Friday, December 21, 2012

Metal By Newsted Already Rocks 2013

Jason Newsted
Heavy metal is already shaping up to have a banner year in 2013 with the upcoming release of a four-track EP by former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted. The new band, Newsted, puts Jason Newsted on vocals as well as bass. Joining him to round out the new three piece is Jason Mendez, Jr. (drums) and Jessie Farnsworth (guitar).

The names might not be familiar now, but they likely will be. Mendez is a long-time friend to Newsted, having played with him for the last ten years. They originally met when Mendez was working as a roadie for Metallica in California. Farnsworth has been playing with Newsted for about four years. He also handles backup vocals.

Newsted picked these players for their talent and friendship. He said he didn't want to make a super group or invite anyone in who might be jaded after playing in a recognized band. It's all new and it works too.

There is a real effort by Newsted to make Metal real.

There doesn't seem to be any doubt this is not the Newsted who played with Metallica more than a decade ago. Instead, he seems to have a real interest in reshaping heavy metal as a more approachable and even personal genre (something more commonly associated with punk or rising alternative rock).

There was never any news release or press call in advance of the new EP by Newsted. He just sat down in front of his computer at Chophouse Records and made a YouTube video. That was it.

Along with the video, Newsted has taken to personally managing the band's Facebook page, reading responses and sometimes answering questions. It's hard to say how long he'll be able to keep up with the growing fan base, but he tries to visit the page at least once a night.

Live shows won't be any different. Although the band will play big venues, Newsted also wants to find smaller venues that never have an opportunity to book big metal bands. In fact, even after the EP climbed to number 11 on iTunes (as a preorder), he said the band's success will not be measured in millions of sales but by how much he can move people with the music.

The Metal EP does do that. The first track released, Soldierhead, revives old school metal from the turn-of-the-century Metallica era. As the opening single, it makes a great case for no-holds-barred metal. Here is the placeholder until the upcoming video is released in the days ahead.

Like everything else Newsted is doing, the upcoming Soldierhead video will be a bit of a throwback, featuring the band as opposed to any overblown production. In this case, the trio just headed out to an old dusty factory and played their tribute to servicemen and women as hard and fast as they could.

The second track, Godsnake, is significantly slower and sludgier. Heavily influenced by Black Sabbath, Newsted takes long draws off lyrics that talk about differences and judgements. It's the perfect contrast to Soldierhead and proves that there was an additional payoff in playing with Ozzy Osbourne.

King Of The Underdogs mostly retains a steady and sure-handed tempo, but with frantic bursts and a spooky but purposeful guitar showcase when it counts. Somewhat in keeping with the Godsnake theme, King Of The Underdogs is all about being the best of the worst — the outcast that every other outcast in the group admires.

Rounding out the EP, Skyscrapers closes down one of the most promising starts for a new metal band. The song, which was originally written a few years ago, was refreshed to address all the ugliness on this planet, everything from terrorism to the end of the world.

While Skyscraper doesn't feel nearly as powerful or as memorable as the previous three, it was by design. Newsted and crew wanted to make a song that sounded like it came right out of the seventies and showcase some old-style guitar work. It's not necessarily the strongest closer, but will be a solid addition to the future album.

As it stands, these tracks are only the beginning. Newsted has said that the band has 10 or 12 tracks, with some of the second batch already recorded. The next set of three or four will be released as another EP after Metal. The remaining songs will be delivered as part of their full-length debut.

Metal By Newsted Nails Down 9.1 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

Newsted might wear his influences on his sleeve (they're all obvious in the music) and Metal might not necessarily break any new ground, but this EP is a welcome addition to any metal playlist. It's prominent and personal, giving off a vibe that nobody has put out in some time.

Metal by Newsted will be released on iTunes. Jason Newsted has said he intends to release the first two EPs via iTunes and then follow up with a complete package in time for the full length, which will appear sometime in 2013. Touring dates have yet to be set, but you can follow the band on Facebook.
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