AXEL RUDI PELL – Into The Storm

axel_rudi_pell-into_the_storm_a 150When I first discovered Axel Rudi Pell, it was through a radio show that played the song “Masquerade Ball” and it just blew me the hell away. Sure, it was nothing new under the sun, but the way he mixed Rainbow with Tony Martin era Black Sabbath really did the trick on me. Of courser, I have known OF him for a long, long time – through his time in Steeler (the German version, not the Ron Keel / Yngwie Malmsteen one) to his solo career. He was frequently featured in some of the hard rock and metal magazines that I read throughout the 80’s and 90’s and I noticed that he had once hired one of my favourite singers, Jeff Scott Soto of Talisman and Yngwie Malmsteen fame. However, on this particular track, it was Hardline singer Johnny Gioeli who sang and does so to this day. I instantly bought the compilation album The Wizard’s Chosen Few (2000) which got me hooked right away and left me wondering why on earth I hadn’t checked this man out sooner. Well, maybe I was better off not doing so because his first few solo albums (those who featured Soto and one also Rob Rock) left a whole lot to be desired. But albums like Black Moon Pyramid (1996), Magic (1997), Oceans Of Time (1998), The Masquerade Ball (2000) and Shadow Zone (2002) are all very good albums and has a place in my record collection. However, it was when he released Kings And Queens in 2004 that I noticed that I started to lose interest. It wasn’t a bad album by any means, but I started to the see the pattern and what was worse, I heard it too. Pell had started to go all Yngwie Malmsteen on us and stealing from himself, everything from how to mix the styles of the songs in the running order to melodies and arrangements had started to become more and more predictable and from every album after that, the music had started to become dull as well. It was like as if you had heard one Axel Rudi Pell album, you had heard them all. Even the covers looked the same.

Things got worse and worse and it wasn’t until he released his last album Circle Of The Oath in 2012 that things started to get well again. Not that Pell did reinvent himself or went on new musical paths or anything like that, no, the sound was still the same, but it felt like Pell had got himself together and written some good songs again, song that were still predictable, but this time they didn’t go in one ear and out the other. But still, I grew tired of the record and it wasn’t up to match with his older albums – not even close. That meant that I had some hopes for his new release, but I would lie if I said that I had high expectations. Just like on all his records, this one starts with an instrumental intro that lasts for almost two minutes, “The Inquisitorial Procedure” and just like on all his albums, this piece of music is totally forgettable. Just like on all his other albums the next song is a fast one, this time called “Tower Of Lies”. But for the first time in years, it raises a smile on my face. I like the song, it’s a fast hard rock song with a catchy melody and some great vocals from Gioeli.  “Long Way To Go” is a commercial, big chorused hard rock song in midtempo, “When Truth Hurts” is a grand ballad, very much in the formula how Pell writes and arranges his ballads, but this one is brilliant and the best Pell ballad I have heard in a long time and “Changing Times” has this almost Iron Maiden – ish galloping rhythm – a very good song. If anyone recognizes the title “Hey, Hey, My, My” it’s because this is a cover of the Neil Young song. Now, I’m not a Neil Young fan – no, quite the opposite and I don’t like this song in its original form. Pell and his band (that now features ex-Rainbow and ex-Black Sabbath drummer Bobby Rondinelli instead of the departed Mike Terranna) made a power ballad out of it and it really doesn’t work at all. The lyric “hey hey, my my – rock ‘n’ roll can never die” becomes so cheesy when done this way that I can hardly listen to it. The title track, however, is a killer. It is one of those big, long, heavy, slow and epic monster tracks that Pell does so well. This one is the album’s finest moment and it closes the album. If you haven’t bought the digi pack, that is.

The digi pack contains two bonus tracks – the instrumental rocker “White Cats” that reminds me of the Scorpions’ good days and “Way To Mandalay”, a cover of a Blackmore’s Night song (from their album Ghost Of A Rose). In the hands of Pell and Gioeli it strays away from the original’s renaissance sound and gets a more classic 70’s hard rock sound with a bit of the 80’s thrown in there. In fact, my first thought was that it sounds like Accept plays Thin Lizzy. And yes, this is the best song on here, I must say. If you have ever heard Axel Rudi Pell, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting here, except maybe for the fact that the sound is updated a bit, but there are no surprises to be found. This is easily Pell’s best album in some 10 years – it’s almost like he and his band are on some new-found enthusiasm, like they have been resurrected. A good album, but one of these days Pell must reinvite himself and his songwriting and try some new things to spice things up. Because even though this is Pell’s best album in years and years, it does sound like just another Axel Rudi Pell record. Or can it be that this is exactly how his fans wants his albums to be?

Jon Wilmenius (7/10)

Tracklist:

01.The Inquisitorial Procedure
02.Tower Of Lies
03.Long Way To Go
04.Burning Chains
05.When Truth Hurts
06.Changing Times
07.Touching Heaven
08.High Above
09.Hey Hey My My
10.Into The Storm

Digi Pack Bonus Tracks:

11. White CATS
12. Ways To Mandalay

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