After leaving the biggest rock band in the world, at least in part (rumors had it) because he found James Hetfield's "no side projects" rule to be creatively stifling, many wondered what Jason Newsted's next move would be. Despite having a world of possibilities at his fingertips and a slew of musicians ready to collaborate with him, the bassist instead decided to start a mentoring program with a couple of the kids next door. While some may ponder his sanity (as if quitting Metallica at the band's commercial peak wasn't enough evidence of dementia), his meeting with drummer Brian Sagrafena and eventual teaming with his wunderkid pal/guitarist/singer Dylan Donkin seems sincere on every level, most importantly in the quest to make adventurous music. Adventurous in this case means that very little, if anything at all, resembles anything close to metal -- even the more commercial kind the man's old band offered on latter material with Newsted in tow. This is bound to infuriate some. Many felt that Newsted's heart was bleeding for the metallic output of his salad days, but if he is, he'll have to find another outlet for it, since Echobrain will never be confused for Flotsam & Jetsam anytime soon. Pay no heed to the inclusion of guest guitarists Kirk Hammett and Jim Martin either; on both cuts they contribute to, their input fits in so seamlessly with the rest of the production that only the most devoted fans could pick them out. "Cryin' Shame" is foreboding psychedelia, "Ghosts" rekindles Pink Floyd's dramatics, "Adrift" is enlightening folk-pop, and "Highway 44" is a bluesy riff-rocker that comes closest to Newsted's pedigree, and that's not very. The influences at work in Echobrain go back much further than the San Francisco thrash scene -- to the '60s hippie scene that put Haight-Ashbury on the map to begin with. This is established succinctly with the disc-opener "Colder World" (a song that the young duo worked on independently of Newsted, prompting him to get involved upon first hearing it); led by Donkin's clear, surprisingly deep voice singing about (of all things) artificial rock star self-importance and Sagrafena's power pop riff that gives way to an Allman-esque solo, it paves the way for a full disc owing to the diversity that the '60s allowed in pop music. A lot has changed since the '60s, however. Even discounting the thwarted expectations, Echobrain fails to fit into any particular modern niche: The band is too polished for the indie rock scene and too smart for the retro scene. This gives Echobrain the challenge of carving their own niche. This will not be an easy undertaking, but make no mistake, Echobrain is not a joke. The three members can all play, and the eponymous debut grows on the listener with repeated plays, with new nuances of each track creeping out of the speakers every time it is spun. Echobrain is a surprisingly strong pop/rock statement, whether it finds that audience or not.
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AllMusic Review by Brian O'Neill