Over the course of 14 albums, German guitar wizard Axel Rudi Pell has helmed various line-ups to help create his version of Rainbow-influenced melodic hard rock. Two constants over the past eight of those releases has been Hardline vocalist Johnny Gioeli and veteran drummer Mike Terrana, and on this latest Circle of the Oath they are joined by bassist Volker Krawczak and keyboard player Ferdy Doernberg.
It's not stepping too far out of the box to say that Pell & Co. pretty much churn out the same album over and over, but for lovers of melodic hard rock that's not necessarily a bad thing. Most of the songs here are catchy and instantly memorable, filled with just enough crisp guitar riffs, tasty Blackmore influenced solos, symphonic keyboards, and the soaring vocals of Gioeli. Tunes such as "Run With the Wind", "Fortunes of War", "Hold On To Your Dreams", and the epic sounding title track just stick in your head from that first spin, and though there's nothing remotely groundbreaking about any of them, you just can't help but love the memorable riffs and alluring hooks. Heaviest tunes are "Ghost In the Black", "Before I Die", and the near 10 minute closer "World Of Confusion (The Masquerade Ball Pt. II)", and though none approach power metal bombast they have plenty of guitar crunch and powerful vocals, all driven by some serious drum thunder from Terrana.
If you figured that Axel Rudi Pell was due for his latest SPV release, well you were right, here it is. And like the last one, and the one before that, and the one before that, this one's another solid example of melodic rock at its finest.
1. The Guillotine Suite (Intro) 01:52
2. Ghost In The Black 04:36
3. Run With The Wind 04:42
4. Before I Die 04:29
5. Circle Of The Oath 09:20
6. Fortunes Of War 05:19
7. Bridges To Nowhere 07:10
8. Lived Our Lives Before 06:31
9. Hold On To Your Dreams 05:47
10. World Of Confusion (The Masquerade Ball Pt. II) 09:30