19 March 2012
by David Keevill
The arrival of a heavyweight supergroup usually causes one of two reactions. On the one hand, this is this perfect opportunity to see all of your favourite musicians come together in a “dream team”-style scenario, and if by chance this magic formula works, then they’re probably one of few lucky amalgamations not to be utter smegma. In the other, much more swollen bracket, are the musical unions that give way a group of musicians whose heads struggle to fit into one room and whose cock measuring activities take priority over pretty much everything else.
Falling into the latter bracket, Mike Portnoy and his latest outfit, Adrenaline Mob, have vaingloriously trying to recreate the successful recent partnerships of bands like Them Crooked Vultures and The Damned Things, but fall far short of hitting the mark; their eleven track release Omertà is a vessel for lots of showy musicianship, and unfortunately, not a lot else.
The opening salvo of Omertà is barely passable. The first three tracks are feisty and are filled with pinch harmonics, shout along choruses and mediocre riffs that amount to sounding like lukewarm renditions of Black Label Society songs. The opening track ‘Undaunted’ is probably the album highlight, and even then its bouncy chorus sounds polished to the bone, a recurring feature across the entirety of this album. ‘All On The Line’ fleshes out the predictability of the record with its inclusion as an obligatory ‘slow song’, and despite its vocal hooks carried well by Symphony X’s Russell Allen, it feels like the band are on autopilot.
The rest of the album should carry a health warning. Considering Adrenaline Mob have such a rich metal heritage, they sound like a pub band, shouting “METAL” and “FUCK” at the top of their lungs, all the while trying to out-play each other. In addition to this, “guitar virtuoso” Mike Orlando doesn’t go thirty seconds without releasing a wholly unnecessary barrage of twiddles and shrieks, which only serves to draw attention to the fact that we’re not dealing with a lot of musical content here. When the album isn’t spunking globs of its own self-worth right back into its own open mouth, then it’s lazily reworking Duran Duran songs (‘Come Undone’) or heaping mounds of tedious and contrived lyrics onto beige music. ‘Hit The Wall’ is just one such monstrosity – “Full speed, I think I’ll make it // I think I’m hitting the wall”.
Listen to ‘Undaunted’ by Adrenaline Mob:
The most shocking thing about the record is that Portnoy and crew could be considered to be at the top of their games; the technical proficiency of the album is undeniable, but Omertà is a fantastic example of how talent doesn’t inherently accompany good song-writing. Instead, we have an album filled with self-aware bullshit, crammed full of musical “moments” that never amount to anything substantial; despite Adrenaline Mob’s apparent belief, it takes more than a couple of riffs and a solo to make a song. Very few of us metalheads actually like to be condescended to by people who think that playing LOUDER and HARDER is what we want to hear.
The album briefly finds redemption in ‘Angel Sky’, for although it’s burdened with the predictability of cartloads of moist-eyed lyrical bollocks, Mike Orlando flouts one his more modest solos, and the song is so much more beneficial for it. Salvation is quickly lost, however, amongst the dollops of indigestible musicianship that make Omertà such a tedious listen. Give it a spin in you must, but I’d advise you to remember Portnoy and Allen in more favourable times. Guff.
Sounds Like: John Petrucci and James LaBrie throwing darts at a picture of Portnoy’s face and having a big old fucking laugh.
Standout Track: Undaunted.