Heavy Metal Music plays on listener preferences. If fist-pumps, black t-shirts from the merch table and sore general admission legs are one's cup of warm beer, Newsted are the perfect soundtrack. The album opens up on "Heroic Dose," with the same chugging anthem Blue Oyster Cult used as the intro on "This Ain't the Summer of Love." After settling into a head-bobbing four-four groove, Newsted's raspy vocals dust off the post-Burton Metallica melody line. There is no reason to contemplate the lyrics any more than there is reason to contemplate why Mom's meatloaf always hits the spot.
“Soldierhead” is a thrasher that grooves like a convoy on its way to Baghdad. Emblematic of the album itself, the song is stripped down to glistening muscle, raging in some powerful seizure and unafraid of the bloody nose it gets from excessive headbanging. “Soldierhead” isn’t a kaleidoscope of keyboard colors. It’s gritty. It’s as black-and-white as an Instragram picture plastered with the inkwell filter. Simplicity works wonders in a modern scene of heavy metal bands afraid to make heavy metal records. "Soldierhead" is a reminder that oddball breakdowns and endless blast beats aren't required to get the job done.
Little love and little time is spent lurking around the past. “King of the Underdogs” might be construed as a hate letter to old time bandmates. Metallica’s two-headed ego thing that wouldn’t die made life intolerable for Jason Newsted. When he left Metallica to join Voivod, it wasn’t for career advancement. A bit of bitterness may echo from out from the repetitious chorus.
On Heavy Metal Music, “King of the Underdogs” anchors whatever underlying theme the album has. The four song EP from earlier this year, Metal, also contained this six minute track. The Metal EP came across as a blazing burning tire of a thing, refusing to flame out. Heavy Metal Music burns on with the same acrid smoke roiling across its 11 songs.
57 minutes is a long time to maintain consistent fury. It’s a long time for a song-based album to go on without switching gears or jumping the tracks. It gets wobbly with “Nocturnus, a kind of wince-a-long-with-Jason epic, but Newsted doesn’t break the spell with a dopey ballad or symphonic gas bomb. “…As the Crow Flies,” “Twisted Tail of the Comet” and “Kindevillusion” are minor variations on the overall attack but they stick with the program.
“Soldierhead” and “Above All” provide a solid glimpse into the songwriting ability lurking around and possibly ahead on the next Newsted album. Heavy Metal Music is a debut, after all. It stomps the stage three times and then lets the heavy metal music roar.
(released August 6, 2013 on Chophouse Records)