Release Date: March 27, 2012
Mike Portnoy has been a busy bastard since stepping away from Avenged Sevenfold and Dream Theater. Earlier this month his band, Adrenaline Mob released its dynamic debut, Omerta. This week his more eclectic project, Flying Colors, releases its self-titled debut.
Where Adrenaline Mob is more of a straight up metal band, Flying Colors is the more progressive, experimental, and the power-pop side of his personality. The Yin to the Mob’s Yang. Joining the legendary drummer in Flying Colors is guitar icon Steve Morse (Deep Purple, Dixie Dregs, Kansas), keyboardist Neal Morse (Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic), bassist Dave LaRue (Dixie Dregs, Joe Satriani, Steve Morse Band) and vocalist Casey McPherson (Alpha Rev, Endochine). The album was produced by Peter Collins (Rush, Alice Cooper, Queensrÿche), who coincidentally picked the band’s name.
Given all the overwhelming technical prowess in the band, one might be surprised to find out that Flying Colors secret weapon is the voice of McPherson. A voice which is incredibly diverse and emotive, and becomes the glue binding all these sonic soaring colors onto one canvas.
Heading into this project, the guys collectively wanted to break new ground for each of them, and to a man you could argue they have accomplished that goal on this record. Let it be stated up front though that this is not a “love-at-first-listen” album. One must listen repeatedly to fully appreciate the impact of the texturing and the nuances, instrumentally and vocally. By the third or fourth go round you’ll find yourself falling in love with this record.
The lead off track, “Blue Ocean” is sort of the springboard for all that is to come. It’s a feel good jam reminiscent of 70s era prog-rock. Lots of boogie in the verses and an atmospheric chorus. An inspired start that only gets better as we jump into “Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda, with its driving guitars, and rhythm section. Each member of the band seems to explode on this one at one point or another, all layered beneath McPherson’s inspired vocals. Neal Morse, who at one point was considered for the lead vocal slot, blends perfectly with McPherson.
“Kayla as takes us back into that classic 70′s prog-rock arena (think Yes, Rush, Genesis, Emerson Lake and Palmer), with big builds, sweeping melodies, and grooving rhythms. I’d mention McPherson’s brilliance again, but were only three tracks in and he’s clearly the album’s shining star among a swarm of talent. Morse has some splendid work on this one as well.
Next up is a beautiful pop melody, “The Storm”, from which the band’s name is taken. One of the most catchy tracks I’ve heard in a while, and a certain highlight of the album. There’s a bit of a Cold Play feel here. Portnoy makes the most of every fill, never over playing, but adding a power to the song. The breakdown has a Journey feel to it that carries into the guitar solo.
On “Forever In A Daze”, Steve Morse get’s us started with a moody guitar riff, while LaRue takes a nice jazzy stroll. Then we get a trip down Penny Lane with the Beatlesque “Love Is What I’m Waiting For”. A track brought to the table by McPherson. There’s a brilliant Queen vibe on the breakdown and solo as well. In fact Steve seems to channel his inner Brian May.
Later on the album, Portnoy and company get their metal leathers on for the crushing and driving “All Falls Down”. The song is full of energy and grandiosity. This is followed by “Fool In My Heart” which finds Portnoy on lead vocals. This is perhaps a modern day take on The Beatles “The Fool On The Hill”.
Bringing it all to a close in epic style is the 12-minute monolith, “Infinite Fire”.
This album is an ode to diversity. Every track flows like a river from a singular origin, yet where it travels from there is a journey to anywhere and everywhere. Experiencing Flying Colors is like listening to everything you’ve ever heard, in a way you’ve never heard it before. A band with this much talent and such a collective body of work has little need for ecomiums, but they are deserved none-the-less. Flying Colors is an artistic, ambitious, vibrant, and evocative trip into the past. An album packed with multigenerational sonic majesty, with a fresh perspective.
For more PortNoise listen to our interview with Mike Portnoy as he discusses Flying Colors and Adrenaline Mob