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Adrenaline Mob is probably the most controversial metal supergroup to come out in recent memory. Originally masterminded by Symphony X singer Russell Allen and Sonic Stomp guitarist Mike Orlando, the Mob wouldn’t be half as infamous if it wasn’t the first project to feature drummer Mike Portnoy after his publicized departures from Dream Theater and Avenged Sevenfold. While the band was quick to put out a five-song EP late last year to give listeners a taste of what is to come, this full-length release could be regarded as their true debut. It not only includes the four original tracks that were on the EP but also includes several other songs that show what else the band is capable of.
The best way to describe Adrenaline Mob’s style is that it sounds like 2002. The album is on the weird line between groove and alternative metal in the vein of groups like Disturbed, Rob Zombie, Godsmack, and Black Label Society. While the style is far removed from the prog metal put out by its more famous members but it isn’t exactly unheard of at this point. After all, there’s no denying the impact that touring with A7X had on Portnoy and Dream Theater dabbled with a similar sound on 2003’s Train of Thought. Hell, the beginning of “Indifferent” sounds like a song from one of James Labrie’s solo albums!
The band’s dynamics are a little rocky but they go well with the songwriting’s bare bones approach. Orlando’s guitar riffs are a little stiff and the bass never seems to stand out, but he does have a nice chunky delivery and his solos show off a lot of Dimebag-influenced theatrics. On the other side, Sir Allen’s vocals still utilize a scratchy Ronnie James Dio impersonation with bits of Phil Anselmo while Portnoy is hard hitting though predictably not as technical as previous performances. I’d like to know who decided that the latter’s spoken bit on “Psychosane” was a good idea…
As somewhat expected, the songs that previously appeared on the EP may be some of the strongest on here. “Down To The Floor” serves as an energetic anthem while “Believe Me” offers a more melodic sing-along hook to go along with its grooves. And despite the previously mentioned spoken bits, “Psychosane” stands out thanks to its contrasting structures and memorable guitar solos. Of course, the other heavy tracks manage to stand up pretty well. Lead single “Undaunted” opens the album nicely and channels a great deal of Disturbed influence with its jumpy guitar runs and vocals full of Draiman imitations. And now that I’ve seen a veteran band with major influence from Disturbed, I officially feel old…
The Mob also has a nice soft side with there being three ballads on display. While “Indifferent” and “All On The Line” are a bit more subdued, “Angel Sky” is an all-out lighter holder that would’ve made a great closer and actually reminds me of Kamelot’s “House On A Hill” in a way.
And like every other alternative/nu metal band, the album also includes a cover of a hit song by a random 80s band, this time being a heavy take on “Come Undone” by Duran Duran. Thankfully, the track avoids sounding like a gimmick and actually ends up being a highlight thanks to its unique guitar tone and an excellent duet between Allen and Halestorm’s Lizzy Hale.
Quite frankly, I don’t expect anyone to really like this album. It’s definitely a little too simple-minded for most fans of these musicians and I doubt they’ll get too much attention from the target demographic for this release. But at any rate, it’s pretty much what you’d expect and manages to be a fun groove metal listen, even if it is a little bone-headed. And now that the band has recruited Disturbed bassist John Moyer, one can only wonder how the band’s style will evolve from here. Let’s just hope they don’t decide to hop on any contemporary trends in the near future; the world just doesn’t need anymore nu metal dubstep…
“Down To The Floor”
As a drummer and fan of all things progressive metal, I fell in love with Mike Portnoy and Dream Theater the moment that I heard them. The crazy odd time work, the four-way shred sessions that take up most of the many of their songs, the fact that they were able to make a 42 minute song interesting the entire way through, I loved it all. So when I first read that Mike Portnoy had left the band, I was both surprised and saddened as one of my favorite drummers was now separated from one of my favorite bands. However, upon discovering that he was starting a new band with Symphony X frontman Russell Allen, an easy front runner for most powerful vocalist in metal history, I was pretty excited. This excitement escalated to "Holy crap, this is awesome" when hearing the band's live cover of the Black Sabbath tune "The Mob Rules", which was filled with such an undeniably exquisite energy among all the men on stage that there was no feasible way the band could screw things up. Omerta shows that Adrenaline Mob do make some good stuff, even if their heads may be stuck in the year 2002.
Musically the record is not at all what you would expect from two kings of progressive metal in Portnoy and Allen in that it's not progressive in any way at all. In fact, this could very easily be filed under the category of "regressive metal", as the music of Omerta very much sounds in many places like the bouncy, groove-based radio rock of the early 2000s. There are some absolutely metal moments on here though, such as the entirety of "Hit the Wall" with its crazy shred lead breaks and the endings of "Believe Me" and "Freight Train" where Mike Portnoy channels his inner Slayer for some thrashy drumming. Much like in the aforementioned live cover of "The Mob Rules", there is a head pounding, somewhat youthful energy to most of these songs. It's much like the new Darkthrone record in that you can tell that these guys are having the time of their lives playing this music. In a sense, Adrenaline Mob are very much a radio metal band in the same way that Fozzy is, in that both combine energetic heavy metal with alternative rock and end up wiping the floor with all the over made-for-radio bands of both the early 2000s and the early 2010s (both eras, I might add, having almost zero difference in terms of sound and identity, or lack thereof). There are some clunkers here however, such as "Indifference". It was the first song I ever heard from the album, and it probably wasn't the best song to get acquainted to the group with due to its much more mellow tone and lame, wimpy chorus. "All on the Line", the band's sad attempt at something of a power ballad, also falls flat on its face due to just completely killing the energy of the record through wimpy, Stain'd-esq vocal lines and mediocre songwriting. A section of "Psychosane" where Allen mutters the line "Going psychosane. Motherfucking psychosane" is also just laughable in its stupidity and only harms what is otherwise a great rock song. The cover of "Come Undone" by Duran Duran, while done in enough of a serviceable fashion, really was not necessary to the album in any way, and could easily have just been a bonus track or put up online for free. Also, when you have a song on your album called "Freight Train" and its NOT a cover of the awesomely bad tune of the same name by late-80s hair band Nitro, then you're obviously doing something wrong.
When it comes to performances, everyone on this album brings their A-game. Mike Portnoy brings to the music an energetic, frenzied performance that I'm certain few other in radio rock could bring, pretty much playing these songs as if he were still in Dream Theater. Trademarks of his style, such as the triplet gallop roll across the toms and his unique hi-hat accenting, are on full display throughout the album. Others may criticize his fill-happy style by saying it distracts from the rest of the song, but I found it keeps the energy flowing smoothly and the listener always on their toes. Russell Allen, as usual, delivers his powerful, gritty, eardrum shattering vocals with the same excellence as he does in Symphony X, although as earlier mentioned the few times he tries to go for a mellower, more traditional radio rock kind of voice it doesn't really work. The real star of the record however is Mike Orlando on lead guitar. Like most people, I had never heard of him before becoming aware of Adrenaline Mob's existence. I wish I had, because this guy can shred with the best of them. His lead breaks and solos are to the guitar performance what Portnoy's everything is to the drum performance, as Orlando abuses his guitar's fretboard as if it shot its drunken stepfather a dirty look. I really wish he was doing more than just this band as he deserves to be known throughout the entire world of rock, metal and guitar nerds alike.
Mike Portnoy is not coming back to Dream Theater anytime soon, so we might as well give what we've got from him a fair shake. The amount of unfair criticism I've seen from people who never even wanted to give the music a chance is kind of sad, as there is some pretty damn good stuff on here. And no, that's not me saying that anyone who says the band sucks isn't looking at it fairly, as I myself mentioned numerous points where the music does indeed kind of blow. Overall, however, Omerta is an enjoyably energetic modern rock album that shouldn't disappoint those that are into the style. It may surprise first time listeners that Mike Portnoy and Russell Allen are playing the complete and utter opposite of the progressive metal style that made both of them famous, but when you give the music a chance it can be quite a fun album to listen to.
Biding an adieu to Dream Theater, Mike Portnoy teams up with Symphony X vocalist Russell Allen for his music venture that is Adrenaline Mob. Looking at all the drama that was enfolded on Portnoy’s departure from his iconic band, this was one of the most anticipated releases of the year. Adrenaline Mob is a big departure in sound from both Dream Theater and Symphony X, whose fans are expected to flock in to see what Protnoy does after his break up with the band. To put it simply, Omerta is a groove metal album much in the vein of Pantera Vulgar Display Of Power. While this might not seem to be a very good thing to begin with, musically the album presents the sub-genre in its most enjoyable form.
The highlight of the album are the vocals. Russell Allen is in the form of his life here perfectly adding spite and anger to his voice with the 'tuff guy shouting' that is predominantly seen in this sub-genre. His fiery snarls and growls breathe life into the compositions and add an angry atmosphere throughout the record. Mike Portnoy takes a step down from his technical show off he had so very perfected in Dream Theater and rightly so. Where his style suited Dream Theater's progressive, technically showy and complex songs to the T, it would very much be at odds here with these simplistic and straightforward compositions. Portnoy proves he is not just any appreciation hungry, showy and any random kit banging monkey but a clever musician who knows when to step down and take a back seat. The songs are typical groove metal songs with very good quality of riffs and choruses written making this album highly consistent. The songs are short, to the point and the choruses are catchy enough to be appreciated at the first listen itself. The bass doesn't play any big part here, but Mike Orlando should certainly be given credit for his fantastic guitar work here which though being nothing special technically, is of a very high caliber just because it is executed just as well as it is composed. Where this album succeeds is where most groove metal records fail, in the riffs and the choruses. While most albums in the sub genre try to create a more angry atmosphere and toughness than their last record, Omerta here contains a good focus on catchy and enjoyable melodies and tunes, which though may not be a constant sledgehammer of anger, prove to be enjoyable as a whole.
The album contains 11 tracks with a fairly high consistency. The first six tracks are absolute gems featuring stellar composition throughout. I would like to single out Indifferent and All On The Line as being the best tracks. All On the Line is among the softer tracks and one of the finest ballads I have heard in recent times. Indifferent has a very catchy chorus and some very good transitions between softer and harsher parts. Undaunted, Psychosane, Hit The Wall, Feelin' Me, Freight Train are all quality groove metal tracks with excellent choruses and a great harsh and angry atmosphere about them. Angel Sky is a quality ballad, not quite on the plane with All On The Line, but is an enjoyable rack track. The album loses its steam between Come Undone and Down To The Floor all of which are among the album's lows. Fortunately the lows are not that low and are quite enjoyable in themselves.
The album has received quite a lot of flak on being compared with the works Dream Theater and Symphony X with whom this band shares two of its members. True it is far removed from the works of those two said bands but then this certainly does not mean that it is bad music now does it? Bottom-line; this album is a must listen for fans of groove metal and also highly recommended for fans of other sub-genres with a hope that this might change your opinion and a complex about groove metal.
There was much anticipation and speculation about Mike Portnoy's first project since departing from Dream Theater. The inclusion of Symphony X vocalist Russell Allen generated excitement, while the comparisons that band members offered to bands like Disturbed and Godsmack elicited much consternation from the Internet Metal Nerd (IMN) community. When they released their first EP, reactions tended to lean towards the latter. "How DARE people as talented as Mike Portnoy and Russell Allen play this type of music? It's BENEATH THEM and ME!"
Reviews started flying completely destroying this album and the music it contains. A lot of the people that abhorred Omerta seem to have the viewpoint that one of the things that makes them a special snowflake is that their musical tastes are different from most peoples' and that they listen to "real music" while the mindless horde listens to generic rock, pop, country or hip-hop. The thing is, an album like Omerta should be taken at face value rather than criticized for what it is not. This is not progressive metal. The sooner that people accept that (most will not be able to) the sooner that they can appreciate this for what it is: really good, straightforward hard rock.
A comparison can be made to the reaction to Metallica's Load and Reload . Those two had some amazing songs that were overlooked because the sound was so different from what people associated with Metallica. Even then, while both of those albums were remarkably inconsistent, Omerta is a solid listen throughout. Also, it is not like this was released as a Dream Theater album. This is a separate project that makes no false claims towards what should be expected. People are so angry that musicians like these would play this type of music that they would hate it even if it was the greatest album ever in this style.
While this certainly is not the greatest hard rock album ever, there are some really good things at work here. The songs contain muscular riffs, tough-guy singing from Russell Allen and some deceptively good drumming from Mike Portnoy. While there are no crazy drum patterns like in, say, "6:00", there's something to be said for keeping a solid rhythm and enhancing the music rather than trying to overpower it. There are so many drummers out there who can play the tricky stuff, yet lack the ability to be cohesive when the music is so straightforward. Portnoy actually gained some respect from me for his performance here because he knows when to step back and he is able to be part of the band rather than trying to be its focal point.
Russell Allen is the best part of Adrenaline Mob. He gives the music muscle and writes some really killer choruses. The lyrics are sometimes cheesy, but his vocal performance is so good that he can even make the most cliched of lines work. He can sing sweetly on the ballads (like the fantastic "All on the Line") and go right back to kicking ass on the next song (like the energy-infused and moshable "Hit the Wall").
Mike Orlando is a bit of a mixed bag. He writes some killer riffs and definitely has an ear for arrangements. He writes some cool solos on "Undaunted" and "Psychosane", but seems to have a bit of a one-dimensional approach to his guitar solos. Sometimes his solos are just sort of "there" rather than commanding the attention of the listener like the best rock guitarists can do (Dave Navarro, Slash, Mark Tremonti, Joe Satriani etc). Some of the songs could really have benefited from better lead work.
Considering all the bad press leading up to Omerta's release, this sold surprisingly well, at least in America. One of my biggest fears for this album was due to the horrible production on the EP, which did not really do the songs justice. The more professional job on Omerta really brings out the best of these songs. Even the Duran Duran cover is actually really good, thanks to Lzzy Hale's (of rock band Halestorm) electrifying performance. I really hope this project continues because there's a definite chemistry between the members and the potential is even there for airplay on radio stations and opening slots for the big American rock bands. Those looking for technical, progressive metal will be disappointed, but those able to accept Adrenaline Mob for who they are will find much to appreciate.