Friday, 9 August 2013

Newsted: Heavy Metal Music - Review

Newsted is the current project for former Metallica Bassist, Jason Newsted and if there was a prize for the most unimaginative band name and album title then this band would surely come top of the pile. Their debut album, imaginatively titled "Heavy Metal Music" is the follow up to their E.P. of an even more inventive name, "Metal" (which was released earlier in the year) and by my estimation this makes the band the musical equivalent of Ronseal: it does exactly what it says on the tin.

Although in many ways it would be more "professional" of me to judge this album on its own merits, I can't help but want to offer sizeable comparisons between this record and what Newsted did with Metallica. In many ways "Heavy..." sounds like what Metallica would have done if they released an album in between "Metallica" and "Load". On the one hand it has heavy riffs and fast sections more akin to Newsted's early days with the Metal giants but on the other it has much more melodic solos and that almost "southern", Hard Rock feel that seemed to accompany "Load" and "Reload". This may be off-putting to some people and frankly that depends on your views on Metallica and it won't help if I say that they did it much better than Newsted. In short, this album is very disappointing. 

Naming the album "Heavy Metal Music" was, in my mind, a big mistake because it instantly conjures up a blueprint of what the album should sound like. I was expecting riff-driven, exciting, heavy music on the lines of Maiden and Sabbath but what I got was much more dull and unexciting. Album opener "Heroic Dose" opens with a really boring riff that never seems to develop, in many places the song feels empty and doesn't really go anywhere whilst "Soldierhead" is so close to a 90s Metallica track it is almost laughable. The album just kinds of plods along, never really varying in pace and not offering up too much for me to really latch on to.

Jason Newsted did a great job sitting back in Metallica dropping in as a backing vocalist but he is really not a good frontman. His approach to singing is often pretty dull and doesn't vary a great deal throughout the album and this contributes to the songs feeling generic. It gets really frustrating on "Ampossible" when he starts saying things like "Everybody alright now!" mid-solo as if he is Ozzy on "Sweet Leaf" and this comes off as really badly done and cringe-worthy. 

Another gripe about this album is that it is just too damn long. "Heavy..." features 11 tracks and clocks in at 57:03, which is definitely getting into long album territory. If there was a great deal of variation between the tracks then this would be passable, but there isn't. With the exception of "Nocturnus" the album is very single-paced and when that is compared with the long run-time all I can say is that interest drops off very quickly. I think that some of the later tracks are a little more developed and have more about them but, on each listen, every time I got there I was already completely bored of the album so the effect was totally lost on me.

Production-wise, this album is pretty bad. There is no beef to the instruments and everything comes off as sounding really weak and feeble. Maybe if there was more power to the mix then the tracks would stand out more but arguably the production is as boring as the music. Newsted's vocals often sound buried and this can get really annoying. The only real time the mix stands out is during the guitar solos and then suddenly everything comes alive a bit but overall it is so inconsistent that it becomes frustrating to listen to. I did listen quickly back to parts of "Load" and the production is very similar on both albums, the only obvious difference for me was that Hetfield sits much better in the mix, making "Load" much more listenable.  

The saving grace on this record comes in the form of the guitar work from Jessie Farnsworth and Mike Mushok. They offer some great leads, which have some nice development to them and this helps to break the songs up somewhat. Overall this does improve the album a little but then good solos do not rescue a bad record. I also can't help feeling that a lot of the solos just sound like 90s Kirk Hammett and in fact I think it is nigh-on impossible to go through this record without hearing Metallica. I get the feeling that Newsted will always have that shadow hanging over him for better or worse. Also noteworthy is one of the riffs in "King Of The Underdogs", which is groovy and heavy but again very Metallica-esque (I think I have said "Metallica" more times than "Newsted" go figure). 

Overall I think that "Heavy Metal Music" is a very bland, boring album that is far too long and offers little variation. There is nothing really that holds my interest and after 3 listens I can't think of a song that I want to listen to again. It sounds a little like if my Dad got together with his workmates in the grip of a midlife crisis and tried to recreate the sounds of their youth and that for me does not have the makings of a decent record. If by now you haven't got my point, what I'm saying is don't bother with this album.





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