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Music Reviews: Axel Rudi Pell, Freedom Call, Running Wild, Barren Earth, Dark Empire, Kissin’ Dynamite

This week it is all about power and lots of it.

We start off with one of the more classically oriented power metal purveyors, Axel Rudi Pell and his latest, Circle of the Oath. As with most of his releases it’s one of abject consistency. If you like his stuff then you will like this release. The choruses are catchy and the music well-paced. Ten songs for a total of sixty minutes of sheer heavy rock bliss. Johnny Gioeli continues on the vocals and delivers consistently good ones.

If you want traditional, slightly daft power metal then you might want to check out the new one from Freedom Call. Land of the Crimson Dawn even has some of those goofy German pronunciations we used to love from The Scorpions. It also retains that sub-oompah music type vibe so common in Germanic power metal. As you might imagine, this is fist-in-the-air, every-song-an-anthem, cod metal. It’s silly and infectious, no less so than on a track like “Rockstars.”

And then of course, we have the equally daft but oh so endearing Running Wild, returning from their split in 2009. The lead singer and guitarist is called Rolf “Rock’n’Rolf” Kasparek and they sing about pirates and the like. A German version of Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom would be a good way to describe them. This band is serious about having a good time and “Shadowmaker” is just their latest attempt to bring you along with them. They may have been around since the 1970s, but they sound as fresh as ever.

Then we have Barren Earth with their progressive power death and doom metal. This is what I sometimes call “kitchen sink metal,” because the band is willing to toss in whatever is necessary for a track, genre-jumping with abandon. Never too much of anything, but just enough to keep it interesting. They are a Finnish metal supergroup of sorts and truly try to stretch their musical boundaries. While maybe not the most accessible stuff in the world, Devil’s Resolve is rewarding even after a few listens.

Hailing from New Jersey, Dark Empire peddle a progressive power metal that mixes death metal vocals with clean singing. While the rough vocal style might put a few people off, if you get past it this is a rewarding release. The band do have a habit of drifting into thrash metal (think Fates Warning) at times. This is another band that uses whatever style fits the music at hand. While not as clever as some similar bands from Scandinavia they nevertheless manage to produce something good on their latest, From Refuge to Ruin.

Kissin’ Dynamite really doesn’t fit into the power metal genre, but it sure has a lot of power behind it. Money, Sex & Power has all the subtlety of early Guns N’ Roses and that is completely deliberate. This band sticks to the heavy edge of sleaze rock and do it oh so well. Their ode to dying young and fast, “Club 27,” is smirk inducing. The title track really sums it all up nicely and is as blunt as you might expect. Great music for bombing along the road and singing along like an idiot.

Even in a genre like power metal there is such diversity these days, long may it continue. Have a good week and stay safe.

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