Axel Rudi Pell – Sign Of The Times (SPV)

Glance at Axel Rudi Pell’s CV and it can be quite overwhelming.

The axe-wielding German turns 60 next month.

But that still doesn’t explain how he’s found the time to deliver 19 albums in 30 years.

And that’s post-Steeler!

Pell burst onto the scene in the early 80s with the German metallers.

But the decision to fly solo following 1988’s Undercover Animal proved inspired.

Sure, there’s been the odd dud during three decades of relentless riffing.

And there’s an argument that quantity has, occasionally, obscured quality.

But Pell has proved the old adage that while form may be temporary, class is permanent.

Sign Of The Times is the fret-burning free spirit back to his unrivalled best.

Better, even, than 2018’s chart-busting Knight’s Call.

And nobody saw that coming.

Explosive opener Gunfire provides a full throttle record with an early shot in the arm.

The unforgiving double bass assault complements some vintage Pell.

And frontman Johnny Gioeli’s supreme self-confidence is a joy to behold.

After that this riotous album only gets better.

Heartfelt ballad As Blind As A Fool Can Be showcases Pell’s softer side.

And it allows Gioeli to reprise his Hardline pomp.

Drummer Bobby Rondinelli aside, Pell has relied on a core of classy musos for more than 20 years now.

A sense of cohesion underpins Sign Of The Times’ timeless classic rock craft.

And in keys man Ferdy Doernberg, Pell boasts a key collaborator.

Time and time again his sweeping melodies elevate Sign Of The Times’ standout tracks to the next level.

Check out the lashings of Hammond on Wings Of The Storm and prepare to be blown away.

Pell might be the main man.

And he could comfortably – and justifiably – dominate every song here.

But that 30 year-plus career has never been a cringeworthy vanity project.

As always, this is just as much about the band as it is about the man.

And Sign Of The Times showcases five like-minded musos in fabulous form.

One day the Axel will fall on a legendary stint at the rock and roll coalface.

On this evidence, that day doesn’t look like coming any time soon.