When Jason Newsted walked out of his favourite band in 2001, he did so with his head held high, his integrity intact and a paucity of songwriting credits that verged on the insulting. Ironically, following a decade spent playing with everyone from Voivod to DJ Shadow, it was Newsted’s old comrades who inspired the bassist to make his first official solo album, with his nightly guest spots at Metallica’s 30th-anniversary shows in San Francisco reigniting the 50-year-old’s love of old-school metal.
Even more ironically, the album is better than anything Metallica have recorded since his departure. The metal community has always held considerable reserves of goodwill for Newsted, not least because of the shabby treatment he received from his former colleagues, but his return requires no sympathy votes.
Heavy Metal Music – and what a fabulously unequivocal title that is – is a clenched fist of a record: 11 tightly wound songs that thump and pummel to devastating effect. From the rolling Clutch-meets-Baroness grooves of Ampossible to the snarling defiance of King Of The Underdogs – a track James Hetfield would surely kill to sing – this is precision-tooled metal for the head, heart and soul. Welcome back, New Kid.