Adrenaline Mob, Drowning Pool & Full Devil Jacket unite for Rock tribute in New Jersey 3-21-15

Adrenaline Mob, Drowning Pool & Full Devil Jacket unite for Rock tribute in New Jersey 3-21-15

Hard Rock mainstays Drowning Pool celebrated the thirteenth anniversary of their platinum selling debut album Sinner in 2014 with a special edition CD release and plans to perform the material in its entirety. Now in 2015, they team up with supergroup Adrenaline Mob and comeback rockers Full Devil Jacket for the second leg of the tour which kicked off during Bike Week down in Daytona Beach, Florida. Featuring an exciting lineup of bands, all seemed to be going smoothly until tragedy struck five shows into the run when on March 20th beloved Adrenaline Mob drummer, A.J. Pero, passed away after suffering a massive heart-attack in his sleep. Suddenly shifting the mood of all involved, the news equally hit the Hard Rock/Metal world hard who recognize Pero as an icon behind the kit from his work in Twisted Sister. Dedicating his life to the world of Rock-n-Roll, Pero would have most likely insisted the show go on, and that is exactly what it did on Saturday March 21st when the tour buses rolled into Sayreville, New Jersey. Fittingly morphing into a tribute show for Pero, the lineup shifted Adrenaline Mob into the headlining spot for the show, with Drowning Pool as direct support. With everything happening so suddenly, one had to wonder how would the bands hold up knowing one of their mates in Rock had passed on the day prior. Soon, everyone was about to find out as a wave of emotion was already felt as a mass of fans entered the doors of The Starland Ballroom.

Kicking off the evening early were a series of local acts including Toms River’s Common Wealth, Union’s Raftree, Staten Island’s Scottish Widows, and lastly New York City’s Band of Julez. Each band brought their own blend of Heavy Rock as they played sets of original tunes that had spectators enticed from the moment they got settled in on the floor with a drink in hand, ready to roll. While each act is currently making their way in the tri-state area, their sincerity in their delivery should comfort The Garden and Empire State to know Rock/Metal is alive and well with fresh talent.

After the local showcase, the time came for the first of the national acts in recently resurrected Full Devil Jacket. It has been a long fifteen years since most have seen this talented Alternative Metal band ouf Jackson, Tennessee. Originally made up of vocalist Josh Brown, late guitarist Mike Reaves, guitarist Jonathan Montoya, bassist Kevin Bebout, and drummer Keith Foster, the band released its self-titled debut in 2000 with a great buzz surrounding them as they headed to the top. Then after Brown nearly died following an overdose while on tour, Full Devil Jacket all but dissolved with Brown taking a hiatus from music, before resurfacing with Day of Fire. When most thought it was the last they had ever seen or heard from Full Devil Jacket, the band reconfigured for good in 2013 with Brown back on vocals along with original drummer Foster, as well as long-time friends, Moose Douglass on bass and Paul Varnick on guitar.

Flash forward to 2015, minus a few one-off reunions, and the band has made a full-fledged triumphant return with forthcoming highly anticipated album Valley of Bones due out March 31st via eOne Music.  Recently adding former Nonpoint guitarist Zach Broderick to the fold, Full Devil Jacket are ready to rock with a chance to pick up where they left off all those years ago .  Taking the stage at 8:30 pm, the band came out after an extended intro to play the hard-hitting “Wanna Be Martyr.” Just a few minutes in and it became clear Brown’s vocal skills have not diminished one bit.  Nailing every scream and chorus seamlessly, the band rolled right into the menacing “Fastblack” as the heavy distortions of both dueling guitarists painted a perfect segue into the track.  Foster and Douglass set a nice tempo, on point with that of the album, without dragging the pace or making it feel sluggish.  Despite the fact that more than half of the band consists of new members, the old favorites sounded just as fresh and invigorating as the day they were recorded.  Many fans were seen singing along, perhaps waiting for over a decade to hear the classics live.

Brown was cheerful and gracious to the audience between numbers, introducing the tracks and making note of the band’s long absence, but still being a “baby” band on this tour.  After playing the blistering “Stain,” the band took a minute to pay tribute to the recently departed Pero and dedicated the haunting ballad “Where Did You Go?” in his honor.  Going into new album title track “Valley of Bones,” a great portion of the audience was taken in by the groove .  Built for a Hard-Rock anthem, the track assures that the new material has been a long-time coming as people are itching to hear more.  Wrapping up their set with “Green Iron Fist,” Broderick took a quick dip in the crowd without missing a riff.  New and old fans rejoice, Full Devil Jacket are back!

Next to the stage was none other than Texas’ Drowning Pool. Having sustained their share of loss themselves, with the tragic death of original vocalist Dave Williams in 2002, C.J. Pierce (guitar), Stevie Benton (bass), and Mike Luce (drums) have been dedicating themselves to Rock. First replacing Williams with Jason Jones for a two year stint, then Soil’s Ryan McCombs for six years, with the dust seeming to settle and finding talented young singer Jasen Moreno on at the helm. Popping out the impressive 2013 album Resilience with Moreno, fans seem to have welcomed him in with open arms as they prepare for a follow-up record in the coming year. New material aside, it was time to celebrate the dominating record that put the band on the map over a decade ago in grand fashion here in New Jersey.

Walking out, all dressed in Adrenaline Mob t-shirts in support of Pero, Drowning Pool ripped right into the seldom heard “Step Up.” Taking the audience by surprise, they went into another Desensitized (2004) track with album opener “Think” before Moreno continued vocal domination on 2010’s “Feel Like I Do.” With immense amounts of enthusiasm, Pierce, Benton, and Luce matched Moreno’s energy as they had complete control of the audience, going right into a shuffle of Sinner tunes like “Sermon,” “Reminded,” “Pity,” and “Tear Away” where fans had their lighters or cellphones in the air. Striking a chord in the hearts of the spectators, hearing the old tracks brought back memories of the golden age of Alternative Metal and first discovering Drowning Pool in that summer of 2001. While so much has changed since that time, one thing has not, this band’s drive to still bring a killer stage show each and every night. They need no flare to dazzle fans, all they need is their own raw energy which was continuously felt as they went into favorite “Sinner” followed by and “Told You So.” Winding down the performance, they broke out their signature track “Bodies” where Adrenaline Mob’s Russell Allen came out to join in on vocals. All and all, Drowning Pool still have the intangible aspects of what makes a Heavy Rock band vital. Now it is time for a new record, sometime hopefully in the near future.

The time had come for the point in the evening everyone had in the back of their mind, a set with Adrenaline Mob. Native to the New York/New Jersey area, Adrenaline Mob came together four years ago when Symphony X’s vocalist Allen, guitarist Mike Orlando, and ex-Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy came together to make some unfiltered straight-up Heavy Rock. Adding Disturbed’s bassist John Moyer to the fold in 2012, the band released a successful debut album titled Omertà. With members moving on to other projects, joining up with the Mob in 2013 was Pero, adding a veteran presence to an already accomplished group of musicians. With their well-received follow-up album Men of Honor in 2014, the band established themselves as an act that was hear to stay, and not just a one album and done  project. Now a fixture in the world of Hard Rock, fans at Starland Ballroom were ready to welcome the boys home and pay tribute to the fallen Pero.

Featuring former Breaking Benjamin drummer Chad Szeliga behind the kit for the first segment of the set, the band rolled through “Mob Is Back,” “Let It Go,” “Gets You Through the Night,” and “Dearly Departed.” With heavy hearts, and equally as much weight on their minds,  Allen, Orlando, and bassist Erik Leonhardt showed a tenacity to keep it together. Sounding tight, full, and inspired, the band even offered up a killer rendition of The Charlie Daniel’s Band “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” which had the audience in a frenzy.  Taking a moment to face their emotion, Allen and company paid tribute to Pero, expressing their affection for the seemingly kind man as they went into an acoustic version of “All on the Line.” Letting it all hang out during the track, Allen’s voice went unchained as he belted out each word.

Only six songs in and having already expressed so much, original drummer Portnoy joined Adrenaline Mob on stage for a spectacular reunion on “Psychosane,” “Indifferent,” “Feel the Adrenaline,” “Hit the Wall,” and “Undaunted.” Showing their undeniable chemistry together, each song sounded as powerful as the records, but with the rough edges only a live performance can bring. Adding more surprise to the evening of tributes, former Type O Negative drummer Johnny Kelly joined the band on stage to rock out in memory of Pero. Closing out the set with their distinctive cover of Black Sabbath’s “The Mob Rules,” fans were on a natural high as they roared for more. Taking a moment to catch their breath, the band reappeared moments after their exit with Twisted Sister’s own Jay Jay French on guitar to blow the roof off Starland Ballroom on classic track “You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Joining in the Rock eulogy was Full Devil Jacket’s Brown and Drowning Pool’s Moreno for what was a highly intense send off.

What was suppose to be just another stop on the Unlucky 13th Anniversary Tour for Drowning Pool ended up being a monumental Rock show in the history of the genre. Anyone who understands the history of Rock respects the importance of Twisted Sister and A.J. Pero. Gone too soon, like so many others, Pero’s memory was justifiably honored by his friends and family at Starland Ballroom as his legacy shall live as long as there is Rock-n-Roll.

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Frank Malerba
frank@crypticrock.com
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