It was a Metal Hammer magazine in 1989 which had a two page interview with a young German guitarist called Axel Rudi Pell.
I thought what a cool name. The interview was all about his debut album, “Wild Obsession” released in 1989
And I had this “buy list” that I kept in my wallet of records to buy, so I added it to the list. But I never found it available and I never ordered it. And he kept releasing albums and he kept appearing in the European magazines. The U.S and Aussie mags gave him no love and neither did any of the Guitar mags, but the Metal Hammers’ and Kerrangs’ did.
And I kept reading of the albums he kept making, like “Nasty Reputation” released in 91 with Rob Rock on vocals and the albums between 1992 and 1997 which had Jeff Scott Soto on vocals. And I kept adding his albums to the “buy list” and then I stopped.
In 1998, Johnny Gioeli joined on vocals and never left. Remember Hardline and its debut album with Neal Schon, Deen Castronovo and the Gioeli brothers. Yep that same dude. He has done 13 studio albums with Axel Rudi Pell, plus Hardline albums and Crush 40 albums for video games. If you want a hard worker in the music business, Johnny Gioeli is one.
Keeping a stable vocalist has made me a fan of ARP’s works, because he’s unlike other hot shot guitarists who just kept changing singers with each album. Actually only two come to mind at the moment, in Malmsteen and Lynch.
So I’m listening to the new album, “Sign Of The Times” and I don’t know if it’s the mood I am in, or the quarantine for the last 10 weeks, but this album is hitting all the spots for me. Every single song has something which connects.
Like in “Gunfire”, the song reminded me of Motorhead in the riffs, and you had Gioeli pulling out some cool metal vocals and then the guitar solo started and it just kept going and I kept banging that head and I was in love with the song.
“Bad Reputation” is all major key and it’s got that summertime love feel. This could have come from an ELO album, or an early Whitesnake, or Bad Company album, or even Sweet. Hell, Kiss covered this style on “Dynasty” and “Unmasked”.
The Choir voices and the violins kick off “Sign Of The Times” but when the distorted riff comes in on its own, it’s like “Heaven And Hell” and Gioeli is singing about “being on our way to better times”, and it’s got Dio all over it.
“Looking down on the ashes, we are moving on to a new world”
If you call this an unprecedented time, a time of ashes, then we hope to be moving to a new world. Time will tell how we navigate these uncharted waters.
And for all the heaviness of the song with its riffage, the guitar solo section is just drums, keyboards and bass. No rhythm guitar. It’s exactly how it will sound live and of course ARP doesn’t disappoint in the lead.
“The End Of The Line” just rolls along at about 140bpm and my foot is tapping and Gioeli is telling us that “we are running out of time”.
Any song with a title like “As Blind As A Fool Can Be” just screams epic. Before the song even started I was already thinking, “All The Fools Sailed Away”, “Blindman”, “Soldier Of Fortune”, “Sailing Ships” and “When A Blindman Cries”. And it rolls along like any ballad should.
On “Wings Of The Storm” (I know, it’s an overused title), the world gets weirder every day, so Gioeli is looking to fly far away on the wings of the storm. And the riffage by ARP is exactly how it should be. It’s got this bluesy feel in the verses, but it’s still metal. And when the Chorus kicks in, the riffs are excellent but Gioeli is the star with the vocal performance.
And no ARP song is complete without a minute and a half guitar solo. There’s actually two of em on this one. In the middle and in the outro.
“Waiting For Your Call” sounds like an awesome Scorpions song that Scorpions didn’t write.
“Into The Fire” (another overused title, I know) has this groove which reminds of “Kashmir” and “Egypt(The Chains Are On)”. And of course, the solo is worthy for a track which closes the album.
Listening to this album and hearing Gioeli on vocals has got me thinking that I really need to go back and listen to the Hardline albums I haven’t heard since the first album, which happens to be a lot albums.