There is just something wonderful about getting a new record from AXEL RUDI PELL and Co. in my inbox. Because I am gonna race to hit that PLAY button the way a starving man would a sleeve of Ritz crackers. This, Sign of the Times (out now, Steamhammer/SPV Records), is our fourth time around with the legendary guitarist’s albums since early 2014. I mention that because since I’ve started reviewing them he is four for four, not a bad outing yet. Once again singer Johnny Gioeli reminds me (not that I needed reminding!) that he is one of the absolute best in the game and that is not up for debate. The guy’s just incredible! I also have to commend keyboard player Ferdy Doernberg for the perfect touch he adds to these tunes.
Speaking of songs, opener “Gunfire” features a white-hot riff from Pell, and he, drummer Bobby Rondinelli, bassist Volker Krawczak, and Doernberg take off at a gallop. Gioeli sings his face off, and Pell melts the fretboard with his solo, not just here, but across the goddamn disc. These guys know how to get things started, they always have. “Bad Reputation” is a mid-tempo rocker with a big, tasty hook and the guitar tone just owns. Title track “Sign of the Times” is the only textbook “epic” (right away, anything over seven minutes qualifies as an epic, dem’s the rules!) we get, and it’s also a great track. “The End of the Line” was definitely a favorite from jump because I love it when the band just takes the ball and runs with it, as they do here.
There is a haunting beauty to “As Blind As a Fool Can Be,” and it proves to be yet another gorgeous ballad in the group’s arsenal of them. Gioli’s delivery is perfect, as usual. Now, let’s talk about Pell’s smoldering guitars on “Wings of the Storm,” shall we? The groove is downright sexalicious, and Dernberg also sets the mood with his keys. The lyrics aren’t even remotely sexual, but musically this is one seductive track, people. This one damn near melted my pants right off! I’m kidding…or am I? A fantastic Pell solo ensues as well. “Waiting For Your Call” is the type of number we would have seen every single night on the Dial MTV countdown back in 1986, and I am here for it. Another winner for me, no question!
Wait till you get a load of “Living In a Dream,” my friends. The way it starts is NOT the way it finishes, that’s for damn sure. We go from light and breezy for the first minute to an all-out asskicker the rest of the way. Very well done and a nice bit of misdirection, something I heartily enjoy when bands do so. Closing track “Into the Fire” is very majestic, and Pell coaxes a tone out of his axe the likes of which I have never heard before. But man, does it fucking rule! Everything about the song is damn near perfect, just like the album itself. My dear readers, AXEL RUDI PELL and his crackerjack band have done it again. Sign of the Times is outstanding, and it’s right behind Game of Sins as one of my favorites. Go get this one NOW!!
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Wings of the the Storm”, “Gunfire”, “Into the Fire”, “The End of the Line”, “Waiting For Your Call”