Review Summary: See? Radio rock can be good!
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. Mother***ing 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.