Review: AXEL RUDI PELL “Sign Of The Times” [Steamhammer / SPV]

Review: AXEL RUDI PELL “Sign Of The Times” [Steamhammer / SPV]

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Score 80%
Kings, knights, wizards …Not this time!
80 %
User Rating : 5 (1 votes)

I have to admit that I was not a big fan of Axel Rudi Pell’s (ARP) last album Knights Call” (2018) and therefore a little biased towards checking out the new one Sign of the Times released under the cover of Steamhammer… but I was quite surprised and pleased! It sounds fresh, much more natural and complex – without redundant fragments. You still get the 80’s power from this German legend, no doubt about that. I’ve been trying to figure out what caused this miracle, and here are a couple of keypoints. This time he avoided mystical cross references „(you know, kings, knights, wizard and the like) and went for more realistic textures“ says Björn von Oettingen (Head of Promotion, Steamhammer).

“There are a few of the love/hate relationship songs, but most of the lyrics deal with the situation our planet is in right now, that’s why the clock on the cover shows two minutes AFTER midnight. We live in a very dangerous environment in terms of climate change, religious wars and public safety.” ARP

From the production point of view, long-time (nine albums) co-producer and engineer Charlie Bauerfeind passed the baton to the engineer of ARP‘s live albums “Magic Moments“ (2015) and “XXX Anniversary“ (2019) Tommy Geiger. Besides the crushing guitars, first thing I have noticed was the powerful drum sound. Deep and airy kick drum is complemented by a thick as hell snare through the whole album. Not just great sounding, but amazingly performed by Bobby Rondinelli, a 64-year old drummer, also known for working with Blue Öyster Cult, Rainbow, Quiet Riot, Black Sabbath or self-called Rondinelli. And then there are literally breath-taking vocals by Johnny Gioeli. „First of all, Johnny has outdone himself during the recordings, he certainly gave more than his usual 100 percent this time around, he’s been singing live a lot “, says Pell. Underneath the outstanding vocal and drum performances lies Pell‘s foundation – good, heavy and epic music.

The opener track Gunfire, its name speaks for itself, it`s fast and piercing. Volker Krawczak is ARP member since 1989 and his double bass adds the grit to the track. This wall of guitars will wake you up and Gioeli put on a tight pace (and keeps it till the end of the album). Bad Reputation is the second track and lowers the rhythm a little bit. The chorus will definitely keep spinning inside your head for some time. Fourth track self-called “Sign of the Times” slowly opens itself to the epic bearer of the whole album concept. Faster track, my favourite and catchy The End of the Line starts with energetic dissonant riff that transforms into the verse battles between Gioelis powerful vocals and Pell‘s blast solos. Next As Blind As A Fool Can Be revives the ballad theme with a melodic Ferdy Doernberg‘s piano at the start and flowing solos throughout. Ferdy Doernberg is also known for performance in Helloween or Holy Moses. Since 1997 accompanies ARP by his keyboards that can be found almost in the whole album. A lot of the ARP reminds me some of Deep Purple vibes, especially track “Wings of the Storm”, but adds this mid-tempo heavy metal attitude to it. Björn von Oettingen (Head of Promotion, Steamhammer) recalls that one of the best Gioeli‘s performance can be found on Waiting for Your Call” track, which I fully agree with. Long and robust shouts straight from the beginning which do not lack sincerity and soul. Living in a Dream is a bit experimental – begins with the reggae mood and shifts into classy ARP drive. The last track named Into the Fire attracts quite big attention with its pretty heavy riff and aggressive vocals throughout the choruses.

“I was hoping for a change
With lots of things ready to arrange
Rats run down the alley, bad smells in the air
Every day more reasons to despair”
Wings of the Storm by ARP

Numbers speak volumes – 1.7 million albums sold worldwide, 18 studio albums, over 200 songs released, but at the end, what matters is whether you like it or not. One could say that five ballad compilations make this guy a lover, not a rocker, but to compose quality material and to tour the world for 31 years … to me it looks like Pell has got exactly what makes a genuine rocker. Axel Rudi Pell is going to turn 60 this year, wishing him great health and keep surprising us!

Released on 8th of May, 2020

Axel Rudi Pell comprises of Axel Rudi Pell (Guitars), Volker Krawczak (Bass), Johnny Gioeli (Vocals), Bobby Rondinelli (Drums), Ferdy Doernberg (Keyboards).

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