This is a really good metal album. That may sound like an overly-simplistic statement, but I open by saying that because I was braced for metal supergroup mediocrity. Instead, what was delivered is a nice surprise of competent, aggressive, and often interesting songs that dance closely on both sides of the line between traditional metal and the more commercial metal sound of the past few years.
In case metal isn’t your usual primary genre (or you claim to be a metal fan but have been living under a rock), let’s discuss who’s in Adrenaline Mob. The mighty Mike Portnoy, of Dream Theater and Avenged Sevenfold fame, handles the skins. Lead vocals are delivered by Russell Allen (one of my favorite metal vocalists currently recording) of Symphony X, and Mike Orlando from Sonic Stomp is the lead guitarist (and, apparently, brought a good chunk of the original songs to the table to help get the project jump-started). Now, the original lineup of the band included a couple of guys from the band Fozzy (Rich Ward and Paul DiLeo), but they have since left (apparently amicably) due to time constraints. And so now, John Moyer of Disturbed is officially the bass player…no replacement rhythm guitarist has been announced as of yet (although touring has been scheduled, so we can assume this is in the works).
That’s one hell of a line-up. You’ve got a shredder on lead guitar, a neo-classical metal vocalist on the throat, an over-the-top progressive metal legend on the drums, and a nü-metal bass player. It’s an interesting combination, but the real question is, “does it work?” The good news is that the answer is, for the most part, a big “yes.”
Omerta is named for the Mafia code that designates complete non-compliance and silence with regard to authority, even at the price of personal consequences (vendetta may be claimed later, if need be). It’s an apt title, as the album opener, Undaunted, is a collision between straight speed metal and the more radio-friendly strains of current nü-metal. This refusal to answer to the authority of “choose an identifiable sound” that labels usually inflict continues throughout the collection.
This is a really positive surprise for anyone who downloaded the original self-titled EP. All four original songs from that EP are on Omerta (“Psychosane,” “Hit The Wall,” “Believe Me,” and “Down To The Floor”). Taken by themselves, it seemed that Adrenaline Mob might be a one-tricky pony, as all of these tunes are straight-up heavy-riffed metal growlers. Independently, they all sound good, including some amazing shredding from Orlando, but if there were 6-8 more tracks of the exact same feel on the album, it would eventually grow pretty tiresome. That, and it didn’t sound like Russell Allen’s vocal capabilities were being fully leveraged. However, the LP adds a lot of variety that makes the collection really work.
Take, for example, “All On The Line”, a metal ballad that really shows off Allen’s vocals. His voice soars here and the song also grants Orlando an opportunity to play (not overplay) a fantastic melodic guitar solo. In a similar vein is “Angel Sky”, which is an 80s metal tribute if I’ve ever heard one, from the title to the lyrics to the guitar tone to the delivery. Imagine if Whitesnake and Dio had a love child song – this is what would be delivered (and Russell does a pretty good Dio-inspired vocal on this track as well).
Probably the biggest surprise of the album is a cover of Duran Duran’s “Come Undone”. You heard me right: Duran Duran. And it works. It works big-time, mainly due to making this a duet with Lzzy Hale of Halestorm. Hale and Allen’s voices blend perfectly, and Lzzy’s voice just makes the chorus pop out. Both of these vocalists have huge pipes, and together the impact is massive. The other guys are largely relegated to a backing band on this tune, and that’s ok; they’re solid and it’s really about the vocals, anyway.
“Feelin’ Me” is another fist to the solar plexus, and the closer, “Freight Train”, plays along the same lines as the EP and is a nice way to wrap up the collection – big, heavy, and merciless.
Portnoy sounds awesome across the board. He really delivers proper metal drums here – very straight and without embellishment until it’s called for. We know how over-the-top his delivery can be from his long tenure in Dream Theater. But here, he dials it up when called for, and the rest of the time shows perfect restraint in knowing when to just play straight sixteenth notes on the kick drums or a ballad beat. Everyone is aware that he can destroy a drum kit if he wants to, but he doesn’t show off until the tempo hits about 130 BPM. Big kudos to Mike for showing his maturity as a musician.
Additionally, it should be noted that Orlando’s shredding ability is on par with Yngwie Malmsteen or Paul Gilbert. Unlike Yngwie, however, he applies it a lot more judiciously, which speaks to his integrity as a band member, not to mention making the songs more interesting.
My complaints of this album are minor. If there was a weak track, I’d call out “Indifferent”. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still pretty good, but to me it feels like a typical melodic nü-metal song. It has some decent gang vocals and I don’t hit “skip,” but it doesn’t deliver the connection of the rest of the collection. The other item I’d point out is profanity. I know, I know, you’re going, “dude, this is a metal album!” So just know that I take no issue with profanity, especially used well. I grew up in a General Motors town, so I became proficient at a young age. No, it’s just that the application here is a little overdone. On “Psychosane”, there is a repeat of “motherfucking psychosane” that goes on for far too long, and “Feelin’ Me” drops shit/God damn/by the balls and, again, motherfucker multiple times. My rule is that if you have to say “motherfucker” more than once in a song, you’re probably trying too hard to prove you’re a badass.
Those small complaints aside, Omerta really delivers. You can easily add it to the list of great metal albums by established artists recently released, such as Metallica’s Beyond Magnetic EP, Iron Maiden’s The Final Frontier, and Overkill’s The Electric Age. The older metal contingent is really showing the younger guys how to deliver quality music throughout their career. The new guys would do well to take notice, and you’d do well to pick up Omerta if you’re a metalhead and/or a big fan of any of the musicians that came together to form Adrenaline Mob.
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