Leaving a band after 15 years of hard work and dedication can’t be easy. Not only because of the experience, but also for the connection one must feel with band mates. Jason Newsted, bassist for Metallica for the last 15 years of his life, made the difficult decision to leave arguably the biggest band in the world.

Newsted’s departure was at first attributed to physical stress that performing in Metallica had caused him. Months later, the true reasons for his split soon filtered out; Newsted was not a writing force within the Hetfield/Ulrich empire and Metallica’s no side-band policy further limited Newsted’s ability to be a musician and not just a bass player. Even though Newsted continually collaborated with other musicians at his home studio, the Chophouse, none of these bands were able to see any public exposure while still in Metallica.

Over a year after his announcement to leave Metallica, Newsted’s new project is out; Echobrain. The formation of Echobrain came about in 1995, when a then teenager named Brian Sagrafena met Newsted at a Superbowl party. During halftime, a few friends played a drum set, but it was Sagrafena’s playing that caught Jason’s ear. Newsted soon invited Sagrafena to play at the Chophouse, and Sagrafena brought his lifelong friend, singer/guitarist Dylan Donkin. The seeds for Echobrain were planted.

Even before Newsted and Metallica split, the Echobrain CD was fully recorded. Those looking for a Metallica record should get rid of that idea before putting this disc in. Comparisons to Newsted’s previous band come few and far between. Rather, the disc brings in a multitude of influences, and comparisons to Soundgarden, Radiohead, and Queens of the Stone Age are more appropriate.

Echobrain meanders through styles and song structures, providing a disc that cannot be limited to one strict form. The vocals of Dylan Donkin soar above the band on songs such as “Keep Me Alive,” while they are much more subdued on the following track, “Ghosts.”

Metallica’s collaboration with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra has opened Newsted’s eyes to the use of violins and cellos, most notably on “Ghosts” and “Adrift.”

The album’s true gem is “Suckerpunch” which features the distinctive and flawless playing of Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett. What starts off as a slow, almost plodding number, picks up right before Hammet’s solo, where he proceeds to take the song and charge forward with it. Hammet makes this song the true standout of the entire CD.

The true brilliance of Jason Newsted and Echobrain is that there are no rules. Every song has a unique twist to it, making Newsted’s remark of the band being “new music” very true. Those looking for Metallica should proceed with a bit of caution and an open mind. Those looking for something truly new and different than anything out now, Echobrain just might be your answer.

Echobrain plays at Toad’s Place on May 13 and the Bowery Ballroom in New York City on May 21.

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