Axel Rudi Pell – “Game Of Sins” (Steamhammer / SPV)
Now onto his sixteenth studio album, the name of guitar master Axel Rudi Pell is pretty much a household name in his native Germany, but also well renowned internationally as reflected in this diverse line up of ex Hardline vocalist Johnny Gioeli and more recently legendary ex Rainbow drummer Bobby Rondinelli! Followers of ARP will no doubt be familiar with his long standing admiration for Ritchie Blackmore, both in Purple and Rainbow, as well as Dio era Sabbath, so its no surprise these influences have been omnipresent throughout his illustrious career and now even more evident on “Game Of Sins”. Whilst Blackmore and Iommi are both very much still alive, the reality is that when it comes to touring and regular recording, it is left to the likes of ARP (no spring chicken himself at 55 years old) to continue this most famous of classic rock sounds. Not only is he worthy as a genuine admirer but he has matched it in his own musicianship as well as compositions. As such this current line up of ARP comes the closest to continuing the genius in Rainbow, Purple and to a lesser degree, Sabbath. Johnny Gioeli’s soulful vocals add a gravelly rock god touch to the epic pipes of the late Ronnie James Dio while ARP’s own lead, rhythm and acoustic guitars reflect the pedigree, versatility and flamboyance of his mentor masters in his classic rock riffs and virtuoso soloing, proving himself worthy as a diligent disciple over the years, and worthy of inheriting their mantle. With Rondinelli’s hard hitting drums thundering loudly in the mix, long time bassist Volker ‘Dustman’ Krawczak and Ferdy Doernberg’s keyboards add even more majestic melody and passionate atmosphere on powerfully epic songs like the mid tempo Rainbow rocker of ‘King Of Fools’, the Sabbathy ballad of ‘Till The World Says Goodbye‘ or the swanky classic era Scorpions rocker of ‘Breaking The Rules’. Pushing the envelope, they offer an ambitious classic rock take to Hendrix’s psychedelic ‘All Along The Watchtower’ and while not being as astral, is a fine hard rocker pulled off in no small part by ARP’s maestro guitar work and Gioeli’s no holds barred rock out vocals. As we head into a new year always filled with uncertainties, its always nice to know you can count on the steadfastness of some things, ARP being one of them.