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%



Out Now – Mascot Records

“Full Blast” is the third solo album from the Angra guitarist after the mixed bags of “No Gravity” and “Universo Inverso”.  I am pleased to report however that the new album is his most coherent and accessible to date, whereas the other two I felt were more about guitar chops; “Full Blast” demonstrates a stronger more structured approach and its pays dividends as a result.

Backed up by instrumental guitar favourite drummer, the ever impressive Mike Terrana, Kiko along with bassist Felipe Andreoli deliver strong driving tunes in the likes of opener “Headstrong” and “Se Entrega Corisco”.  There is a native Brazilian feel of “Desperado” and acoustic timbres of “Mundo Verde” whilst heavy prog tinges crop up in “Cutting Edge”.  The more melodic moments are catered for well with the soulful “Excuse Me”, “The Clairvoyance”, “Whispering” and “Pura Vida” and these represent the best tracks on the album. Some tracks aren’t as strong however with the likes of the experimental metal chug of “Corrosive Voices” being one to skip, yet I can’t help but feel the melodic numbers are the ones worthy of return visits as the others tend to merge into one standard instrumental routines.  One cannot call into question Kiko’s technique which is superb but his tone is quite processed and lacks some warmth in places – a minor quibble.

Overall “Full Blast” is as mentioned the best solo work to date I have heard from Kiko. Whilst its by no means the best instrumental of the year it is an enjoyable enough slice of guitar, well played, well produced yet missing the final killer touches to make it a must own release.

Rating – 80%