Adrenaline Mob weren’t exactly received with open arms and big hugs when they unleashed debut record ‘Omerta’. No matter what, the four-piece will always have their critics because of the history that surrounds them. On paper, the membership of the super-group – featuring ex-Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy, Symphony X vocalist Russell Allen, Disturbed’s John Moyer and esteemed guitarist Mike Orlando – look like blueprints to an uber-techincal, over-the-top prog metal band. But what Adrenaline Mob came up with was something entirely different. I did a phoner with Mike Orlando to find out what Adrenaline Mob means to him.
“It’s not a prog band at all. I’ve never been from the prog world and I didn’t even know who Symphony X was, respectively, till I met Russ, just because I wasn’t in the world of that genre.”
Having two monumental progressive rock musicians like Mike Portnoy and Russell Allen in your band will create plenty of prejudgments about what the resulting sound of this super-group collaboration will be. But Mike Orlando – who founded the US-based Adrenaline Mob with both Portnoy and Allen – brought a proactive mind-set and reams of rocking riffs at the beginning to lay the creative foundations for the band after working with Allen on his solo record ‘Atomic Soul’. “I presented him all this material that I had been accumulating and most of it ended up on the Adrenaline Mob album,” Orlando recalls. “I brought it to him and we reworked everything. To me, the songs are based around hard rock; that’s what I do and I think it was a great mix to bring it to Russ. I thought he’d be really great in that context, and he just hit it out of the park. The key turned the engine and the sparks flew out the muffler!”
It’s a fitting metaphor for a talented musician who, away from the bright lights and blaring Marshalls, is also a drag racer. He even wrote about his passion for it on ‘Omerta’ with ninth track ‘Down To The Floor’. “I’ve been racing for a long time in this land rocket corvette that I love to race, so I just wrote a tune about it and it came out as ‘Down To The Floor’,” he explains. “It gets your blood pumping but it’s two totally different things. There’s nothing like being with these guys in Adrenaline Mob – the energy is so high.”
But while Adrenaline Mob has given Orlando the opportunity to write about a variety of things – from the reflective ‘Indifferent’ to the deeply personal ‘Angel Sky’ – the band is ultimately about having fun. Judging from Orlando’s work with Zakk Wylde and Bumblefoot and successful solo outputs with Sonic Stomp – which earned him Guitar Player Magazine’s Guitar Superstar Of The Year award in 2009 – the Mob is a new avenue for the US guitarist. “Sonic Stomp is totally different,” Orlando says. “It’s instrumental music and way more over the top as far as playing-wise. My playing is really to the extreme on those albums. Adrenaline Mob is a hard rocking band; it’s all about the songs and the melodies. We’re just having a ball, rockin’ out. There are some cool solos in there but it’s derived around the song, the groove, the balance and the melody. It’s totally different.”
The level of separation from their previous artistic outputs is evident for all involved. As for Portnoy’s transition from prog behemoths Dream Theater to the hard rocking Mob, Orlando believes he has nothing to prove or explain regarding his decision to join. Revered as one of the greatest drummers in the world, it was a shock to some progsters that he didn’t exploit his technical ability. “Mike has done everything,” Orlando says. “Dream Theater and Symphony X are amazing in their respective genres. Why would you go out and do the same thing? They could and they still do – Russ has Symphony X and Mike has a lot of stuff that he’s doing besides Adrenaline Mob. But I think it’s cool to see Mike in a hard rock band.”
The traditional prog fan might appreciate the band as a respective entity if their tastes are not confined. For those who do appreciate the band’s output, the big question that surrounds the super-group now is whether the project will last the duration with members that have busy timetables. “Yes, it’s apparent that we all have other bands but this is also our main band too. We’re going to make it work as best as we can and we try to split the calendar accordingly, but we plan to be around for a long time.”
Orlando’s new band Tred will feature ex-Blue Öyster Cult bassist Rudy Sarzo (who only recently left BÖC), Twisted Sister drummer A.J Pero and short-lived Anthrax vocalist Dan Nelson. Another debut to look out for at the start of next year!
Feature by Calum Robson