Chophouse / Surfdog Records, 2002

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Possibly the toughest thing that anyone can do with the self-titled debut from Echobrain is to not expect to hear Metallica Mk. II. It's an honest trap to fall in; after all, this is the first major effort featuring former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted. But Newsted and his bandmates - guitarist/vocalist Dylan Donkin and drummer Brian Sagrafena - wisely stay away from the style of music that Metallica is known for.

If only Echobrain knew exactly which style of music they wanted to follow; this 10-song effort is all over the map musically, and is more confusing than watching my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Twin Peaks with cheat sheets. There are moments this group seems like it will all click into place; pity they don't occur more often.

For the most part, Echobrain is a collection of listless alternative-jazz songs which puts an emphasis on minimalistic performances - almost worrying that any real effort might seem like trying to capture the limelight of Newsted's old band. There is no denying that Donkin is a talented guitarist, and that Sagrafena is a solid enough rhythm section. One does wish, though, that there was a little more excitement in their playing.

And Newsted? His bass work is treated almost the same way it was in Metallica - namely, buried in the back of the mix. Granted, had Newsted stood out in the mix in the forefront, people would complain that he was showboating, trying to capitalize on his previous fame. Fair enough - but when Newsted's bass lines are turned up, as they are on "Cryin' Shame", the sound becomes that much richer.

It's not that Echobrain is a failure out of the box; indeed, some kudos have to be given to the band for refusing to take the easy road with their music. But far too often, what comes forth from the speakers is anything but interesting. Tracks like "Adrift," "We Are Giants" and "SuckerPunch" are far too lethargic for their own good, daring not to breathe even one note of electric free will. It all sounds, at times, far too mechanincal. Face it, if you didn't have the liner notes in front of you, you'd probably miss the guest appearances from ex-Faith No More guitarist Jim Martin ("Spoonfed") and Metallica axe-slinger Kirk Hammett ("SuckerPunch").

Personal differences not factored in, it took a lot of guts for Newsted to leave Metallica and to enter into an entirely new musical world that is Echobrain. But musically, this band has yet to come into their own, and Newstead's talents, like they were in Metallica, are underutilized far too often. Odds are that there will be some wonderful material coming from this trio. But it's far too early in their career to expect that magic, and Echobrain definitely lacks it.

Rating: C

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2002 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Chophouse / Surfdog Records, and is used for informational purposes only.