Over the past decade or so Jason Newsted has been a meandering soul in the metal community. Jason played with the Canadian Prog Thrash icons Voivod before stepping aside for original bassist Blacky to return. He was (or is?) the bassist for the charity super group WhoCares that features Tony Iommi, Nicko McBrain, Ian Gillan, Linde (from HIM), and Jon Lord (in is final performance). Hell, he was was even Ozzy's live bassist for a minute there.
He has certainly taken his time exploring his options as part of a backing band, but the self-proclaimed "King of the Underdogs" is taking the reins and introducing us to this new thing kids are listening to called Heavy Metal Music.
Have you heard of it?
As someone familiar with Newsted's previous projects, I was very surprised to hear the direction he took on this album and his initial EP, Metal. He could have easily gone with a straight ahead thrash sound, but instead he proves the album's title accurate. There are all sorts of heavy metal sounds explored with Newsted and his band wearing several different hats on this record.
The music has it's moments of speed on songs like "Soldierhead" and "Long Time Dead" harking to Voivod or his earliest band, Flotsam and Jetsam. However, these moments are fairly rare.
Where the album excels is on tracks like "Heroic Dose" and "Apossible" which have a solid mid-tempo stoner rock feel. These songs are almost hypnotic in their repetitive use of decent riffs. Kyuss comes to mind as a band notorious for this.
Speaking of Josh Homme projects, I really get a really strong Queens of the Stone Age vibe from the song "Above All." It is just a fun song with some memorable guitar work akin to one of the radio friendly QotSA tracks. The lyrics are a little silly but, oh well. Another track that brings a band to mind is "Kindevillusion," which reminds me of Black Tusk and Red Fang.
Newsted even journeys into the territory sludgy swamps of Black Sabbath on a few songs: the lurching "Futureality" suffers from a goofy name, but has a strong Master of Reality, or even 13, feel to it. The solo even sounds like Iommi getting bluesy on some doom. The same can be said for the heavy as fuck "Nocturnus."
What was a surprise was how much of a guitar driven album this is even though it was the product of someone known for his bass playing. I was half expecting something closer to Steve Harris's disaster of a solo album, British Lion, where the mix was far too focused on the bass guitar. It didn't help that Harris's songs were bad either. Newsted instead puts his energy into his gruff half punk/half Lemmy like bark vocals, which were better than I was expecting. Having said that, Newsted does take a moment in "Soldierhead" to remind you why he is worthy of being a renowned bassist without being overly/unnecessarily technical. Without getting wank-y, he is able to steal focus and make it count.
Jason's band is quite solid throughout. Jesus Mendez Jr. and Jessie Farnsworth were great choices for a backing band, but Mike Mushok from Staind deserves credit where credit is due. He proves his abilities can go well beyond backing the sad songs sung by a man that just wants to record country music.
The strongest songs on the album have to be the aforementioned "Soldierhead" and his tribute to his former Voivod bandmate Piggy, "Twisted Tail of the Comet." Pleasantly, there isn't really a bad song on the album. Some are a bit silly, and can sound like a bunch of guys throwing down on some heavy dad rock, but it's quite solid. My only complaint might a few titles. A trivial complaint yes, but I'm probably never going to take the time to shout, "PLAY FUCKING AMPOSSIBLE!!!" at a show.
This comeback was a long time coming, and I see it as a successful one.