Umm, I’ll be honest with you. I really wasn’t looking forward to this album. As much as I worship Sir Russell Allen (Symphony X, Allen/Lande) and his golden pipes of steel, I really hate this hard rock/nu-metal side project he has going on with friends. Their Omerta debut was a painfully shallow, cringe-inducing foray into Disturbed styled nu-metal mixed with grungy barroom rock and it really didn’t work, even with Allen on vocals and Little Lord Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater, Liquid Tension Experiment) on drums. It was an exercise in mental (and metal) anguish hearing Mr. Allen sing along with simple, brain-dead, staccato riffs that belonged on a P.O.D. album and the material even veered into Nickelback territory (no, really).
Men of Honor replaces Portnoy with A.J. Pero (Twisted Sister and long forgotten, but far better Cities) on drums, and the band now operates with sole guitarist Mike Orlando. Does it matter? Scarcely. Though a bit better and having a few respectable songs and one legitimately good one, like it’s predecessor, it’s dragged down by low rent, third-rate garage band songs that sound like Nickelback meets Pantera meets Disturbed. And yes, that sounds every bit as awful as you imagine.
I’ll be a well mannered fanboy and focus on the good stuff first. “Dearly Departed” is a highly enjoyable hard rock/metal tune with a great vibe and a hooky chorus. It manages to sound tough and manly without being cartoonish and it plays into Allen’s strength and lets him sell the material. It would almost fit on the Allen/Lande albums, but it’s a bit too heavy and mean spirited. “Crystal Clear” is a well written acoustic ballad with a first-rate performance by Allen. Less convincing, but still good is the overwrought power ballad “Behind These Eyes.” In the hands of a lesser vocalist, this sappy concoction wouldn’t win over a teenage girl, but Allen invests so much earnest sincerity in his vocals, it actually works.
The rest of Men of Honor is either complete total shit or stuff I never want to hear again. Included in the former are such disasters as “Mob is Back,” which sounds almost exactly like Nickelback‘s “Burn it to the Ground” as played by Godsmack; the Pantera wannabe “Come On, Get Up,” where Allen regularly admonishes you to “man up” and “grow some balls” as rudimentary nu-metal riffs assault your self esteem. Also spectacularly awful is “Let It Go” which has P.O.D. written all over it in crayon, and last but worst, “House of Lies” where the band stoops to cock rock on steroids and Allen sings winners like “I wanna fuck you til you scream my name out loud” and “come on baby, drive me crazy, take me for a ride.” Say it ain’t so Russell!
This is clearly a case of talented musicians stuck with terrible material of their own dubious choosing. Russell can sing the moon down, but since this is supposed to be heavy, angry music, he gets relegated to shouting and snarling 90% of the time. He has a powerful rasp, but for whatever reason, it just doesn’t convince me and I can’t get into it. The riffing by Mike Orlando is mostly tired garbage that sounds exactly like Disturbed or any other nu-metal act you care to name. It’s monotonous, simplistic and strives to be nothing more than high school weightlifting music. On the plus side, he can bust out some surprisingly good solos when he wants.
As much as I get a musician’s need to branch out from their main act and do what they like, Adrenaline Mob just isn’t producing consistently good material. There are flashes of quality, but they get drowned in a sea of pablum. Men of Honor is better than Omerta, but it’s certainly not a good album and I can’t seem to adjust to saying that in relation to a Russell Allen project. Where’s my copy of Divine Wings of Tragedy when I really need it?