Sound — 7
I'm a pretty big fan of Sir Russell Allen of Symphony X. In fact, a big enough fan that I attach the "Sir" prefix as per the suggestion of one Arjen Lucassen of Ayreon, who once considered him one of the greatest singers in rock and metal. Even though not all of Symphony X's music resonates with me, Russell Allen's vocals are nothing short of heroic at nearly all times. Just the right combination of raspy growl and soulful croon. So when I heard that he was starting a band with former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy and talented but relatively unknown guitarist Mike Orlando, I was excited for what would come. But "Omerta" left me cold.
Coming off less as the proggy sort of metal that having Allen and Portnoy in the band would suggest, and more as a sort of bro-metal band in the vein of Disturbed (whose bassist, John Moyer, would join for album #2), the band always seemed a tad disappointing to me, especially after Portnoy left, severing the band's tenuous prog-metal connection further.
"We The People" brings further lineup changes, with Portnoy replacement A.J. Pero of Twisted Sister having passed away tragically in 2015, and John Moyer having left the band to focus on Disturbed once again, as well as join Queensrÿche splinter group Operation: Mindcrime. David Zablidowsky replaces him on bass, while Jordan Cannata takes the drum throne, though A.J. Pero appears on the album's closing track, a cover of Billy Idol's "Rebel Yell". Orlando and Allen still form the nucleus of the band, and the album's sound is mostly based around their sound.
Much like my experience with the band's first two records, the album doesn't offer up much in terms of originality or freshness. While this might work on albums by bands like Seether (whose recent release "Poison The Parish" actually won me over in a recent review), it feels like a band with members of such a high pedigree reaching for some kind of mainstream rock radio airplay is a bit odd. However, despite this, the songs on this album are definitely not poorly executed. Throughout the album, Russell Allen's vocals are completely on point, and while he generally focuses on the heavier aspects of his singing, when he sings in a more clean style, as he does in the bridge of the album opener "King of the Ring", he really drives home the point of why so many people consider him one of the greatest metal and rock vocalists out there. Mike Orlando's riffs may seem to belong to an entirely different decade, but when he shreds, I listen intently. Even the new bassist and drummer, despite not standing out performance-wise to the same degree as Orlando and Allen, are very talented and quite capable of making some great grooves. The band does occasionally bring in a bit of influence from Allen's main band, with tracks like "What You're Made Of" being a sort of bro-fied Symphony X track, with a really great vocal hook. Album closer "Lords of Thunder" also comes fairly close to sounding like a classic Symphony X tune as well, with its slightly more progressive and epic structure, with some brass instrumentation and military-style snare work. And "Raise 'Em Up" is perhaps one of the best songs on the album with its incredible vocal hook and its shuffle-rhythm stomp underpinning a fine solo from Orlando.
Sadly, a lot of the songwriting is just kind of generic. There's not really anything wrong with that, and one gets the sense that this is exactly what Adrenaline Mob were going for, as they're definitely not trying to be a progressive band. But most of the songs have this very same-y quality, and some of the bits that are designed to stick about just come off as kind of corny, such as the acoustic intro of "Blind Leading the Blind" (though the track does have a great chorus hook). Generally, the songs on the album lack any real individual stamp, sounding like they could be by any of the current crop of heavy rock bands in the vein of Five Finger Death Punch or the like. The production is not bad on the album, though. The mixing is very slick and it's a real treat to be able to easily hear the bassist on this record, so I have to give it points for that. And the performances, particularly when Orlando takes solos or Cannata takes drum fills, are exemplary. These guys may not write the best songs, but they sure can play!
Lyrics — 7
It's no surprise that in the political climate of the world as of late, many bands are going full-on political with their lyrics these days, and "We The People" shows Adrenaline Mob carrying that same sentiment, with many of the songs reflecting society these days, and the climate of the world in the 2016/2017 US election. But rather than the lyrics overtly tackling the subject matter, they seem almost a bit like a metaphor, like in the song "King of the Ring", a sort of bravado and machismo-laden track with sort of ham-fisted lyrics about fighting: "I am king of these roped walls and in this ring of fire you will burn/Feel the wrath the hate the weight my world upon your shoulders/You will feel the hurt/I will make you crawl/Here we go blow by blow/Get 'em up and get ready/Feel the sting/hit by hit/Throwing punches so deadly". The title track describes "a land where everyone's consuming/And the leader's choking/Evil words are spoken/Everything is broken/What is this world coming to?", and is probably the album's most overtly political track. Some tracks are not political at all, with "Chasing Dragons" being a song about substance abuse: "Look at yourself/Face to face/Through the cracks/And you want to chase the dragon/Want to taste that drug/And feel that rush again/Wide awake/Staring at the ceiling/Another drink should get you through the night/And you're praying for a savior/And I'm knocking, I'm knocking at your door".
As mentioned, (Sir) Russell Allen is one of the most incredible vocalists in metal, and this album, despite being uninventive and perhaps a little uninspired, his voice manages to carry much of this album out of the doldrums. Fans of Allen's more gruff, heavy vocal style will be very pleased with this record, as he chooses to focus on that aspect of his voice much of the time, but does see fit to sing more melodically during choruses, and he really does have a good ear for vocal melodies that work very well. So even though the lyrics are not really to my taste, I can still enjoy their delivery by a singer that still deserves the honorific bestowed upon him. Plus, on the album's actual closing track, he manages to pull off as perfect of a rendition of "Rebel Yell" by Billy Idol as I've ever heard any singer accomplish.
Overall Impression — 7
As with "Omerta" and "Men Of Honor", "We The People" is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, the band performs extremely admirably, being an incredible pool of talent that even some progressive bands would envy. Make no mistake, this band can shred. At this point, none of the members of this band really have anything left to prove, vocalist Russell Allen in particular. But on the other hand, such talent and potential seems almost wasted on such uninspired songwriting. While bands such as Seether and Chevelle, whom I've recently done reviews of, pull off this style really well, it's also the style we've come to expect from them, and none of the members of those bands have long, storied careers in progressive metal bands to compare their success to. Adrenaline Mob, knowing where the talent in this band has come from, sort of comes off a bit forced in a mainstream heavy rock setting. Like the songs have been carefully constructed for maximum airplay potential, rather devoid of any experimentation or spontaniety.
But none of this takes away from the fact that, as far as mainstream hard rock and metal albums go, this is a very solid one, and it's not a completely unlistenable record. Frankly, there were many moments on the record that had me headbanging along, and I definitely found myself enjoying Mike Orlando's solos a lot. I have nothing but praise for the abilities of this band, and their songs, uninventive as they are, are not offensively bad. Some of them, at times, can even get quite good, especially when we get into some of the deeper cuts on the record like album closer "Lords of Thunder". Well, closer if you don't count the cover of Billy Idol's "Rebel Yell", which is a rather faithful cover of the original.
So it's a bit of a mixed bag. Some good, some bad, all in all, a rather average mainstream rock record, from musicians that have been known for doing much better than average. But not a bad record, overall.