With Dream Theater kick all sorts of goals with new drummer Mike Mangini – critically acclaimed live shows, a super-well-received first track from forthcoming album A Dramatic Turn Of Events – Mike Portnoy seems determined for us to remember why he’s one of the most respected drummers of his generation. And so we have Adrenaline Mob, which includes Symphony X’s Russell Allen on lead vocals, Fozzy/Stuck Mojo’s Rich Ward on rhythm guitar, the monstrous Mike Orlando on lead guitar and Paul DiLeo on bass.
Adrenaline Mob’s debut EP is full of a lot of ‘greats’ – great songwriting, great performances, great sounds, great energy – but somehow it just doesn’t quite all add up to ‘great EP.’ Everyone seems to always be on 10, all the time, and after a few minutes it starts to all be a bit too much. It’s like Portnoy became so addicted to the live energy of Avenged Sevenfold during his tenure with that band that he pushed his new bandmates to go as hard as they possibly could, all the time. Where Dream Theater excelled at variety, Adrenaline Mob seems to revel in sameness. Where Russell Allen’s brilliant work with Jorn Lande demonstrates all corners of his impressive vocal ability, Adrenaline Mob has him operating at strained levels that leave him nowhere to go.
That’s not to say that this is a bad EP – the rhythm guitar kicks ass, Portnoy has rarely sounded so confident (and that’s saying something), and Orlando is an absolute freak of nature. And the songwriting really is kickass. The cover of Black Sabbath’s “The Mob Rules” feels like it belongs with the rest of the material. But with this EP, Adrenaline Mob seems to desperate to prove to us that they can rock that they forget to supply us with the context. What is high-energy riffage and edge-of-straining vocal technique if it isn’t balanced with restraint and atmosphere? These guys are all incredible musicians (and I’m so glad Ward is getting the opportunity to show more people how good he is – Fozzy are woefully underrated), but this EP should probably be thought of as a good start on the road to more varied and sure-footed material, rather than a clear definition of the band’s sound. This kind of full-on, balls-to-the-wall energy will be a great asset to the band when they hit the road and release their full-length album, but they need to use it as a high gear to hit at appropriate moments, not as a base line that leaves them nowhere else to go.