Jason Newsted plays bass for new band EchoBrain, but he’s not the reason why you should run, not walk, to buy their self-titled debut album. What holds EchoBrain’s songs together are the vocals and guitar of Dylan Donkin and the drumming of Brian Sagrafena.
Musically, the album is a very diverse offering – a breath of fresh air in this day and age of clones and rip-offs. Strong opener “Colder World” is a catchy tune backed up immediately by the mellow groove of “The Feeling is Over”. The remainder of the album plants its hooks in you and takes you along for a sonic ride through a varied landscape of moods and styles – from the driving beat of “Keep Me Alive” to the haunting string arrangement of “Ghosts” and the bluesy bar-stage rock of “Highway 44”. Closing out the set list, “Cryin’ Shame” evokes a late-night drive along a lonely highway before yielding to Beatles-esque bonus track “The Crazy Song”.
A band whose music doesn’t seem to easily fit into any specific category at the record store, EchoBrain sounds to me to fit in one of the best, and rarest, areas: music you’ll throw on for a summer day spent outside, drinking a few brews, relaxing with friends. Showcased on seemingly every song are Donkin’s vocal stylings, and he makes the most of center stage. Newsted buffs may be put off by this musical departure from his days with Metallica and Flotsam & Jetsam (cameos from Kirk Hammett and Jim Martin serve as nods to the old school without detracting from the album), but I find his collaboration with Donkin and Sagrafena a welcome change from a genre that has perhaps outlasted its relevance.
Final thoughts: Not a perfect album, but a superb first release and deserving to be part of anyone’s 21st century record collection. Three thumbs up!
EchoBrain comes to Boston on Tuesday, May 14th at The Paradise (617) 562-8800. In the meantime, check them out at www.echobrain.com.