Album Review – Axel Rudi Pell / Sign of the Times (2020)

Time doesn’t seem to be an issue at all for this German guitar virtuoso, as he keeps on rockin’ the nation with another round of his first-class fusion of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock.

It looks like the one and only guitar virtuoso Axel Rudi Pell and his henchmen Johnny Gioeli on vocals, Volker Krawczak on bass, Ferdy Doernberg on keyboards and Bobby Rondinelli on drums will keep on rockin’ the nation for many decades to come based on the electrifying fusion of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock found in Sign of the Times, the 19th studio album in the band’s impressive career, keeping up with their own stream of one studio album every two years and always delivering first-class music like what they did in 2018 with Knights Call, in 2016 with Game of Sins, in 2014 with Into the Storm, and so on. As a matter of fact, you’ll need to go back over 30 years to fully appreciate the entire work of such talented Bochum, Germany-based guitarist, not to mention the over 1.7 million albums sold worldwide as the perfect indicator of how awesome his music is. Hence, his consistency enjoys more and more respect and appreciation within the hard and heavy community as the years go by, with Sign of the Times proving once again why he has (deservedly) become a true legend among guitar players and all types of metalheads from all over the world, even without accepting such honorable title.

As soon as you hit play, get ready to have your senses invaded by The Black Serenade, a cinematic intro that’s always part of their albums, warming us up for the incendiary Gunfire, where Axel begins slashing his strings in great fashion as usual accompanied by Ferdy’s 70’s-inspired keys and the potent beats by Bobby. Needless to say, Johnny is absolutely superb on vocals, yet again showing us all that their best songs always burn such as “Burning Chains”, “Fire”, and now this amazing composition. Then we have Bad Reputation, a lesson in classic Hard Rock led by Axel’s trademark riffs and the always crisp vocals by Johnny, also bringing a very pleasant pace and vibe and a beyond catchy chorus, all spiced up by the sharp and precise guitar solos by Axel; followed by the title-track Sign Of The Times, where an atmospheric intro is gradually boosted by metallic riffs, classic drums and the rumbling bass by Volker. Put differently, simply relax and enjoy over seven minutes of top-of-the-line Hard Rock that’s at the same time slow, steady and always great to listen to.

Speeding things up a bit the quintet fires the solid The End Of The Line, showcasing Bobby’s old school drumming while Axel and Johnny complement each other’s incendiary performances flawlessly, resulting in another amazing choice for their live concerts, whereas in As Blind As A Fool Can Be it’s time for one of their trademark, classy ballads, where we’re all invited to hold our loved ones tight and enjoy their smooth and gentle musicality while Johnny gives a lesson in passion and reach with his unique voice. And Ferdy takes the energy of his magical keys to a whole new level in Wings Of The Storm, a mid-tempo tune where Johnny tells a thrilling story through his soaring vocal lines while his bandmates generate a well-balanced and captivating ambience in the background, maintaining the album at an absurd level of quality, groove and feeling.

How about one more thrilling Rock N’ Roll ride with the boys? That’s what you’re going to get in Waiting For Your Call, utterly loyal to their own traditions and living up to the legacy of bands such as Bon Jovi, Heart and Journey, with Volker, Ferdy and Bobby being spot-on with their fiery instruments, providing Johnny all he needs to shine on vocals. Following such fun tune, a Reggae-inspired intro beautifully spearheaded by Johnny and Axel soon morphs into a 70’s Hard Rock and Heavy Metal extravaganza à la Rainbow titled Living In A Dream, bringing to our avid ears amazing performances by all band members, in special Ferdy with his whimsical keys, and showing a more alternative side of Axel while at the same time keeping his core essence intact. And last but not least, a fusion of epicness and dexterity concludes the album in Into The Fire, where Axel’s riffs sound insanely mesmerizing, therefore showcasing all his talent and skills as the fantastic guitarist that he is. Furthermore, this is such a gorgeous tune that I wish it was even longer and more atmospheric than its final shape and form just to provide us more time to enjoy Axel’s stunning music.

Sign of the Times Vinyl Boxset

I don’t think I need to tell you that if you consider yourself a diehard fan of classic rock and metal, you definitely need to purchase Sign of the Times, right? And you can do so by clicking HERE and selecting your favorite version of the album, with the deluxe vinyl boxset (which comes with a wall clock, a digipak CD version of the album, a double-LP gatefold in different colours, a magnet, a button, an A1 double sided poster, an A5 photo card and a sticker, all strictly limited to 1000 copies) being undoubtedly your go-to version of it. Also, don’t forget to give Mr. Axel Rudi Pell a shout on Facebook showing your respect and admiration for the amazing music he always brings to us fans, with Sign of the Times keeping the flames of such unparalleled guitarist and his loyal bandmates burning bright for the next couple of years until we see more of his stylish metal music. And as you might have already noticed, saying he’ll stun us once again with his captivating creations is not just a simple desire or a dream, but the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Best moments of the album: Gunfire, Bad Reputation, The End Of The Line and Living In A Dream.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 SPV/Steamhammer

Track listing
1. The Black Serenade (Intro) 1:40
2. Gunfire 5:21
3. Bad Reputation 5:41
4. Sign Of The Times 7:10
5. The End Of The Line 5:22
6. As Blind As A Fool Can Be 6:14
7. Wings Of The Storm 5:48
8. Waiting For Your Call 5:34
9. Living In A Dream 5:59
10. Into The Fire 6:01

Band members
Johnny Gioeli – vocals
Axel Rudi Pell – guitar
Volker Krawczak – bass
Ferdy Doernberg – keyboards
Bobby Rondinelli – drums

Album Review – Quilombo / Itankale EP (2019)

The history and evolution of Afro-descendants told by the black hands of a ruthless Death Metal and Grindcore unity from Brazil.

Formed in 2018 by drummer and vocalist Panda Reis (Oligarquia, Armagedom, Brigada do Ódio, Heresia 666), who’s also involved in several amazing endeavors such as an educational and cultural project named Coyote Vive, and guitarist and bassist Allan Kallid (Oligarquia) in São Paulo, the most populous city in Brazil and one of the biggest cities in the world, Death Metal/Grindcore unity Quilombo is among us to tell the evolution of Afro-descendants all over the world as well as the technological history from the African continent in their debut EP, entitled Itankale. Their main objective with Itankale is not political, though, but to unveil the truth about the African slaves taken from their homelands, from their people and from their culture to live a new reality in Brazil, the last country in the Western world to abolish slavery, using the most underground of all music styles, our relentless Heavy Metal, as the perfect soundtrack for their speech.

Featuring an impactful artwork by Brazilian artist Artur Fontenelle, showing some of the greatest icons in the African-American history, and recorded and mixed at O Beco Estudio, Itankale is the voice of the voiceless, telling the history of slavery from the standpoint of the slaves themselves, who were discriminated, persecuted, tortured, raped and killed, but that never gave up, surviving an endless period of pain in the hands of the white man. Furthermore, according to Panda and Allan themselves, Quilombo are not trying to generate any controversy, fights or turmoil with other people, but to provide the view of those who were not allowed to write or speak to anyone about their reality. Based on historical sources that have been ignored until now purely due to ideological and political issues to maintain the status quo, Quilombo will crush your senses with their visceral Death Metal in Itankale, writing with their own black hands about all the suffering and sorrow that haunted the souls of their African ancestors for centuries.

In the opening track, simply titled Melanina (or “melanin” in English), we already face an intro that’s completely different from everything you might have ever heard, showcasing intonations and vocalizations inspired by the African culture before exploding into a sonic devastation overflowing rebelliousness and rage, led by Panda’s demented drumming and sick growls while Allan cuts our skin deep with his riffs. Put differently, this is one of those songs that will leave a mark on your psyche, sounding very unique and raw like the music found in Sepultura’s masterpiece Roots. Ancestralidade (“ancestry”) is another song with an eccentric intro that morphs into a carnivorous feast of Death Metal where Panda smashes his drums like a beast, also vociferating the song’s austere lyrics deeply and rabidly and with guest Binho Gerônimo bringing an extra kick to the music with his tribal percussion, followed by Treze Nações (“thirteen nations”), showcasing a capoeira-inspired intro and of course sheer savagery in the form of Death Metal and Grindcore, sounding as fast and heavy as it can be. Needless to say, Panda shows no mercy for his drums while Allan is on fire with his riffs, with their already violent musicality being effectively spiced up by guest Guilherme Sorbello’s deranged vocals.

Once again paying a powerful tribute to their Africa roots and their music, Descendentes de Reis (“descendants of kings”) reminds me of some of the most brutal creations by their countrymen Ratos de Porão, which obviously translates into awesomeness, whereas in Semideusas (“demigods”) it’s time to talk (and growl) about the importance of women in the African culture, flirting with old school Punk Rock. In addition, the wicked guitar riffs and solos by Allan mixed with Panda’s infernal roars provide the listener all that’s needed for some brutal slamming into the circle pit. And closing the EP we have Diáspora D.C. (“diaspora A.D.”), bringing hints of classic Reggae music in its intro but again quickly morphing into one final blast of aggressive and frantic Death Metal, with Panda sounding truly enraged on vocals and with its primeval, tribal finale putting a glorious ending to the album.

If you want to put your hands on Itankale, which by the way is available for a full listen on SoundCloud, you can contact Quilombo directly through their Facebook page or by sending an email to Panda himself, with the cost of the physical copy of the album being only 10 Brazilian Reais (plus shipping costs). The band is also working on several partnerships to distribute their album all over the Brazilian territory, with stores like Paranoid Records and Die Hard Records, both located in the famous Galeria do Rock in São Paulo, already being confirmed as part of the band’s distribution list. It’s not everyday that we are able to enjoy such distinguished and meaningful album of extreme music, and let’s hope that Quilombo keep giving a (heavy and thunderous) voice to all Afro-descendants for many years to come, it doesn’t matter if they’re metalheads or not.

Best moments of the album: Melanina and Treze Nações.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Poluição Sonora Records

Track listing
1. Melanina 6:44
2. Ancestralidade 4:33
3. Treze Nações 1:43
4. Descendentes de Reis 1:53
5. Semideusas 2:54
6. Diáspora D.C. 1:49

Band members
Panda Reis – vocals, drums
Allan Kalid – guitars, bass

Guest musicians
Bruno – bass (recording)
Binho Gerônimo – percussion
Guilherme Sorbello – vocals on “Treze Nações”

Album Review – Faith No More / Sol Invictus (2015)

It might have taken 18 long years for Mr. Mike Patton and his demented squad to release a new album, but the result is so good it was definitely worth the wait.

Rating4

FNM_frontAt long last, after 18 fuckin’ excruciating years, the demented squad composed by the gentlemen Mike Patton, Jon Hudson, Billy Gould, Roddy Bottum and Mike Bordin, “usually” known as American Alternative Metal/Rock band Faith No More, is back with another freakish experiment entitled Sol Invictus (Latin for “Unconquered Sun”), the seventh studio album in their revolutionary career. Without Faith No More there wouldn’t be Alternative Metal, Funk Metal, Nu Metal, Grunge, contemporary Hard Rock, and so on. And if you think what I’m saying is bullshit, how about what Corey Taylor, frontman of the biggest Alternative Metal group in the world, Slipknot, said after seeing Mike Patton and his crew performing the all-time classic “Epic” at the 1990 MTV Video Music Awards? “I was mesmerized by that. I never felt a moment like that until that moment. It completely turned me around.”, stated the iconic #8.

Perhaps the greatest question in everyone’s minds, after knowing the band was officially getting out of their state of “creative hibernation”, was that if they were going to be capable of releasing something as amazing as their previous albums, especially the masterpieces The Real Thing (1989), Angel Dust (1992) and King for a Day… Fool for a Lifetime (1995). Well, although Sol Invictus doesn’t have any “A Small Victory”, “The Gentle Art of Making Enemies” or “Digging the Grave” among its songs, it’s still a well-set album with lots of thrilling moments, showcasing a band that doesn’t seem to have been on hiatus (not including their sporadic live performances and tours along all those 18 years) since their previous release, the also spectacular Album of the Year, from 1997.

The title-track, Sol Invictus, is just as weird as the album artwork, which means it’s perfect for opening their live performances. It’s short and melancholic, just like they’ve mastered doing through the years, and we all have to agree that with that piano intro and those whispering vocals you know somehow it’s Faith No More even if you’ve never heard anything about the band in your entire life. The same can be said about the awesome Superhero, a very melodic and alternative tune with interesting keyboard notes by Roddy Bottum, where after only two seconds you know it’s pure Faith No More. I guess there’s no need to mention how incredible Mr. Patton’s crazy screams and vocals are, but it’s valid to mention that the lyrics beautifully follow that vocal craziness (“Like an American drug / Makes a mean cock grow / …kill a priest / Makes a superman of glass”).

The next track, Sunny Side Up, sounds a lot like many songs from Album of the Year, with a stylish blend of Jazz, Blues, Rock N’ Roll and everything else. In other words, fans of the band will enjoy it for sure, while others will probably ask themselves “what the fuck is this?” Even if you don’t understand that song really well, you’ll relish Separation Anxiety and its stronger Rock N’ Roll vein. Mike Patton once again steals the show with his wicked voice and proves why he’s among the best and most versatile singers in the world. The only setback in this exciting tune is the drumming: I was expecting more from Mike Bordin, despite him doing a relatively decent job throughout the whole song.

FNMThe dark intro in Cone of Shame corroborates they really enjoy sounding bizarre, with its last part getting a lot more vibrant and intense, while Rise of the Fall offers the listener some elements from Reggae music and more audible guitar lines, as well as more rhythmic beats. Moreover, the crazy screams by Mike Patton end up adding a lot of electricity to a song that’s below average for a band like Faith No More. Following the lowest point of the album we have Black Friday, a song purely inspired by 80’s classic rock music which despite its lack of creativity has a good blend of semi-acoustic parts and heavier riffs and screams.

And just when you think Faith No More cannot get weirder, they come up with the stupendous Motherfucker, another perfect choice for opening their live concerts, where the focus is obviously on Mike Patton’s vocal lines and the song’s eerie lyrics (“Get the motherfucker on the phone, the phone…”), also including the best guitar solo of the entire album. Not only that, I doubt you won’t be singing this song everywhere, even at work with your boss by your side. Unless you don’t know shit about the band, you probably know how much they love songs with Portuguese or Spanish names (and sometimes lyrics), but unfortunately the boring Matador doesn’t get close at all to the marvelous classic “Caralho Voador”, for example. It’s just an average song with nothing new or outstanding, except for the strong bass lines by Billy Gould. And sounding like a B-side from King for a Day… Fool for a Lifetime, From the Dead gives a melancholic ending to Sol Invictus with the band’s trademark. It’s a good listen if you’re at home or in your car, but definitely not recommended for their live performances.

I wish there were a few more guitar solos by Jon Hudson and some faster beats by Mike Bordin in this or that song, as Sol Invictus sounds too calm for me in many of its moments, but at least we can loosen up knowing Faith No More are not “dinosaurs”. They are a more-than-alive group that still got it in them, and from now on (well, they’ve been doing this already) there are even more outstanding tunes in their lunatic arsenal to be masterfully played during their live concerts all around the world. And we’re all very thankful to the unparalleled Mr. Patton and his fellow mates for that, even if it took so many years for them to return.

Best moments of the album: Superhero, Separation Anxiety and Motherfucker.

Worst moments of the album: Rise of the Fall and Matador.

Released in 2015 Reclamation Records

Track listing
1. Sol Invictus 2:37
2. Superhero 5:15
3. Sunny Side Up 2:59
4. Separation Anxiety 3:44
5. Cone of Shame 4:40
6. Rise of the Fall 4:09
7. Black Friday 3:19
8. Motherfucker 3:33
9. Matador 6:08
10. From the Dead 3:06

Band members
Mike Patton – vocals
Jon Hudson – guitar
Billy Gould – bass guitar
Roddy Bottum – keyboards, vocals
Mike Bordin – drums