What began as a bona fide supergroup, with perhaps higher than realistic expectations, has now settled into a respectable hard rock outfit on a seemingly leveled playing field – Adrenaline Mob is now a band. It began under rather auspicious circumstances, and Adrenaline Mob was, most visibly, Mike Portnoy’s toy. The ex-Dream Theater/current Winery Dogs drummer, who left Adrenaline Mob last year shortly after the group’s 2012 full-length debut, “Omerta,” brought with him the element of hype when he formed the band along with Symphony X vocalist Russell Allen and guitarist Mike Orlando. Now, with the musically promiscuous Portnoy gone (since replaced by ex-Twisted Sister drummer A.J. Pero), free to focus on a myriad of other irons on the fire, Adrenaline Mob exudes a more cohesive vibe; that never-intended assumption of prog-ready intricacy makes way for a delayed recognition of solid Active Rock-formatted material.
“Men of Honor,” while heavy, is not heavy for heavy’s sake. Much of the songwriting relies on a mid-tempo roll, laced with plenty of acoustic backing that takes a little time to build up to the money-capper shot – the big chugging chorus with Allen’s trademark howl in check. “Behind These Eyes” begins with an almost Spanish guitar intro, seguing into a somewhat Shinedown/Seether emotive vibe. Hear Allen’s cry of, “Can you save me, I’m begging tonight ‘cause I’m losing this fight,” and you get the angle Adrenaline Mob is aiming for – straight-up modern-rock sensibility shooting for personal connection. Similarly, “Crystal Clear” is a darker shade of melancholy involved in sorting through complex feelings – chord voicings reminiscent of Goo Goo Dolls mainman John Rzeznik’s more kaleidoscopic tunings.
The more combustible moments occur with “Come On Get Up,” with a bottom-heavy groove that’s not too far removed from bassist John Moyer’s mothership outfit, Disturbed. “Let It Go” is also begging for a David Draiman rant, the song’s muted syncopation seeming as if it’s desperately trying to hold back a deluge of savage riffery – the song climaxes nicely in a fit of Godsmack-esque anger. As if not to be outdone by the shadow of Portnoy, Pero releases a burst of unbridled knocking on the track that should perk up a few ears skeptical that he can hang with this caliber of musician. By album’s end, it’s clear that the band has evolved and made huge strides in developing a signature sound.
No reinvention of the wheel here; what you get is a batch of seasoned veterans, digging hard into head-crack vehemence like they’ve got something to prove. “Men of Honor” is meant to be judged as a stand-alone record, not through the eyes of its members’ pasts.
Adrenaline Mob ‘Men of Honor’ Rating: W W W W V