Raise your hands if you thought Echobrain’s debut album was going to be the hardest rocking disc this side of Metallica’s “Black” album? C’mon . . . you can be honest with me. Okay. I’m starting to see a few hands out there. It was a understandable mistake to make, after all, this is Jason Newsted’s first project since leaving Metallica. Why wouldn’t it be heavy? The answer to that . . . it wasn’t necessarily Jason’s project. Sure, he assisted with the bass playing, but he provided more in the way of song writing and production than really being the voice of the band. And who was the voice of Echobrain? One Mr. Dylan Donkin, that’s who.
Echobrain’s debut album is a varied mixture of introspective acoustic prog inspired gems and bombastic angst ridden hard rockers . . . all of which contain an uncanny ability to melt the soul with melody. “Colder World” jumps in your face with an up tempo melodic rocker and has a kind of David Bowie “Changes” groove going on in the background. The track fits the opening slot well and sets the tone for “The Feeling is Over,” the second track being an acoustically driven tune with a bit of wah guitar for added textures. Dylan’s vocals work well in expressing the emotions of either love lost or death. To some . . . it’s really all the same, for without love . . . what do we really have? Sorry, got a little introspective there for a minute. I’m better now.
“Spoonfed” highlights one of the bands more in-your-face type rockers. Distorted guitars and a more punishing beat mix well with Dylan’s smooth vocal stylings. And as he states in the song, “It’s a strange enjoyment for all.” Watch for the cool interplay of guitars at the solo. Some of which is brought to us by ex-Faith No More guitarist, Jim Martin. Echobrain returns to a more acoustic tune with the mournful and contemplative “Adrift.” This is one of those tracks that almost sounds better listened to through headphones. Whining violas, violins, and keyboards add a spacey texture to end the song and sound huge that deep in the ear. The band come back with more grit on “Keep Me Alive”, yet add the variety of more obscure instruments to keep things interesting.
Echobrain did a nice job of adding points of interest throughout the album. Violins and violas in “Adrift” and “Keep Me Alive” and the cello in “Ghosts”, show the band using just enough studio trickery to keep things from being one dimensional, but never over doing it to sound overblown. Hats off to the production team for recognizing when enough was enough. I liken production work on music to that of the special effects used in Star Wars. The effects were used to enhance the story . . . not to tell it. The same can be said with Echobrain’s self titled effort. The songs are good without the effects, but the effects just make it so much more stimulating. The best track on the disc, in my opinion, is “Suckerpunch.” Great melodic guitar work played over a steady rhythm section that just explodes into a soaring vocal melody at the chorus. Extra special bonus for the guitar solo provided by our second special guest of the review, Kirk Hammett. Such a gritty and emotional approach, and one that I’d expect from a player such as Slash before Hammett, but damn cool and one of the highlights of the disc.
“Highway 44” is a groovin’ rocker with Donkin’s vocals adding so much swagger, while “I Drank You” is a melodic pop fest. The album closes with the brooding and epic “Cryin’ Shame.” Newsted lays down a trance inducing bass line that carries the tune along it’s course. Donkin’s guitar cries along with lyrics at just the right time with splashes of distortion and squeals of pain to act as additional color. Acoustic guitars begin to climb in the mix to give the song some extra tension, while the vocals croon along with the electric guitars. It all comes to a head as all of the instruments join together at the crescendo and a wave of tension is released . . . and then it begins again. Great arrangement and a truly emotive tune! And really, it is a cryin’ shame that this album was virtually ignored by the masses. The songs are well written, well performed, and well produced. What more do you really need?
Heads up, pencils down. Our lesson for the day is now complete. Please pass your paperwork to the person in front of you. Class is dismissed and have a great day! - Pope JTE
Buy here: Echobrain