I’m a Russell Allen fanboy. I sing his praises every chance I get because he’s one of the best vocalists to ever grace the metal genre. Whether its his work with Symphony X, Allen/Lande or Star One, his vocals make good music great and great music stupendous. It was only a matter of time however, until we found out what his vocals could do for average or bad music. With the release of Omerta, the debut by “supergroup” Adrenaline Mob, we get that chance. With progressive metal luminaries like Allen and Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater, ex-Fates Warning, etc. etc.) onboard, one might expect this to be fairly complex, prog-based music. Omerta is actually the exact opposite. This is grungy, simplistic hard rock/metal somewhere between Godsmack and Nickelback, with some Black Label Society and P.O.D. mixed in (yes, I said P.O.D.). There are loads of groove-based riffs, hard rocky vocals, an ear toward general catchiness, and there’s even a Duran Duran cover (yes, I said Duran Duran). While I was taken aback by the style and delivery, Sir Russell can make almost anything listenable, even simple, pedestrian material. Notice I said “almost anything.” That’s because most of this stuff couldn’t be saved, even by Allen’s golden pipes. It’s just plain bad, amateurish and low-rent.
Muscular opener ”Undaunted” is like the sequel to Godsmack’s ”I Stand Alone” and features simple, heavy groove riffs and an unrecognizably rough, raw performance by Allen. If I didn’t know it was him, there’s no chance I would’ve guessed it. Though formulaic and generic, the song has a certain tough-guy, biker rock appeal and ends up quiet palatable. Follow ups like “Indifferent,” “All On The Line” and “Believe Me” are slick, basic commercial rock/metal, where Allen’s vocals and some Zakk Wylde-like riffing help keeps things moving. However, ditties like “Psychosane” and “Hit the Wall” have little going for them and fall flat. Even worse, “Feelin Me” has awful, profanity-laced, ”I’m such a bad ass” lyrics and a chorus of “are you motherfuckers feelin me?” C’mon guys, you’re better than that. The balance of the material is average to way below average. Oddly enough, the Duran Duran cover is well done and one of the highlights (never a good sign on a metal album).
My biggest gripe here is the weak songwriting. Most of this stuff is local bar band quality. Only a few songs rise to the level one would expect from such seasoned, well-regarded music vets as Allen and Portnoy. Another big obstacle is the overly simplistic, repetitive riffing by Mike Orlando. 80% of Omerta is laden with forgettable, throw-away hard rock leads. The guy can clearly play and shows that during solos (“Angel Sky” in particular) but man, a lot of the stuff he comes up with is dull, forgettable and far too grounded in nu-metal ethos. It really kills a lot of the material. While Allen is a vocal titan and can lend his voice to almost any style of music and sound convincing, he often sounds forced here as he tries to adopt a rough and tough barroom style. I totally get that this type of music doesn’t require sweeping, epic ”Paradise Lost” vocals, but he feels too locked down and fake on much of Omerta. The fact that so many of the lyrics are painfully cheesy and cliché doesn’t help either (try “Freight Train” for a good example). Likewise, the stripped down musical style doesn’t allow Portnoy to do much on the kit. He plays the role of hard rock drummer just fine, but not much is required of him.
As supergroup projects go, this one is an unfortunate failure. Both Allen and Portnoy are under-utilized, and while that may be exactly what they wanted, it doesn’t make for a compelling listen, especially when teamed with sub par writing. Outside of the novelty of hearing these guys in a hard rock band, I can’t really think of much to recommend this (and Russell Allen’s Atomic Soul is a way better example anyway). Please note for the record, this in NO way diminishes, dilutes or degrades my Russell Allen fanboyism. I just had to make that clear, for posterity and such. Break up the Mob!