Review Summary: Well, this was a surprise.
Like any good prog fan, I was somewhat disturbed by the formation of Adrenaline Mob. It seemed like a regression on all fronts to have Mike Portnoy and Russell Allen playing in a band with more similarities to Black Label Society than to Dream Theater or Symphony X. Then came the horribly produced Adrenaline Mob EP with the embarrassing "Psychosane" and I was more than prepared to hate the band's next offering. Omerta has all the trappings of a train wreck. A disgraced drummer. A generic, dated style. "Mobster" posturing. Even Nickelback-esque club pandering in the form of 'Feelin' Me.' The ironically titled closer seems like the icing on the cake. But for all the clichés and superficialities, I can't deny that this is a great album, filled with strong hooks and a fun atmosphere that's hard to find in an age where metal purveys little more than doom and darkness.
If you're looking for sophisticated, cerebral prog, this is probably not for you. I've found, however, that the likability of Omerta hinges just as much on guitarist Mike Orlando as it does on the overall style and genre. Orlando's queazy tone and Zakk Wylde meets Eddie Van Halen shred hysterics aren't for everyone. But I, for one, like the intensity of his solos and think that his riffs on tracks like Undaunted, Indifferent, and Believe Me are great. Having listened to his solo albums, though, I'll concede that he didn't really bring everything to the table for Omerta. His colorful influences from Joe Satriani, Al Di Meola, and New Age are conspicuously absent, and this shows in the Duran Duran cover (Come Undone) which eschews the atmospheric quality of the original in favor of a generic, nu-metal backdrop. Orlando takes unfortunate cues from nu-metal in his production as well. Though a significant improvement from the EP, the bass is inaudible at points, and the waveforms rather dynamic-less and clipped; only the intros to Undaunted, All On The Line, Hit The Wall, and Angel Sky yield dips in loudness.
Portnoy, like Orlando, is a mixed bag. He does a relatively good job of holding down the fort, but opted for drum triggers that make those on Images And Words seem organic by comparison. Everything is even, and everything falls sightly behind the beat. Psychosane suffers the most, but this a nuisance throughout the entire record. The undoubted MVP of Omerta is Russell Allen, whose performance builds upon the gruff vocal style of the past two Symphony X records. It's easy to see, given his impressive range and tone, why he's one of the most consistently lauded and respected singers in the history of metal. Even the cheesy lyrics leave him 'undaunted,' and his duet with Lzzy Hale is something to behold.
I won't comment too much on the actual songwriting, because I, even as someone who enjoys the record, will admit that it's formulaic. You begin with a riff (or a pick slide; Mike Orlando loves those pick slides), then jump into a typical verse, chorus, bridge style format. No surprises here, folks. The only track with even a pinch of progressive influence is Hit The Wall, which segues into a slow, sludgy outro similar to Dream Theater's The Dark Eternal Night. The ballads All On The Line and Angel Sky also provide a change of pace from the constant chugging. The latter would have to be my favorite track on the album, featuring a beautiful chorus and some tasteful guitar harmonies from Orlando. Opposite the spectrum of quality is Down To The Floor, which sounds like a straight rip from Nickelback's Dark Horse album. Russell singing "I'm ready to explode" never fails to crack me up.
But in the end, the fun quality proves to be Omerta's redeeming value. I would actually draw parallels to the new Van Halen album, in that, while you get some cheesy lyrics like "stay frosty" and "mousewife to momshell," you get an enjoyable, hook-laden affair that most (unpretentious) fans of hard rock and heavy metal will enjoy. The clichés prevent it from being everything it could have been, but you'll be hard-pressed to find another 2012 metal release that rocks this hard.