Axel Rudi Pell - Game of Sins

Hmm. European, triple-barrelled name, cream Strat, Richie Blackmore influence, played in a band called Steeler in the 80s and later recorded with Jeff Scott Soto. Must be Axel Rudi Pell.

The big difference between ARP and the other guy is that Axel seems to be able to keep a band together, and it shows in the way that the parts gel together on new release Game Of Sins. The band’s right in the pocket, and there’s virtually no show-off playing anywhere on this album, so-much-so that it’s easy to overlook just what a great guitarist ARP really is – he’s got the technique to play exactly what’s needed, and the taste to stop there! Solos you can sing? In spades! I’ve also got to name check drummer Bobby Rondinelli (guess which post Deep Purple Richie Blackmore band he played in), keyboard player Ferdy Doernberg andbassist Volker Krawczak because this sort of performance doesn’t happen without everybody nailing their parts – great band!

I usually like to really listen to brand-new music – put it on when there’s no one else about and just soak it up. This time round I was running late on some deadlines, and decided to do that thing that real-men do so well (behave – I’m talking about multitasking). So, there I was, doing proper Heavy-Metal stuff; Ironing (get-it? – Iron – Heavy Metal?!?), using the Picker-Patent music streaming technology of cranking the studio monitors up loud and leaving a couple of doors open. I guess I wasn’t REALLY listening, because I only noticed after about 15 minutes that I was slow-time head-banging and drumming on the table and singing along. I could stop here, give it 4.5+ out of 5, and say that if you like euro style heavy/power/melodic-rock/metal just go buy it. More? Ok, let’s dig in just a little deeper.

The album sounds modern, it’s punchy and bright and alive, but with a proper big old-school snare-drums, and it makes me want to turn it up and play it louder. It wears its influences proudly and does it well. This may actually be one of the best Rainbow albums ever – and I mean that as a high compliment – it’s even got a Dragon song (Falling Star). Mind you – it quite possibly also has the best Bon Jovi track in years (Lost In Love) – and that’s meant as a compliment too – Johhny Gioeli absolutely kills it on vocals.

You get eleven tracks including the atmospheric instrumental opener Lenta Fortuna and the bonus All Along The Watchtower (I never quite get what makes a track a “bonus”, but it’s a brave choice given that Dylan wrote it and Jimi defined it - ARP nods respectfully to the pedigree and, then kicks its ass). I initially thought that a couple of songs seem to be a bit under-written (King of Fools, Breaking The Rules), but by the 10th or so listen I was checking my notes to see which ones I thought they were, and if the smouldering Forever Free (this one’s got a Rainbow in it) doesn’t have you punching the air on the chorus and waving a Zippo about, then there’s something gone seriously wrong for (or with) you. The whole album’s just over an hour long, and I’ll suggest that this is one to find the time to play from start to finish; it’s got a flow and ebb and manages the trick of being greater than the sum of its parts. 

There may be an irony in Game Of Sins being released as Richie Blackmore’s about to gig Rainbow for the first time in a couple of decades or so – personally I’d spend the money on a copy Game Of Sins and ticket to see ARP play it.

Reviewer: Andi Picker