Steamhammer/SPV [Release date: 23.03.18]
The prolific German axe-meister Axel Rudi Pell is back with another slab of committed power/melodic metal. Like clockwork, he releases an album of new material every two years. ‘Knights Call’ is Pell’s seventeenth release since leaving Steeler in 1989.
The collection doesn’t mess with the tried and trusted formula of earlier work. That will be a relief for his Continental fans who buy the music in truck loads and flock to gigs. Though less avidly followed in the UK, 2016’s ‘Game of Sins’ did briefly dent the rock and metal charts. This is a decent enough follow up.
Opener ‘The Medieval Overture (Intro)’ sets a portentous tone before two of the album’s stronger tracks kick in. ‘The Wild and the Young’ and ‘Wildest Dreams’ both feed off driving riffs and melodic choruses. The latter is underpinned by some well-placed Hammond flourishes. Later on, ‘Follow The Sun’ is a fine romp.
‘Truth and Lies’ is an enjoyable mid-paced showcase of Pell’s dextrous and inventive guitar playing. The track also features some jaunty keyboard breaks from Ferdy Doernberg and a few compelling bass runs courtesy of Ferdy Doernberg.
As is typical of Pell’s material, the epic tracks come thick and fast. The semi-acoustic ballad, ‘Beyond The Light’ is probably the best of them. Great solo.
‘The Crusaders of Doom’ is well enough put together, with great work from Pell, if just a little laboured at eight-minutes plus. ‘Tower of Babylon’ is the album closer and clocks in at a whisker under 10 minutes. Again, the track is competent and carefully crafted with some lovely playing. But the thing is such a Stargazer meets Kashmir mash up as to be a hard listen. Almost too much of a tribute to be taken seriously.
Johnny Gioeli handles the lead vocals throughout with a gravelly tone and plenty of power, not least on the aforementioned ‘Beyond The Light’. I’m trying hard to avoid the obvious comparisons, but there is something of Klaus Meine about the vocal arrangements. Though not in the content. The lyrics often return to medieval good versus evil territory. Enough castles and crusades and knights to have kept Ronnie James Dio in business, God rest his noble heart.
The only real turkeys are the strained ‘Slaves on the Run’ and ‘Long Live Rock’ which is just too clichéd and ploddy to be a real anthem.
Everything here is well played and beautifully produced with some fine moments in amongst some more ordinary, derivative fare. Overall it is a jolly outing and could well broaden Pell’s appeal on this outpost of Europe. ***½
Review by Dave Atkinson
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