Almost two years ago to the day I listened to and reviewed my first AXEL RUDI PELL album with Into the Storm. Since then I have purchased the man’s whole discography because how the Hell could I not? I was unaware of this treasure trove of killer riffs and soaring vocals that spanned some 25 years and had some lost time to make up for. Fast forward to now and we have new record Game of Sins, coming January 22 via Steamhammer/SPV Records. The disc has pretty much been in daily rotation here at A&GS HQ since I got it, and for good reason. It’s old-fashioned metal done right, with razor-sharp guitar work and big hooks, perfect for highway driving or back deck drinkin’.
Alongside Pell’s furious fretwork, vocalist Johnny Gioeli also sounds better than ever. Since first hearing him that day two years ago, he has become one of my favorite metal singers alongside guys like Ralf Scheepers (PRIMAL FEAR) and Urban Breed (SERIOUS BLACK). As soon as the fiery guitars of opener “Fire” kicked in I knew not only would this be an album favorite but my next ringtone (it is!). This is one of those tunes that would have been YUUUUUUGE during the late 80’s, but it sounds fresh and contemporary as well. Next up is “Sons In the Night”, inspired by the hit show Sons of Anarchy and packing an equally vicious punch.
The title track clocks in at 8:45 and it is enthralling for each and every one of those minutes. Slow-paced and deliberate, with an Arabian flair, the song paints such a picture that you feel as if you’re right there. Ferdy Doernberg’s keyboards help set the scene and provide the air of mystery that floats alongside us on our journey while bassist Volker Crawczak is steady as a rock throughout. Three songs in, and I simply MUST compliment the amazing drumming of Bobby Rondinelli who joined for the last record. The guy knows exactly what to play and when, never once overdoing it or getting too flashy. When he hits, he hits with authority, and that’s that. A seasoned veteran, we all know he’s capable of bringing the roof down anytime and anywhere.
What’s that? “MORE RIFFS!!” you say? Well, ask and ye shall receive with “Falling Star”, Axel and the boys just letting ‘er rip from start to finish. The solo is also one of the record’s best. “Lost In Love” slows things down with a lovely ballad that not only gives us a chance to breathe, but also shows some very nice arrangements. Mid-tempo number “The King of Fools” once again has Gioeli front and center, and rightfully so. Another favorite was “Till the World Says Goodbye” with its dirty sexy tempo, riffs, and vocals. For 7:42 it seduces you and draws you in, which is what this music is supposed to do, no? Here we are treated to yet another amazing guitar solo that damn near alters time and space. Fucking awesome!
“Breaking the Rules” has a killer guitar tone that cuts glass, and is probably great for a gym playlist. Closer and third epic “Forever Free” is another slow number that simmers just to a boil for 8:31. Halfway through Pell unleashes a solo that is equal parts haunting, melodic, and soulful. Gioeli, Doernberg, Crawczak, and Rondinelli all play vital roles in this piece, and when everyone comes together it’s simply golden. I really enjoyed the last AXEL RUDI PELL album. But Game of Sins is on a completely different level. There isn’t a single bad track to be found, and this is a record that without a doubt will be on my Top Albums of 2016 list, no question.
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM