Thursday, April 10, 2014

Adrenaline Mob - Men of Honor

There's a certain cross-section of metal fans that seem to insist on criticising bands like Hellyeah and Five Finger Death Punch for being too 'simple'.  I honestly don't understand this.  As much as I enjoy listening to bands like Deftones and Mastodon that really push the boundaries and head off in all sorts of creative directions, there's also a time and place for bands that deliver the tried and true combination of kick-ass riffs and catchy, relatable lyrics.

Adrenaline Mob's newest album has also copped a bit of criticism in some quarters for this.  I find this somewhat hilarious for two reasons.  Firstly, no-one criticises Fu Manchu, AC/DC or Motorhead for the same thing and they've been doing it for 20, 30, 40 plus years!  Secondly, Adrenaline Mob's past and present line-up includes a number of guys who continue to be hugely influential, creative forces within the rock and metal genres.  Singer Russel Allen's "other" band, Symphony X, have produced some progressive masterpieces, most recently the insanely good Iconoclast (2011).  Guitarist Mike Orlando has worked with the likes of Zakk Wylde and Bumblefoot.  Former drummer Mike Portnoy basically defined the progressive metal genre in his time with Dream Theater and only left the band because of the sheer volume of other things he's involved in, most notably the Winery Dogs who delivered a great debut album last year.

Long story short, these guys have earned the right to just write some kick-ass, fun rock songs and more power to them.  Men of Honor follows in the footsteps of debut album Omerta by taking the hard, direct approach to things.

The Mob Is Back kicks off with a big intro duel between Orlando and drummer AJ Pero (ex-Twisted Sister) before locking into a massively groovy main riff which really sets the tone for the whole album.  The Mob is indeed back, and they will kick your ass.  Come On Get Up is next, and features an even bigger hook - it's raw, direct and a lot of fun.

Dearly Departed sees Russel Allen really come to the fore, leading a big crescendo through the verses.  There's an almost melancholic feel to this track and it's a good counterpoint to the groove metal of the first two tracks.  It's followed by Behind These Eyes, a decent reinvention of the 'power ballad' which has fallen on hard times in recent years and which no doubt drew on Pero's considerable experience of the genre.

Let It Go is a fairly pissed-off sounding piece of groove metal, while Feel the Adrenaline continues that great metal tradition started by Megadeth on 1320' of writing appropriately full-throttle songs about drag-racing.

After the melodic heaviness of the title track (with a great solo from Mike Orlando), the acoustically-led Crystal Clear is a welcome breather before another brutal 1-2 punch in the form of House of Lies and Judgment Day.  

Falling to Pieces is one of the album's most distinctive tracks.  The combination of a down-tuned acoustic rhythm guitar and an electric guitar for lead and texture is a head-nod to Alice in Chains, and despite building to some big moments, the maintains that easy acoustic groove throughout.  Then the record closes with Gets You Through the Night, a straight-ahead rocker anchored around yet another solid guitar hook.

Overall, Men of Honor might not be pushing the boundaries of metal, but sometimes, all you need is a good riff - and they sure do come thick and fast on this album.  Uncomplicated, kick-ass, full-throttle hard rock.

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