Axel Rudi Pell – Knights Call (SPV)Tuesday, 20th March 2018
The German guitar hero who lives for a melodic hard rock/power metal sound that encompasses his love of Rainbow, Deep Purple, and Dio among others – Axel Rudi Pell isn’t going to exactly throw serious monkey wrenches into the familiar formula. Knights Call is the 18th ARP studio platter since 1989 – consistently pumping out a mixture of mid-tempo anthems, the occasional speedier offering, plus the ballad and epic arrangements that has his legions satiated until the next offering a year or two down the line. And while Knights Call keeps the course strong and steady, the quintet does choose a couple of spots to flex some different nuances that should keep toes tapping and fists pumping.
Drummer Bobby Rondinelli and keyboardist Ferdy Doernberg work some 70’s-oriented magic into “Wildest Dreams” – a mid-tempo number that contains a swing shuffle rhythm framework and deep organ strains for those Deep Purple/Uriah Heep mavens, all the while giving singer Johnny Gioeli that mid-range and upper bluesy delivery to bring home the melodies. Axel proves he can be restrained and thoughtful with his phrasing in the longer 7:45 ballad “Beyond the Light” – building a mood through key bends to squeeze out every possible ounce of emotion within the framework of a proper lead break. All five musicians get a minor spotlight in the instrumental “Truth and Lies” – the main riff more Celtic/cultural in nature, and it’s nice to hear a proper interplay aspect to a track like this as you can tell these gentlemen truly enjoy the 70’s style melodic hard rock and 80’s-oriented power songs they deliver. The final song “Tower of Babylon” has this Rainbow meets Led Zeppelin feel between the ominous guitar chord choices, the back and forth vocal to music action, as well as the exotic nature to the keyboards and soothing background vocals – Axel a master at carrying the edge of your seat anticipation an epic arrangement needs from start to finish.
At this point in his career, it’s difficult to determine what’s better than most records in his deep catalog, as you pretty much know from the onset what you’ll be getting. That being said, Knights Call keeps the flag flying high for all things Blackmore-inspired, and Dio-related – and that will be good enough for most.