feeling of that 'I'm back in control, back where I belong' cliche, which arrives a little late considering he left Metallica way back in 2001. The biggest issue these tracks suffer from is that none of them contain riffs or melodies interesting enough to sustain their 4+ minute lengths. It can be a struggle to simply finish one of these tracks without becoming distracted and reflexively flicking to another band. The final track, 'Skyscraper', drops in with a riff almost every hard rock band has used and will continue to use at some point in their existence. Again, it is catchy, but only because you've heard it so many times before! These riffs are nothing more than what the average good teenage guitar player writes.

Hand this to someone in the mid-90s and they'd be none the wiser. Even the production feels like a trip back in to the past. And yet it isn't particularly bad; it isn't anything to avoid. But 'Metal' hardly builds any anticipation towards an album or further releases from Newsted.

Quite incredibly boring - 35%

caspian, May 8th, 2013

My recommendation: give this a very quick skim on youtube, then forget about it. A brief listen makes it sound fairly ok; there's energy, the vocals aren't the awesome growls of old but they aren't too bad, it has riffs. A longer listen, or really any replay at all suggests that it's really boring. Newstead cannot write an interesting vocal line to save his life (Soldierhead a pretty good example, but any song will do), let alone a lyric, he can't write an interesting riff, he can't really do anything that is all that exciting.

What he can do is make music that is at an agreeable tempo, which is why a very quick skim is where it's at. Initial opinions among people who hear this are initially very positive, "Yeah man sounds like Motorhead mixed with the black album" as it's all very crunchy and whatnot. But anything more then two seconds of listening gets you bored. Questions come to mind: did they really mean to repeat that riff that many times? Who decided that riff was interesting? Did Newstead do a AA-BB rhyming lyric scheme throughout the entire thing? Who thought King of the Underdogs had any redeeming qualities at all?

It all sucks a fair bit as I wanted this album to rule. I'm a huge Hetfield fan but back in the day it was Newstead that was my man. His stage presence, his laid back attitude, he seemed like a cool cat, and I was expecting a bit more than what was on offer. Instead we get a bunch of really remarkably dull mid tempo super generic "heavy metal" that achieves nothing whatsoever, except for having the most pointless vocals ever. Perhaps the best description I can think of is "Revolver Award Show heavy metal". You can replace that with Metal Hammer or Kerrang if you want, but I'm pretty sure my point's been made. Jason is a support member. Not a Hetfield or a Mustaine, but an Ellefson. There's nothing wrong with that but he needs to realise it, I know I have.

If you want to hear Jason in full flight, find the AJFA-with-bass torrent or get doomsday for the deceiver. Nothing to see here, move along.

A Terrific Record By the Underdog - 80%

hexen, March 18th, 2013

Jason Newsted is someone who never got his fair share from Metallica. He's been around for Metallica on some of their least well-received records, but did the absolute right thing when he split and left prior to St. Anger. However, none of us know anything about Jason besides his failed Echobrain project and the stuff he's done with Ozzy and his other side projects, none of which really eclipsed the kind of metal he was playing with Metallica.

This EP, however, brings something different. It starts off with the very raw and rather Motorhead-like song "Soldierhead". Make no mistake, this is not a Motorhead ripoff, although the influence is certainly there. Newsted's vocals are fairly good; the dude knows how to sing. The standout thing about this track is how fast it is, pretty much reminiscent of what Newsted himself was like while playing for Metallica - absolutely dedicated and willing to go all out for his band. The lyrics are standard speed metal lyrics with a bit of rhyming and some catchiness to them.

The rest of the EP doesn't follow on such a high note, but, for example, "King of the Underdogs" once again bears resemblance to Motorhead and maybe even a little Metallica and is quite simply catchy as hell. No single instrument, even the bass, stands out on its own, but it's nice to see Newsted play like a real band in tandem with one another and encompassing everything heavy metal has needed for over a decade - raw riffs, pummeling drums, and distorted bass all sprayed with his kick-ass grunt vocals.

Well done, Newsted, well done.

Newsted definitely gets the last laugh. - 77%

hells_unicorn, March 4th, 2013

I often reminisce on the music video commentaries of Beavis And Butthead when considering the recent material of bands that used to play better music, and not just for the obligatory "this sucks" jab. There is something ironically poetic about dubbing a band "A bunch of skinny wusses" while also nothing that "they could still kick Axel (Rose)'s ass", and this little zinger definitely holds true for most of Jason's post-Metallica work. While there was nothing overtly terrible about his individual contributions to the likes of Voivod and Ozzy Osbourne, the whole final products left a bit to be desired, despite that they could still obviously run circles around certified junkers like "St. Anger" and "Lulu". The material that Newsted put out with various non-metal projects including (but not limited to) Echobrain were also largely forgettable, but still falling short in the pain inducing department next to the aforementioned Metallica flops.

Needless to say, Jason has gotten his act together and formed a rather enticing 3-piece outfit under his own name, and 4 songs that manage to get beyond the "this doesn't suck" threshold and become something worth blowing some hard earned cash on. Influences from a number of 70s and early 80s outfits from the likes of Black Sabbath, Trouble, Motorhead, and a slight hint of Alice In Chains here and there paint the landscape with an eye for rhythmic precision and groove, and mesh perfectly with a modern production sound that avoids putting too much emphasis on the drums and vocals. Interestingly enough, Jason's vocals prove to be one of the chief draws here, incorporating the same raw, gritty growl that Lemmy's been blasting out of his PA system since 1977, mixed with a small taste of southern metal attitude.

By and large, the music found on here tends to conform to the sort of mid-tempo, crunching grooves normally heard out of modern doom outfits. With the exception of the thrashing speeder "Soldierhead", which comes off as a stronger, faster version of what Metallica tried to do on "Death Magnetic", the music on here is pretty subdued and rocking when compared to Newsted's contributions to the 80s thrash scene. When hearing the stomping, bluesy aura of "Godsnake" and "Skyscraper", one can't help but be reminded of the darker, slower character of modernized heavy metal heard out of Dio on "Strange Highways", though Newsted's raunchy vocal assault sounds very little like the soaring howls of heavy metal's fallen king. The instrumental assault on these chugging rockers is fairly restrained, avoiding the showy guitar gymnastics normally engaged in by Iommi or Hammett, and listening closer to a laid back answer to Jerry Cantrell.

It's well advised to approach this album as it's own entity rather than an extension of Newsted's Metallica days, thus it tends to lean away from the overt thrash sound that some may have hoped for. Nevertheless, this is a good release that stands pretty well above the disastrous experiments that Metallica seems hellbent on repeating till kingdom come. In fact, if recent output by both parties is the standard, Jason has actually surpassed James Hetfield as the better front man, leaving little doubt that the last of the talent tied to the most commercially successful thrash metal band left while the going was good.

Risen From the Flames - 77%

TheLegacyReviews, March 4th, 2013

So… Jason Newsted is back. To be honest, I haven’t really been following him since he left Metallica, and he has been abroad in various bands since then. He played with Ozzy and Voivod, for example, and he also recorded a brilliant single with Tony Iommi and Ian Gillan in WhoCares. I am actually not that surprised that Jason formed his own band where he would be leading the massacre. Even way back in the day with Metallica he definitely had the energy to front a band, and his live vocal duties was not that bad either!

There is so many influences on this EP. Motörhead is one of them. And there’s some Black Sabbath too. It is all blended in together over the course of the four tracks. Of course there is more to it than those two bands just mentioned. It just sounds old school, and I really mean old school. There is definitely also some 70s stuff in there besides Sabbath, and though this might scare some people of: Groove. But that is in there too, it doesn’t shine through to much though which could be why it becomes so interesting. To kind of sum it up: It contains what probably has inspired Jason for all of his career, and also what he played himself. What bothers me the most is the annoying filter which is applied to the vocals from time to time. Hopefully, that idea will be scrapped for a future album where it is just more raw and non-filtered. The tone is very different as well sometimes. When the groovy parts hit in you are assured that it is heavy as fuck, but if you take the main riff of Soldierhead, it sounds more rock oriented so to say, with the “right” tone it could had a killer thrash tune. But it is not that bad and reflects the already mentioned mixed bag principle of this EP.

Some people might, well, some people ARE going to say this EP is better than anything Metallica have released since Newsted left them, and that depends on your taste, and many people hate the new Metallica. But this EP is not even close having its claws into “St. Anger” (yes, I said it) or “Death Magnetic”. “Lulu” however… Yea, this EP is better than “Lulu”.

Though I stand with some mixed feelings towards this EP, I am actually looking forward to the debut whenever it comes out. The band have a really solid base to build upon and I am really looking forward to see what they come up with, and hopefully they will drop the vocal filter. If you like Jason from the old Metallica days, or some other times then check it out. If you would like some solid metal with a bunch of different influences hidden in each track then get your filthy hands on this album.

Written for Reigning Damnation.

Metal indeed - 81%

somefella, February 6th, 2013

Hot damn. What a release to chance upon, and from my favourite Metallica ex-bassist, too (to make it clear, I always felt Newsted was a tighter and more solid bassist than the late Cliff Burton (RIP) and had a better sound as well, and he was definitely more suited to a balls-out metal band than Rob Trujillo ever will be). While Echobrain, Jason's first and probably more famous post-Metallica side project, was a solid but boring and uninspired listen, "Metal" is a heartfelt and headbanging piece of heavy metal that shouldn't be missed by anyone even remotely interested in any music heavier than The Eagles.

METAL is a completely unpretentious musical offering with the Motorhead vibe screaming out at every corner, yet with a lot less simple songwriting. Chock full of drum and bass accents, the riffs swagger along with all the confidence of experienced musicians knowing exactly what they want to sound like and how to go about getting there. Jason's vocals have a pissed-off Chuck Billy stamp all over them, aptly backed by well-placed gang-shout choruses and even some early Linkin Park-sounding (EARLY, I SAID EARLY) vocal harmonies. Best part of the ep is the breakdowns though, stomping and crushing their way through a very natural-sounding, yet professional production with bass guitars way up in the mix, but frequencies are cut and placed so no guitars or drum sounds get drowned out. The last song has an extreme Black Sabbath feel right down to the guitar solos (note choice AND tone).

I'm not sure what else to write about this because that's just what it is: an absolutely swaggering, almost arrogant quartet of grooving, catchy heavy metal songs with beastly performances and a great sound. The seemingly over-simplistic title is absolutely apt: this is METAL, and it is for METALHEADS. I suppose some teenage bedroom BM ninjas or "only Grave is true!" kvltists won't enjoy this. At the very least, it kicks nearly every Metallica album's ass with nearly none of Newsted's peers still having this much fire or songwriting capability left in them.

Impressive on all counts, and even if you hate this, you'll admit it's not half bad at all.