AXEL RUDI PELL – CIRCLE OF THE OATH

Released 26 March on SPV/Steamhammer

Another year, another album from Axel Rudi Pell or so it feels like the endless cycle continues.

Another dark and mystical album cover? check.

Another selection of tunes heavily influenced by early Rainbow / Purple and Tony Martin era Sabbath? Check.

Axel I guess has OCD when it comes to making albums; most are interchangeable with each other.  There is an ARP sound no doubt and if you like it and want more of the same ‘Circle Of The Oath’ gives you just that.  If with over 2 decades of solo releases since leaving Steeler (German branch) you are hoping for something a little different from the Pellmeister then you are shit out of luck.

Granted, vocalist Johnny Gioeli still delivers the goods, Mike Terrana on drums is a monster whilst bassist Volker Krawzcak holds down the bottom end with typical German efficiency, over this keyboardist Ferdy Doernberg is allowed to give his best Jon Lord/Tony Carey/Jens Johansson impression.  The ARP backing band has always been a strong unit with Pell, ironically by far the weakest piece of it with his ragged sloppy speed picked licks and vibrato that’s on a par with Kirk Hammett (the one piece of Blackmore’s style he’s seemingly failed to grasp).  But then hey, the average punter doesn’t listen for things like hitting the pitch and in tune vibrato in guitar work and just hear its fast so it must be good…right?!  That said no-one can deny Pell has a knack of writing punchy and epic metal numbers with solid riffs, and it has it down with “Circle Of The Oath” delivering perhaps a little better than on the last album I heard 2006’s “Mystica”.

Whilst the material has been essentially giving diminishing returns ever since his (IMO) piece-de-résistance  – 1994’s Between The Walls –  Pell has never delivered a true dud (the ballad albums do come close though), and to his credit, Pell hasn’t suffered self produced faux-pas’ like Malmsteen so marks should be given for avoiding that pitfall as it’s a good sounding record.

But overall if you like Axel Rudi Pell and want more of the same ‘Circle Of The Oath’ will please.  If you have some previous albums and want to hear some growth from an artist don’t bother.

This all adds to 2 ratings.

Yes, I have OCD and need more ARP albums!! – 85%
I already own 3 Axel Rudi Pell albums that all sound the same, can I have something different? – 30%

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THE MOOR – THE MOOR EP

Out now on Lion Music Digital

As a precursor to a full length debut album later in 2012, Lion Music have made the 5 track self titled ep by their newest signing, Italian metal outfit The Moor available on digital promo platforms.

Exhibiting a darker tone and timbre than other acts on the label, this reflects something new for the label yet at the same time the bands prog tendencies are present and correct.  More along the lines of Opeth, Mastodon and the ilk this is heavy, almost brutal in places yet with moments of calm and melody.  Highlights to these ears come in the form of “Before Abigail” and the more balladistic yet still dark and heavy “Venice”.  Crushing riffs can be lapped up on “Antikythera” whilst closer “The Road” offers up a progressive tint reminiscent of label mates Day Six.

In short a nice stop gap whilst new music is being recorded and one that offers potential.

Rating – 85%

ANVIL – STRENGTH OF STEEL / POUND FOR POUND / WORTH THE WEIGHT (REISSUES)

    

Out now on SPV/ Steamhammer

By now, everybody knows Anvil’s story. If not, you need to urgently check out the movie about their career. An eyeopener.  The End Records/SPV has seen fit to reissue a couple of earlier Anvil albums. Let’s just hope the band sees some revenue out of it.

1987’s “Strength Of Steel” is the logical follow up to the classic “Forged In Fire”. Unfortunately the four year wait between albums (1985 compilation “Backwaxed” really did the band more harm than good) had lost them most of their momentum. The album isn’t to blame though. Solid metal, Anvil style.  It’s the same story for 1988’s “Pound For Pound”. A good album that yet again failed to set the world on fire. By the time of 1992’s “Worth The Weight” the rot was starting to set in. A move from Metal Blade to Mausoleum can not bode well.  No, there’s still not much wrong with the music. Production values are starting to slip though.  By this time however, Anvil’s star had waned. They’d find it impossible to reconnect with the subtop of the metal scene, even with the support of the Massacre label for their next albums.

These reissues offer a good opportunity to get acquainted with the lesser known albums of Anvil’s back catalogue.

Listen And Learn!

Ratings
Strength Of Steel : 85%
Pound For Pound : 85%
Worth The Weight : 83

Review by Sancho

 

VENGEANCE – CRYSTAL EYE

Released February 27th 2012 on SPV / Steamhammer

Vengeance looked set to conquer the world. With a CBS record deal, a series of top notch albums and an excellent reputation as a live band (somewhat exaggerated in my opinion) they should have taken the late eighties by storm. Didn’t quite pan out as planned… The band sank anonymously after the masterpiece album “Arabia” and the departure of Arjen Lucassen.

Singer Leon Goewie has kept the Vengeance name alive with a revolving lineup of backing musicians.

New album Crystal Eye sounds familiar. Goewie’s voice is instantly identifiable.

The direction hasn’t changed much either : walking the fine line between hard rock and heavy metal. N The songs are catchy but miss some of the refinement and quirks that made the old Vengeance albums stand out. “Crystal Eye” does exude the same sense of optimism that typified the band first time around. Timo Somers, son of deceased guitarist Jan, does a great job on guitars.

There’s no stand out tracks, but there’s no real dogs either.

I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised. The last couple of Vengeance albums did absolutely nothing for me, which hurt for an old fan. This album, while not a classic like “Arabia” or “Take It Or Leave It”, does a lot to set things straight.

Rating – 82%
Review by Sancho