ECHOBRAIN Echobrain (Chophouse/Surfdog)

Echobrain is a side-project of Metallica bassist Jason Newsted (seemingly ever eager to explore interesting extra-curricular activities, he also appeared on the Unkle album, playing a Theremin!), who has teamed up with local musicians Dylan Donkin and Brian Sagrafena to form what, nominally, looks like a classic power trio, but in reality sounds very, very other.

What would you expect a Metallica side-project to sound like, then? Echobrain confound your prejudices and expectations, swerving violently but not unpleasantly from style to style as one track gives way to the next. "Colder World" could be a lighter, happier Queens Of The Stone Age; "The Feeling Is Over" is a poppier, string-soaked thing, on which Donkin's vocals initially sound unnervingly like Richard Davies. Then "Spoonfed" turns up, which could be a cheerier Foo Fighters tune. (Even Kirk Hammett makes a guest appearance on "Suckerpunch".) All manner of production trickery pops up in and around the songs - for example the distorted transistor radio effect that ends "Colder World" - but in a restless, experimental, positive fashion: nothing happens to endanger the loose-limbed and funky feeling of these sessions.

Echobrain's debut album is a fine thing that will probably fail dismally to connect with its potentially huge target market, either because of the Metallica associations which some might find off-putting (or which some Metallica fans might regard as misleading, this music sounding nothing like that band's) or due to the relatively low-key distribution I suspect this album will suffer. But if the idea of some challenging, thinking-person's sub-Queens Of The Stone Age (in the sense of 'less heavy than', rather than 'less good than') rock music appeals, "Echobrain" is definitely worth your time and trouble.