July 31, 2011 by Dan Swinhoe
Spend long enough in a band, and eventually a solo album will be released. It doesn’t matter if you pretty much steer the band by yourself, at some point a solo album will inevitably be created. Some are self-indulgent wank , some allow the artist to spread their wings in directions that their day jobs just wouldn’t allow and some are basically the day job with different packaging. The latest album to tread the solo waters is courtesy of Hatebreed frontman Jamey Jasta, and his cleverly titled effort, Jasta.
Jasta has always been a busy bee. Since starting Hatebreed he’s toured relentlessly and released consistently strong albums that bridge hardcore and metal on a fairly regular basis. Side project Kindgom of Sorrow mixed hardcore and sludge thanks to Crowbar’s Kirk Windstein and showed a different side to Jasta with an awesome debut and a strong follow-up. When you factor in he also runs his own record label and clothing line (and for a while presented MTV2’s Headbanger’s Ball), it’s amazing he’s found enough time to record his own album.
So how does Jasta the album stand up? Surprisingly well. It’s chock full of heavy riffing, chugging, breakdowns and pit-inducing beats that are synonymous with Hatebreed. Opener ‘Walk the Path Alone’ screams out of the starting blocks in a fast and heavy way and shows a lot of promise for the rest of the album.
‘Mourn the Illusion’ is a surprise and first for Jasta, full on clean melodic singing. Kindgom of Sorrow hinted that there was more to his vocals than screaming but here Jasta shows real class as a vocalist, sounding not a million miles away from Trvium’s Matt Heafy over a slow, chuggy soundtrack. ‘Screams From The Sanctuary’ mixes the two vocal styles, as does ‘Nothing to Say’, but overstays its welcome thanks to a repetitive chorus.
The lyrics are trademark Jasta fair; Upbeat, encouraging spiritual and physical strength and unity, uniting together in a ‘Us vs. Them’ way, all delivered with passion and aggression. ‘Anthem For a Freedom Fighter’ is an obvious example, and it feels like a Hatebreed standard, short and with the moshpit in mind. ‘Set You Adrift’ mixes the melody with the Sludgey style of Kos, while ‘Bury Me with My Beliefs’ feels like a lost gem from the first album.
It fits a lot in too. with 14 tracks in 44 minutes, there’s no hanging about. There’s no breaking down of genres or pushing in untested grounds, but it’s quality heavy material with good melodies and will be a nice surprise for many Hatebreed/KoS fans.
The second half is a bit of a left turn. It’s full of guest appearances (something that is becoming increasingly popular in metal, especially solo albums) and is shows the more variation than Jasta performing alone. Each song has a different feel and keeps things fresh.
‘Enslaved, Dead Or Depraved’, featuring Lamb of God’s Randy Blyth on vocals is evil, and adds to an already brutal song, while ‘With A Resounding Voice’ with Tim Lambesis of As I Lay Dying is relentless all the way through. The guests really add to an already heavy album and take it up a notch. It’s not just vocalists either, Zakk Wylde lends his six strings to ‘The Fearless Must Endure’, a groovy number that could easily appear on any Black Label Society release (and the bonus track ‘Shredathon’ is the best track on the album). Lamb of God’s Mark Morton rips up ‘Death Bestowed’ and anyone not already waiting excitedly for new LoG material is a fool.
It’s a strong album that packs a big punch into a short time, pretty much a giant circle pit squeezed into one disc. There’s no fat or crap, and a fair amount of really good songs that are worth checking out whether you’re a fan or unfamiliar with Jasta’s day job. It’s easily his most varied release and stands well with the rest of his back catalogue.