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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Axel Rudi Pell – Circle of the Oath album review

Axel Rudi Pell – Circle of the Oath album review
Released on: SPV / Steamhammer. Release date: Available now

Axel Rudi Pell in the USA is perhaps a little of an unknown quantity, which is a shame, as the man is an extremely talented guitarist and songwriter.

The guitarist recorded four albums with German rockers Steeler back in the 80’s before setting out on a solo career around 1989, with the Axel Rudi Pell band at that time.

Axel's band has in fact featured some vocalists that many regular readers here, may well know.
Charlie Huhn (Ted Nugent, Victory, Gary Moore, Foghat), Rob Rock (M.A.R.S., Warrior, Impellitteri) and Jeff Scott Soto (Yngwie Malmsteen, Talisman, Soul SirkUS, Journey) have all fronted his band.

To date, Pell has released fourteen studios albums prior to this one, two live albums and there’s also a bunch of compilations too, as well as three live DVD’s, so over in Europe, he’s clearly more than made his mark!

This latest release features a vocalist who’s sung on many of Axel’s past releases, Johnny Gioeli who many people will remember from the band Hardline, who also featured Journey guitarist, Neal Schon. He’s also put his voice to other side projects including a very good one called Crush 40, which is a US / Japanese joint project that has provided a lot of great music to video games and related soundtracks.

This new album from Axel also features the talents of Ferdy Doernberg (Rough Silk) on Keyboards, Volker Krawczak (Steeler) handling Bass and Mike Terrana (Masterplan, Rage, Yngwie Malsteen, Tony MacAlpine) on Drums.

If you’re looking for a bit of a clue what sort of sound Axel is similar too, musically I think his guitar style is very like (Ritchie) Blackmore’s, but musically, there a kind of Rainbow meets Dio and not unlike the heavier style that Europe has adopted in recent years, about it.

Johnny Gioeli' style itself, is pretty unique generally in his vocal, but certainly equal to many great vocalists out there, funny at times he almost takes a Dio style twist and then he’s not unlike a heavier Robin McAuley at times.

Opening gentle intro track ‘The Guillotine Suite’ leads into the ‘Ghost in the Black’ that then rocks out like a good 'un,' with double bass drums pumping away and then there’s magic in the solo’s where Axel trades off licks with keys man Ferdy Doernberg, I love it!

‘Run With The Wind’ is an up tempo catchy gem indeed. Perhaps a nod to the Scorpions here, maybe even M.S.G. Very good indeed!

With ‘Before I Die,’ it is another catchy, pacey rocker and continues to weave the magic captured on this album throughout and you know, Johnny Gioeli’s vocals, like the rest of the band, are right on the money to me.

Title track ‘Circle of the Oath’ is next and starts slow with acoustic guitar, before getting into a seriously rocking groove and Johnny almost gets into a Dio inspired vocal, as musically it’s not unlike Dio era Rainbow at time. It’s funny, but during the acoustic moments, it makes me think of Tesla. Interesting … Axel has a really killer solo here, that’ll take your breath away, I love it. Great stuff!

‘Fortunes of War’ next provides a heavy intro, and then eases back a little through the verses, then the pre-chorus and chorus itself picks everything up again. It’s a another good steady rocker, almost a milder Judas Priest musically, before Axel gets into a harmonic solo, that takes any thoughts of Priest away!

A melancholy start introduces ‘Bridges to Nowhere’ and then the heavy riffs come out, not unlike say Diamond Head, brilliant! It then grooves not unlike Dio but not unlike Diamond Head still. A steady heavy, dare I say though almost a little plodding at times.
I kind of expected it to pick up and it really doesn’t.

‘Lived Our Lives Before’ is really the albums power ballad, with its laid back style. Not bad, not unlike the Scorpions perhaps.

Back to the rock with ‘Hold On to Your Dreams’ steady heavy riffs introduce the track, then through the verse string driven keys, before the pre-chorus picks up the rocks again and the other side of the chorus, the same string sounds, then get into the chugging riffs and it rocks on! It’s a hard edged AOR number generally, kind of not sure quite which way to go. Love Axel’s solo here too though!

Final track here is ‘World of Confusion (The Masquerade Ball Pt 2)’ that starts with choral voices and then, Johnny comes in briefly before a laid back soulful guitar wails, then the band kicks in with the rock again.
This is a epic nine minute monster, that captures everything, including some beautiful solo work from Axel. In the final third of the song, the keyboards provide a symphonic edge and then the drums pick it up and Axel solos out. Good stuff to finish with.

Overall a very good album, great vocals, nice guitar work throughout and a strong band backing everything up, good overall album indeed.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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