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Adrenaline Mob

Omertá

(Elm City/EMI; US: 12 Mar 2012; UK: 19 Mar 2012)

Adrenaline Mob is a metal supergroup, bringing together “acclaimed Symphony X singer Russell Allen, former Dream Theater and Avenged Sevenfold drum virtuoso Mike Portnoy, and Sonic Stomp shred extraordinaire Mike Orlando.” The accuracy of those descriptions, plucked from the band’s bio, is irrefutable, no matter how hyperbolic they seem—Portnoy and Allen are genuinely legendary figures in the progressive metal realm. Which makes it all the more tragic is that Adrenaline Mob’s debut full-length, Omertá, reeks of squandered potential, consisting of a lacklustre pile of masturbatory riffs and hackneyed heavy rock banality.


To be fair, the band has been honest about what to expect from Omertá, stating that Adrenaline Mob’s material has nothing in common with the members’ better-known outfits—an absolutely correct statement considering their other work is frequently fantastic. Signs weren’t exactly promising when Adrenaline Mob released its unexceptional self-titled debut EP in ‘11. Overdosing on clichés, both lyrical and musical, it was burdened by its triteness. Disappointingly, the band has chosen to include four songs from the EP on the new album.


Omertá is comprised of an unremarkable patchwork of crunchy modern metal and hard rock. Obviously there’s nothing inherently wrong with that approach; despite the mundane familiarity, stuff like that sells by the truckload. But considering the pedigree of those involved it’s not unrealistic to expect that Omertá would, at the very least, contain an imaginative slant on such a style. It does not. It is frustratingly pedestrian and takes all that was bland about the band’s EP and stretches it over 40 painful minutes.


Guitarist Orlando spends the entire album histrionically wrenching shredding harmonics from his six-string. With finger-tapped solos and sweeping flurries there’s no doubt he’s a guitar guru, but his proficiency has been employed in a completely arbitrary manner. By drowning everything in endlessly squealing riffs, any chance that an actual song could raise its head in a distinctive fashion has been extinguished.


Riff frenzies are what metal’s all about, but Zakk Wylde was throwing out very similar wailing follow-throughs way back in ‘88 on Ozzy’s No Rest for the Wicked. Unfortunately, that’s not the only recognizable taint to the album. When the band goes hard, like on “Undaunted”, it becomes a bit like latter day Korn, while softer tracks like “All On the Line” drift uncomfortably close to the stagnant melodic rock of Nickleback.


There’s also the issue of Allen’s vocals. He is a phenomenal singer with an operatic range, and his work with his main band, Symphony X, is extraordinarily good—the band’s last two albums, Paradise Lost and Iconoclast are classic progressive metal releases. But on Omertá his voice is wasted. Clearly it was his choice to drop the dramatic tones and concentrate on rougher textures, but characterless numbers like “Down to the Floor” and the cringe-worthy saccharine ballad “Angel Sky” do nothing to illustrate his abundant capacity. And when he does bust out the howls on “Believe Me”, whatever rousing might he could inspire is snuffed out by the overindulgence of the accompanying music.


While there are significant issues with Omertá, there are features about the album that fans of harder edged heavy rock will find attractive—and Adrenaline Mob has a substantial following. Fans of Joe Satriani would adore passages on “Hit the Wall”, while Black Label Society devotees would get a kick out of “Psychosane”. The band’s decision to cover Duran Duran’s “Come Undone” is admirable—guest vocals from Lzzy Hale certainly make for a unique interpretation. But ultimately, one song and attractive passages here and there don’t excuse the band for producing such an anaemic album.


Omertá is inoffensive and pulpy, and it’ll likely sell by the tens of thousands. It doesn’t matter that the band can’t decide if the album is metal, hard rock, or gun-ho metallic rock, or that Portnoy and Allen’s actual artistry is redundant. Adrenaline Mob has crafted an album as far removed from the celebrated work of its members as you can possibly get. And considering that was the objective you could almost call Omerta a complete success—if not for the fact that it is so full of uninteresting and unimaginative music.

Rating:

Craig Hayes is based in Aotearoa New Zealand, and he is a contributing editor and columnist at PopMatters. Alongside his reviews and feature articles, Craig's monthly column, Ragnarök, traverses the metal spectrum. He is the co-author of PopMatters' regular metal round-up, Mixtarum Metallum, contributes to radio shows and numerous other sites, and he favours music that clangs, bangs, crashes, or drones. Craig can be found losing followers daily on twitter @sixnoises.


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