Out now on SPV / Steamhammer

German guitarist Axel Rudi Pell releases his 3rd live album (to my knowledge) in a career spanning 20+ years.  You probably know the drill by now, great band, great vocalist in Johnny Gioeli and a good set of songs, all ruined when it comes to Pell’s “solo antics”. I find it quite amazing that in his extended career he’s never learnt to bend a string to pitch or develop a vibrato that sounds anything other than hack, both key elements of Blackmore’s style he failed to rip off. Kirk Hammett and Axel really should join forces.

I know the majority of Pell’s fan are not musicians and do not have such a keen ear for technique, and to be fair he can pen a good song in the classic Rainbow/Purple/RJD era Sabbath vein but if it weren’t for his band holding it all together then would anyone really be giving this guy props?

Plus points, running time is decent, good sound and it looks like the accompanying DVD is well shot.

Long term Pell fans will buy this.  Newbie’s should probably stick to a studio album and guitarists with a keen ear for pitch and taste will avoid like the plague.  I want to like this. Alas I can’t.

If you ignore the solos – 78%
Overall rating – 40%


Released 18 May 2012 on Frontiers

Yet another band returns without a key member. On this album, singer Johnny is the only remaining Gioeli brother, accompanied by a European band (no doubt at the request of Frontiers head honcho Perugino). Not that it makes a big difference… The music remains classy AOR. Johnny is a great singer, and it’s a treat to enjoy his voice without the incompetent wailing of Axel Rudi Pell to distract.

Pick a song, any song, they’re all good. Whether it’s “10.000 Reasons”, “What I’d Like” or “Stay”, this is some of the best AOR I’ve heard in quite a while. Thorsten Koehne is a fine guitarist, who can hang with the best of the genre. I really like songwriter Alessandro Del Vecchio’s keyboard stylings as well. He goes for the big sonic tapestry and pulls it off with panache. Surprisingly there’s no big ballad. “Please Have Faith In Me” is as close as it gets.

Frontiers may have released some less than excellent albums of late, but this one is a heavy hitter.

Rating – 90%
Review by Sancho


Released 3rd May 2012 on Ice Warrior Records

Second strike from Italian guitarist Tommy Vitaly following up 2010’s rather average Just MeHanging Rock continues the neo-classical power metal tinted theme and sees Tommy team up with a stellar cast including Mats Leven (ex Malmsteen / At Vance), Carsten ‘Lizard’ Schulz (Evidence One) and Zak Stevens (Savatage) not to mention guest guitar solos from Norifumi Shima (Concerto Moon) and David Shankle (DSG) along with a two keyboard solos from Ferdy Doernberg (Axel Rudi Pell), quite a guest list for sure.  That said you all the guests in the world don’t make an album if the material isn’t up to scratch.

Hanging Rock is for all intents and purposes a better album than its predecessor with a more cohesive direction, yet is still let down massively by a weak production which will really hamper your enjoyment.  You get the impression a rough demo was created and then sent to the pressing plant, it kind of sounds like a budget version of Iron Maiden’s most recent awful Kevin Shirley productions i.e. lacking in power and any bite and polish.  Which is a shame as there is some good tracks here, notably in Run With The Devil, Hands Of Time, Idol and the sweet instrumental Misanthropy.

Overall it is an improvement over its predecessor, yet  sadly still lacking the edge to get it anywhere out of average.  Next time hopefully the production issues will be sorted and we will see a proper representation of Mr Vitaly’s work.

Rating – 68%


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%