Axel Rudi Pell vocalist Johnny Gioeli used to sing in a pretty-boy cock-rock band called Hardline, which formed out of the ashes of the John Waite-fronted group Bad English and a lesser-known band called Brunette. Hardline’s 1992 debut, Double Eclipse, featured guitarist Neal Schon (past and present Journey), drummer Deen Castronovo (future Journey) and guitarist Joey Gioeli (no Journey, but Johnny’s brother). The band toured with Van Halen, and Double Eclipse became a cult favorite in the melodic-rock underground. Now, a decade later, the Gioeli brothers have reunited — sans Schon and Castronovo — for the follow-up to Double Eclipse, and it’s a scorcher.
If you dig guitarist Pell’s recent albums (Oceans of Time, The Masquerade Ball, Shadow Zone), you’ll find some similarities on Hardline II, with progressive and moody tracks like the rocker "Do or Die" and the ethereal "This Gift" (featuring Schon on guitar). The album also should appeal to Hardline’s early fans who aren’t adverse to musical evolution, as tracks like "Hold Me Down," "Paralyzed" and "Weight" retain the spirit of Hardline’s original material while injecting it with an updated sound that's more natural than forced. Johnny Gioeli’s expansive voice sounds stronger and grittier than ever.
In addition to Johnny and Joey, the band includes lead guitarist Josh Ramos (The Storm, Two Fires), drummer Bob Rock (Vinnie Vincent Invasion), bass player Christopher Maloney and keyboard player Michael T. Ross. Granted, that’s not quite the all-star lineup of the original Hardline. But the Brothers Gioeli — not Schon — wrote many of the songs on Double Eclipse, and their charm shines through again on Hardline II. In fact, these 11 tracks sound more mature, versatile and confident than the band’s first dozen. Impressive.