Axel Rudi Pell – Circle of the Oath

Trying something new or playing it safe?
The guitar god from the coal scuttle did it again and released is 15th record, including the cover album ‘Diamonds Unlocked’. Concerning the last two records, ‘Tales of the Crown’ and ‘The Crest’, one could accuse Pell of a certain lack of ideas which is the first worry coming up right now – or did everything change this time?

The Guillotine Suite
A typical Pell-intro beginning with keys and choral singing before Axel joins in with his guitar. Compared to intros from previous records, this one contains drums towards the end which remind one of the famous Bolero-rhythm.

Ghost in the Black
The album’s Wake-Up-Song. Beyond all doubt, the riff could be found on a Led Zeppelin record as well. A real surprise coming in like “Ha, you didn’t expect that, did you?”. During the verses and the choruses Johnny convinces the listener with his “god given voice” as the booklet already says. The solo part is a musical duelling between Ferdy on the keys and Axel on the guitar just like Jon Lord and Richie Blackmore did.

Run with the Wind
Talking about the musical execution it’s a song typical for Pell, with a riff that can only come from the master himself. Here, at the latest, one can hear a crucial improvement compared with the last records: the drums can be heard loud and clear and the energy with which Mike Terrana plays is conveyed wonderfully. The solo part belongs to Axel with a fresh and not too stretched out solo.

Before I Die
Clearly one of the best Pell-tracks in awhile, if not the best. No matter how much it bears the hallmarks of Axel Rudi Pell, this track develops its own charm. This is due to two things:

1. Johnny’s way of singing is atypical for a Pell-song which shows during the verses and the chorus.

2. The passion with which Johnny is singing helps the refrain to create its own attraction.

This way the song stays in one’s ears long after hearing.

Circle of the Oath
With its acoustic beginning the title track shows a strong resemblance to the new Bon-Jovi-ballads becoming a rock song with oriental influences later on. Because of theses influences the song reminds one of Casbah from the album ‘Between the Walls’. With 9.20 minutes Circle of the Oath is the second longest track of the record.

Fortunes of War
The riff of this song is quite similar to the one ofGhost in the Black, changed a bit and played significantly slower. It’s the same with the keys which could be heard before in the aforementioned song as well as in Before I Die. Otherwise, the song presents nothing new and is one of Axel Rudi Pell’s well-know mid-tempo songs.

Bridges to Nowhere
A quiet intro becomes a heavy rock song. Devil Zone? No, Bridges to nowhere. After some 30 seconds the song gets heavy. Maybe this is the weakest song of the record because one gets the feel that, due to the moderate tempo, the singing is unnecessarily drawn out which causes it losing its effect. Therefore, it would have been better to make it a fast and powerful song an not stretch it out to over seven minutes of running time.

Lived our Lives Before
A ballad à la Axel Rudi Pell that begins smoothly and gains power in the chorus. Unfortunately, one begins to associate this song with previous Pell-ballads so getting the feeling of “having heard this one before” is unavoidable. This impression is strengthen in the refrain where it says “We don’t know” which strongly resembles the way of singing “They don’t know” in the chorus of Legions of Hell.

Hold on to your Dreams
A solid track by Axel Rudi Pell which could have been released on any of the newer records. Unfortunately, no one’s playing with fire here, as it says in the chorus, and the track becomes predictable. After the solo and Johnny singing the bridge the riff can be heard alone and one knows, after listening to some newer records, that Mike Terrana is going to kick his bass drum and, with a snare fill, leads over to the chorus again.

World of Confusion (The Masquerade Ball Pt. II)
Again a sequel to an existing song and with 9.30 minutes of running time the longest song on the record. On the previous album ‘The Crest’ Dark Waves of the Sea was the second part of Oceans of Time and now here comes part two of The Masquerade Ball. What’s immediately striking are the intertextual references for which Pell’s lyrics are known. In this case Pell alludes to “the wizards chosen few”, his first best of-record that included The Masquerade Ball. The line “we played some Voodoo” probably being an allusion to Voodoo Nights from the ‘Masquerade Ball’ record is not a far-fetched thought. Comparing both songs, one can notice the similarities: Both songs start smoothly before Axel’s first solo part which, in both cases, starts a few seconds after the beginning and not long after that the songs get heavier. The Masquerade Ball as well as World of Confusion include many solo parts by Pell like they occured on ‘Mystica’.

Searching for real innovation on ‘Circle of the Oath’ is in vain. Although, the album begins promising and fresh with the track Ghost in the Black it becomes a typical Pell-record as time goes by. Alterations may be found in the details, e.g. the improved audibility of the drums. Imposing on the listener is the thought “haven’t I heard this on a previous Axel record?”. Lyrically Axel, more or less, left the “wizards” and “rainbows” and his texts have become sociocritical, treating the topics of life. As measured by Pell standards ‘Circle of the Oath’ is clearly a solid record. However, if one hopes for something new from the master one still has to be patient.

Rating: 2/5

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Van Halen – A Different Kind of Truth

A different kind of Van Halen?
It’s been 14 years now since ‘Van Halen III’, the album that former bassist Michael Anthony called a solo record by Eddie van Halen, came out.  However, 28 years should pass before Van Halen and David Lee Roth would see a record studio from inside again. Although David Lee Roth joined Van Halen in 2007 already, the new record was released on 02/07/2012. Now, the question is if it was worth waiting for this new album. Let me say this much: yes, it was definitely worth it. ‘A Different Kind of Truth’ can easily compete with ‘1984’, David Lee Roth’s last record with Van Halen.

Tattoo
The opener already gets one in the mood for the rest of the album. A casual song with a cool groove that whets one’s appetite. The chorus, at the latest, is the point where the listener should get caught by the song and be unable to forget it for a long time. Here again, David Lee Roth speaks part of the lyrics in his distinctive, positively arrogant way, just like he did on ‘1984’.

She’s the Woman
Who should write a song like this if not David Lee Roth? Bad girls and beautiful women can be found on ‘1984’ but here things are getting a bit greasy wenn Lee Roth sings “It’s looking like the city towed my other apartment”. He shall be forgiven because, focussing on the song’s riff, which could be taken from one of the first records, one should now be totally drawn to the album.

You and Your Blues
A solid hard rock song  with a catchy riff, where, in the chorus, DLR sounds a bit like Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson. There are two things becoming clear in this song. At first, Eddie van Halen is far better at playing the guitar than the keys and secondly, although Michael Anthony’s harmonic basslines are missing, Wolfgang van Halen proves himself worthy replacing Anthony. Even the Van Halen-typical background singing can be heard for the first time.

China Town
The album’s first power song. Alex van Halen clearly shows how good he is at drumming and, with the help of the double bass technique, hammers his way through China Town. Eddie’s guitar play, including the solo, only confirms that he should keep his fingers away from the keys. An incredibly fluid solo reminding one of the good old Van Halen times. The song itself reflects the daily hectic of China Town well. The only thing putting a damper on the track is the chorus which takes some power away right after the verses.

Blood and Fire
Hearing the intro one could assume a ballad to follow. When David begins to sing and the drums start to play it sounds a bit like country rock until the well known Van Halen sound is established again. Besides the drum rolls and fills this can be heard by Eddie playing his guitar just like he did in the 80s – fast, fluid and stretched out.

Bullethead
Again a power song convincing the listener especially because of its speed and energy. Unfortunately, the song’s lyrics are a bit weak which becomes clear in the chorus. Here, DLR seems a bit bored while singing but nevertheless, the song unfolds its own magic and once again Eddie’s guitar play is wonderful.

As Is
This song, just like Bullethead, is one of the album’s faster songs. The intro creates three different impressions:

1. The counting at the beginning reminds one of the beginning of Wildest Dreams by Iron Maiden.
2. The drums sound like the intro of Jaded by Aerosmith.
3. The entry of the guitar makes the song sound like one of the newer Staind songs.

It takes 40 seconds to recognize there’s Van Halen playing – with power, speed and the typical background vocals. The spoke part sounding like a radio commercial doesn’t do any harm to the song.

Honeybabysweetiedoll
What can you say? Another song about the ladies who David Lee Roth seems to adore. Musically the song comes to live by the three Van Halens playing. Wolfgang’s bass play is well audible in the instrumental parts and one hardly recognizes that Michael Anthony is missing. Chapeau! Lyrically the song might be a bit greasy again but that should not bother any of the “soccer moms” once she has sent the “bad cowboy” to her room. She only needs to pull the “pin”.

The Trouble with Never
“1-800-Tell-Me-Baby”. Life counseling à la Van Halen? Definitely not. More like a solid rock song letting David Lee Roth have his say in his charming-arrogant way. The line “When was the last time you did something for the first time, makes you think about everyday life’s routine, no matter what the song is actually about.

Outta Space
Powerful from the beginning to the end. Here again, Lee Roth’s voice and singing technique remind one of Bruce Dickinson. The text critically deals with social networks and how people destroy nature. Those are topics one wouldn’t expect after listening to two songs dedicated to the women.

Stay Frosty
Sounding like a mixture between Country and Blues at first, Stay Frosty is one of the album’s best songs. Right when one thinks the record would end smoothly, Van Halen hit the strings and the drums with all their strength again and the song becomes powerful and infectious. David Lee Roth, again, relies on speaking most of the lyrics. However, the chorus is sung, goes right into the ears and stays there for a long time. Concerning the outro one can state that there a only a few bands being able to end a song with power chords and drum rolls lasting 30 seconds.

Big River
Starts calmly then changes into an unmistakable Eddie van Halen-Riff, supported wonderfully by Alex on the drums. The following solos are top-notch and give the song a special something.

Beats Workin’
An excellent powerful beginning by Eddie. The riff burns itself right into the listener’s mind and Alex’ drumming emphasizes this, so one can say for sure the beats are workin’. Compared to Tattoo it can be noted that the record ends even better than it started. The songs ending is as strong as its beginning and as Eddie’s guitar slowly but surely dies away it becomes evident that the 50 minutes running time are already over.

Van Halen and David Lee Roth made their fans wait 28 years. Although there had been a reunion in 2007, the new record comes out five years later. Well, they shall be forgiven because it was more than worth waiting. What is remarkable is that, every time DLR is part of Van Halen, Eddie plays the guitar as if his life is at stake. This, in fact, makes the album such a powerful record. Van Halen are back (for the moment) and one should enjoy this as long as possible.

Rating: 4,5/5

Hello world!

Hello world! What seems to be such a trivial sentence is maybe one of the most significant ones we will ever say. According to Wikipedia it’s “one of the simplest programs possible in most  programming languages” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hello_world_program). But there have been a lot of Hello Worlds! before and after programming. I mean, each time a baby is born, what sentence would you associate with its first cry? Wouldn’t it be something like “Hello world, here I am”?
So, it seems that “Hello World” announces the start of something new. A life, a program, you name it. Well, then this blog shall be the start of something new as well. What it will be the start of? Honestly, I don’t know (yet) but time will tell (as time has often done before). It’s not that I have a concrete idea of how this blog will evolve or what it’s gonna be about.

All I know is that it will be about life; life and all that affects life (the good, the bad, the crazy, the normal etc.). Maybe this can explain the name of this blog (the idiosyncracy of life in words) a little bit. To put it in a nutshell it’s all I find worth writing about in the course of my life.

I guess this is all I have to say for the first blog entry of my life. My fellow blogger (a big HELLO WORLD to you;)) will explain her motivations for our starting this blog herself (or at least I hope so). Oh, by the way, my motivations were that I always wanted to have a blog, preferably with someone else. Now, as both conditions are met, it’s off we go.

Hello world!