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%