Seeing how I’ve already ranted indirectly at the various vitriolic reviewers decrying the latest venture of two of my all-time modern metal heroes in something that seems to be a radical departure from what is considered their “norm”, I thought I might as well give my take on the album, to see if I can relate at all to their complaints.
First off, the album art. A lot of critics have actually called this out to be one of the many faults of the entire album.
Hang on, you’re attacking an image. That’s like ordering a sandwich at a bar and complaining that it’s the wrong shape.
To examine it in finer detail, it appears to be a skeleton dressed like an Italian gangster holding up a flaming tarot card, his mobsters gathering ominously in the background (it’d be pretty funny if those turned out to be the skulls of all of the band members!). Now, okay, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense – for instance, I don’t exactly know how a skeleton is able to smoke, given that he has no lungs, but (Earth to critics!) …this is an album cover. Album covers are explicitly designed to make absolutely zero sense, unless there’s some kind of deep, metaphorical context. You won’t find any of that on this album, though, and given the Mob’s use of the Godfather font for their official logo, I think they’re entitled to use something like that just looks cool. I’m not entirely sure how it harms the quality of the music. (Again, MUSIC reviewers, are you receiving this at all?)
I will say, though, that it does remind me slightly of Skulduggery Pleasant.
…Anyways, onto the music itself. As I established in my initial post on the Mob, they’re primarily hard rock/heavy metal. Their music isn’t super-clever, like that of the progressive metal bands that two of their members (Russell Allen and Mike Portnoy) came from. It’s just straight out, balls-to-the-wall RAWK. Let’s dive in:
The album opener, and for good reason, too – the main riff is brutal, the chorus is catchy as hell, and the guitar solo in the middle is an amazing example of Mike Orlando’s technical mastery of the instrument, and possibly the highlight of the entire album for me. (Stick with me – the face-blasting awesomeness doesn’t quite end there.)
Actually quite a bit of a drop in quality compared to the last track – in fact this is probably my second-least favorite on the album. The title is not the best portmanteau I’ve ever heard. The lyrics are a bit silly and clichéd. The guitar riffs are comparatively forgettable. The bridge to the chorus is pretty cool, though, with Russell’s harmonies staying fast and firm.
My third favorite on the album. I know just from the opening guitar riff, as simple as it is, that I’m going to love this one. Allen’s soaring layered vocals really do this one justice and Orlando’s solo is probably the second-best on the whole album (behind Undaunted’s).
- All on the Line
This one has to be my favorite track on the album, yet it’s so different from all the rest. Russell Allen’s voice really, really shines on this one. Lyrically, it isn’t anything terribly new, but it’s delivered with such style and substance that I’m willing to forgive that. Stylistically, it’s a far cry from the preceding three tracks, starting out with some very nice mellow acoustic arpeggios, and it’s a bit slower. A very nice “breather” track, which is just as well, because…
- Hit the Wall
At six minutes, this is the longest song on the album, and perhaps the fastest, tempo-wise. Overall, this one isn’t bad. Heavy as shiz, and the solo in the middle is just plain ludicrous. The latter section of this song is taken up with a heavy breakdown, with Allen screaming over a destructive guitar riff, almost to the point where he seems to be subjecting himself to physical torment. A really good effort from the entire band, nonetheless.
- Feelin’ Me
This one almost seems to segue in from the Hit the Wall (although not quite, due to the fade-out at the end of it). This is without doubt the most aggressive song that the album has to offer, with the highest cuss count of any of the tracks so far. S-bombs and F-bombs are tossed about by Allen as he bellows some fairly melodramatic anti-government sentiments, and Mike Portnoy pounds away on the snare as if to literally hammer the points into my ears. The guitar has a really nice groove to it, though, resembling Stone Temple Pilots, and the solo is pretty crazy.
- Come Undone
This is a cover of a Duran Duran song. It’s a blistering remake of the original featuring Lzzy Hale on the female vocals. Russell sings at the lowest I think I’ve ever heard him, while Lzzy takes up the soprano-screamy end of the vocals. Orlando does a great job at keeping the guitar work interesting while staying faithful to the chord structure of the original. It does seem to go on a bit towards the end, though – I get the feeling that the song should start fading out a full minute before it actually ends, although the way the track actually finishes is pretty cool regardless.
- Believe Me
My second favorite on the album. It’s got exactly the right blend of thrashy riffs, powerful shreds and melodic vocals from Russell Allen. His performance isn’t quite as impressive as the beautifully harmonic “All on the Line”, but he doesn’t sound as though he’s straining himself quite as much here.
- Down to the Floor
The Black Sabbath-est track on the album. There are some interesting key changes between the chorus and the verses, but apart from that this is a fairly standard affair. Features a very powerful melodic solo by Orlando. Allen belts out the lyrics fast and furious, which makes sense, given that it seems to be a song all about racing.
- Angel Sky
A waltzy, power-ballady song which features plenty of screaming layered riffs from Mike Orlando. Resembles some of Symphony X’s more melodic numbers (like “When All is Lost”), but obviously not as progressive or complex. It’s definitely heavy – in fact it’s more like a barrage of notes. You almost get the feeling that you’re hearing every single part of the scale at once as you listen to it.
- Freight Train
In my opinion, an odd way to close the album. It’s the fourth-shortest song on the album at just over 4 minutes in length, and seems to be about Russell Allen declaring how he is a train and he’s going really fast. The chorus seems kinda hacked together, with Allen actually struggling over the syllables in places, and barely pausing for breath. I kinda wonder whether this was added onto the album as some kind of in-joke. That’s why this is actually my least favorite track on the album.
In summary, it’s sort of what I expected. It’s definitely not Symphony X. It’s definitely not Dream Theater. It’s just pure hard rock. In some places it’s downright silly. But nonetheless, I hope the Mob continue with this sort of stuff if they choose to write another album – overall it’s very enjoyable and great for when one just needs to crank up the volume and headbang mindlessly.
Overall Rating: 3.8/5
I maintain my opinion that the “professional” reviewers whining about how generic the album is, and how they were expecting some kind of two-disc, seventy-five-minute progressive metal opera with a bazillion meter changes, are still just whining about the fact that their ham-and-cheese isn’t triangular enough. It would be nice to see a reviewer for a change that doesn’t hold an obvious bitter grudge against the whole genre of the thing he’s reviewing and choose to just rate something badly for the sake of it. How is anyone meant to make a judgement for themselves if the whole critique is rooted in self-centered partiality?