Forgotten Hard Rock Albums: Newsted, "Heavy Metal Music"
Newsted - "Heavy Metal Music"
Chophouse Records/Collective Sounds, 2013
11 Tracks, 56:58
Bassist Jason Newsted shocked the heavy metal community in early 2001 when he suddenly announced that he was leaving Metallica after fifteen years. It seemed incomprehensible that anyone would ever want to leave a cushy gig with the most successful metal band of all time. Jason explained that he'd felt creatively stifled during much of his time holding down the bottom end for the mighty Thrash titans, and he felt that it was simply time to strike out on his own.
Jason blazed a new trail during the following decade, establishing his own "Chophouse" recording studio and record label, through which he released music by a wide range of personal projects. Some were metallic in nature, like IR8 (pronounced "Irate," a collaboration with Devin Townsend and Exodus drummer Tom Hunting) and Papa Wheelie, and some weren't, like Echobrain. He also recorded three albums with Canadian sci-fi metal vets VoiVod, appeared as a judge on the reality TV show Rock Star: Supernova, and played bass in Ozzy Osbourne's band for the 2003 OzzFest trek. (Ironically enough, his predecessor in Ozzy's band was none other than Robert Trujillo, the man who replaced him in Metallica!).
In 2012, Jason announced the formation of his latest,and perhaps most ambitious, project: an old school Heavy Metal unit named after himself. "Newsted" consisted of Jason on bass and lead vocals, guitarists Jesse Farnsworth and Mike Mushok (ex-Staind) and drummer Jesus Mendez Jr. The new unit released a 4 song EP in January of 2013 titled simply METAL, and then followed it up in August of the same year with their lone full length album, Heavy Metal Music. Befitting Jason's instrument of choice, the new project's music was intense, bass-heavy, and much rawer and nastier sounding than anything he had recorded during his Metallica tenure!
Heavy Metal Music's opening track, "Heroic Dose," kicks things off with a nice dirty groove that sets the tone for the rest of the disc. This isn't thrash, it's not speed metal, it's not black or death or grind or nu-metal -- it is quite simply no-frills, nothin' fancy, meat-and-potatoes Heavy Metal, taking influences from all of the bands and projects Jason has been involved with over his long career. "Soldierhead" and "As the Crow Flies" provide the next one-two punch, followed by the body blows of "Ampossible" and the absolutely killer "Long Time Dead."
My favorite track on Heavy Metal Music may be "King of the Underdogs," which starts off slow and moody before kicking into some seriously ass kicking gear with a killer, scream-along chorus. "Niocturnus" is sludgy doom metal at its finest, leading into the bouncy, head-bangable "Twisted Tail of the Comet."
"Kindevillusion" and the closing "Futureality" grind along at a pleasantly bruising pace, mixing the best of '90s Metallica with the space-metal weirdness of Jason's days with VoiVod.
Be advised that Jason's vocals might be an "acquired taste" for some listeners. He may never be considered a great singer, but Jason's hoarse, gritty snarling style fits the vibe of the material like a glove. A lot of reviews compared his vocals to the great Lemmy of Motorhead, and I can definitely see some resemblance, but if I can get all metal-nerdy and obscure for a minute, Jason's vocals reminded me most of Jeff Waters of Canadian thrash vets Annihilator, perhaps mixed with a pinch of Cronos from Venom.
"King of the Underdogs"
In spite of positive reviews for Heavy Metal Music and a worldwide tour to support it (including a stint on the 2013 "Gigantour" festival package, headlined by Megadeth), Jason suddenly announced that he was pulling the plug on the Newsted project in mid-2014, and completely disappeared from social media.
...which was a bummer, because I have liked Heavy Metal Music since the day I bought it as a new release back in 2013.
It seems the end of the Newsted band came down to simple economics. Jason had been bankrolling the entire project out of his own pocket, and the enterprise was proving to be massively unprofitable. Jason would later admit that he'd lost "hundreds of thousands of dollars" trying to keep the band operational during its year on tour.
It's hard to understand how this project could have failed. You'd think that Newsted would've had a built-in audience after all the years Jason had spent in Metallica. Hell, if even one-tenth of the fans who regularly bought Metallica records had bought a copy of Heavy Metal Music, then Newsted might still be an active band today. Weep for what might have been!
Jason revealed in a 2016 interview that a second Newsted album had been written before he opted to put the band on ice, but only a few bits and pieces had been recorded. Apparently he would like for it to see the light of day at some point, but it's "not ready for the people" and "on the back burner" at the moment.
Only time will tell if these Metal underdogs will ever rise again, but I sincerely hope there will be more music from Newsted in the future. Heavy Metal Music was too killer to remain a one-off!
© 2020 Keith Abt