Released: 2012, SPV
It has only been 18 months since Axel Rudi Pell’s last studio album, THE CREST and already here in March the prolific guitar wizard will release his 14th studio album, CIRCLE OF THE OATH. Prolific is one word that has been used to describe Pell’s output over his some 30 odd years in the music business. In fact, on the last Axel album, Metal Rules reviewer JP shed some light on just how prodigious is the amount of material Pell releases on a consistent basis.
The lineup of the band remains intact and enters its 14th year, with Johnny Gioeli thankfully continuing to provide vocals. The long term integrity of the band is evident in how seamlessly they play together. Another notable trait of ARP is consistency. Starting with the album cover, it looks like just about every other ARP album. The sound, while incorporating a few minor tweaks, has not been updated or modernized, Axel content to continue in the traditional European metal style, with most songs being mid-paced or slower. After a brief instrumental intro, the album kicks off with the somewhat up tempo “Ghosts In The Black”, which recalls many past classic tracks from the band. A total of 10 tracks make up the new album, two of which are over 9.5 minutes long and include the epic title track. “Bridges To Nowhere” is the expected power ballad, a style Pell is known to indulge in whether the songs is good or bad, this one being average. As always, the distinctive and instantly recognizable vocals of Gioeli help to carry the album, while Pell delivers emotional melodic fills and riffs with taste and restraint. His guitar tones continue to be among the best and most recognizable in metal
Fans of Axel are once again treated to a well-written album with strong songs and melodies, delivered with the professional traits we have come to expect from the band. The only slight flaw is the relative predictability of the album, the band content with the sound and niche they have carved. On the other hand, this predictability is also a strength that long time fans have come to appreciate, and since the quality of the tunes has not dropped, the formula still seems to be working. With practically nothing to distinguish this from most of the catalog, new fans can jump in here and not have missed anything while old fans will certainly appreciate the amazing consistency and quality of ARP year after year.