Saturday, June 25, 2011

Adrenaline Mob Show Review

The metal world’s newest supergroup debuted in New York City last night, choosing the Hiro Ballroom to introduce their music to excited fans in a roaring, highly anticipated live performance.

Drummer Mike Portnoy has drawn much of the attention to this new band, following the drama surrounding his leaving Dream Theater and playing with Avenged Sevenfold. But many fans last night were equally excited to see vocalist Russell Allen from Symphony X fronting the group, and with only snippets of songs released through Facebook teasers, no one in the crowd really knew what to expect.

Further fueling the intrigue was a supposedly strict rule against any form of photography or videography, even for press. In addition to signs posted virtually everywhere, Eddie Trunk, host of the night, personally came out to plead with the crowd not to take any pictures or videos, in a way that suggested the band was perhaps afraid of losing control of their music and image. Other professional photographers and videographers were present the entire time, but in keeping with the band’s wishes as personally expressed to me in an email, I took no pictures of the group. While the caveat was unprecedented for any concert in this Examiner’s experience, the entire night was unique in other ways as well, considering that none of the few hundred people in attendance knew any of the band’s music, and in fact this was the first ever metal concert at the Japanese-themed Hiro Ballroom, generally a club hotspot on Friday nights.

The band kicked off the night with a cover of Dio-era Black Sabbath’s Mob Rules, instantly getting the crowd moving with the classic anthem. In interviews, members of Adrenaline Mob have compared their sound to bands like Disturbed and Black Label Society but with Dio singing, and while that seemed like a tall order, in fact Adrenaline Mob truly does sound like some BLS riffs mixed with Disturbed’s radio-friendly production and songwriting, and Russell Allen’s powerful voice allowed him to both cover and emulate Ronnie James Dio’s distinct power metal sound.

Running through their entire upcoming record, the band played songs with titles like Hit The Wall, Feeling Me, and Hit The Gas, chugging hard rock with crushing Mike Portnoy percussion giving it extra drive. Lead guitarist Mike Orlando sizzled on his solos, shredding on almost every song alongside fellow axeman Rich Ward, from Fozzy and Stuck Mojo. But despite a heavy presence of Mike Portnoy fans filling the crowd, Allen made the biggest impact, singing, roaring, and vividly gesturing as he sang typical metal lyrics about fighting, driving cars, and other generic aggressive subjects.

While most tracks had a powerful groove and catchy riff, it’s hard to say that any of the material really jumped at this first listen. A song entitled Angel Sky had a distinct Symphony X vibe, and one likely titled PsychoSane, which saw Portnoy whispering backup vocals, reminded this reviewer of the Disturbed track Get Psycho, both in substance and style. A power ballad was enjoyable as well, but like the rest of the music, seemed to lack a chorus or lick catchy enough to stay in your head once the song ended.

Fans seemed to enjoy the show for the most part, nodding their heads to the beat and throwing up the occasional devil horns for particularly slamming passages, but there was never a chance of a mosh pit breaking out or true metal carnage, perhaps due to the fact that no one was able to have a favorite song or breakdown yet. The band themselves certainly enjoyed themselves, and as they should - the group was incredibly tight, and clearly has a great musical connection among themselves

After playing an unexpected cover of Duran Duran’s Come Undone, the supergroup’s potential was to become more apparent once Portnoy stood up from behind his drum kit and shouted “That’s it! That’s the whole album!” It was now cover time, and that’s where the band truly shined. They blasted out High Wire by The Badlands, followed by Dio’s Stand Up and Shout, neatly wrapping their own record between the night’s first and last Dio covers. The show ended with an encore of War Pigs, which was truly crushing from start to finish, as Allen belted out the classic tune and alternated verses with the crowd, who were more than happy to sing along to a song they finally knew the words to.

In the end, it’s hard to judge Adrenaline Mob based on last night’s show alone. Without a doubt, the musicians are all spectacular, both in their own right as well as a cohesive unit. Russell Allen proved he can do much more than power metal, and Mike Orlando’s guitar work was truly ferocious. Mike Portnoy needs to prove nothing at this point in his career, and while in fact his drumming was noticeably less “proggy” than Dream Theater fans might have expected, even playing more basic straight up hard rock the drummer still laid down a crushing, heavy impact base for the rest of the band to go to town on. The music, both original and covers, all gelled in the way that speaks to the immense talent in the supergroup.

But like other supergroups, the music itself might not equal the sum of its parts. It’s not fair to judge a song off of a single listen, and the riffs, beats, and vocals were all quality, but with the possible exception of a song called Indifferent, nothing really jumped out as a kick-you-in-the-head instant favorite. The songs are radio-friendly, easy metal listening, but that’s not necessarily what most metal fans want to hear, and this Examiner suspects that by merging such diverse raw talent, the finished results may lack any room for those raw talents to do what they do best on their own.

The band took an interesting chance by insisting on debuting their music live, ensuring that all the power and energy were delivered as loudly and in-your-face as possible, but the flip side is that no one could replay a song or take their time to let it grow on them. The band puts on a fantastic live show, but only time, and the official release of music, will tell if their songwriting meets the high level of expectation that fans have been developing.

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