Axel Rudi Pell: ‘Sign of The Times’

Released on May 8, 2020 (SPV/Steamhammer)

Axel Rudi Pell’s 18th studio album is the first since 2004’s Kings And Queens not to be produced by Charlie Bauerfeind. The producer on Sign of The Times is Tommy Geiger, who produced 2019’s XXX Anniversary Live. The band remains the same too, with Ferdy Doernberg (keyboards), Volker Krawczak (bass), Bobby Rondinelli (drums) and the increasingly sought-after vocalist Johnny Gioeli.  

Musically, the German postulant to the throne of Ritchie Blackmore continues to present a mix of hard rock with traditional heavy metal and typically European power metal, alternating moments of high octane with others that are as sweet as it can be. The guitar solos, I have the impression, are longer than ever. As for the lyrics, a touch of contemporaneity seems to have taken the place once occupied by kings, castles and dragons; something that can mean both an attempt to reach the public that are not into fantasy metal themes and a need to position itself, albeit in a very superficial way, in relation to the world in which we live.  

“Not a day passing without bad news”, sings Gioeli in the fast-paced “Gunfire”, an invitation to Pell’s great tradition of opening his works with the pedal on the metal. Three tracks later – and a few bpm less – the tone is one of hope as the lyrics to “The End of The Line” state, “A new generation will find a way to the new world.” In the final stretch, ideal for those who used to dream and nowadays don’t even sleep anymore, “Living In A Dream” – which begins with a reggae-like guitar (!) – conjures up the reality of what you read in the news and see on TV — “Welcome to the real world, with violence all the day / Riots on the streets and no more children play”.

The title is of a Whitesnake song, but “Wings of The Storm” sounds much more like a tribute to the other band David Coverdale became known for, the mighty Deep Purple. Can you hear echoes of “Stormbringer” in this one? Finally, the sour grapes “As Blind As A Fool Can Be” fills the quota for ballads while the single “Bad Reputation” serves as a reminder of why hard rock is the most irresistible style (and the most guilty pleasure) of this so-called rock ‘n’ roll, in addition to being irrefutable proof that often less is more.  

Track List:
01. The Black Serenade (Intro)
02. Gunfire
03. Bad Reputation
04. Sign of The Times
05. The End of The Line
06. As Blind As A Fool Can Be
07. Wings of The Storm
08. Waiting For Your Call
09. Living In A Dream
10. Into The Fire

Band Members:
Johnny Gioeli – lead and backing vocals
Axel Rudi Pell – lead and rhythm guitars
Ferdy Doernberg – keyboards
Volker Krawczak – bass
Bobby Rondinelli – drums

Band Websites:
Official Website

Reviewed and translated by Marcelo Vieira for Sleaze Roxx from Marcelo Vieira Music, January 2021

Axel Rudi Pell‘s “Bad Reputation” video: