AXEL RUDI PELL – INTO THE STORM
RELEASED: JANUARY 21ST, 2014
Axel Rudi Pell is a name familiar to many classic metal fans. However, it’s just not familiar enough. Sure, in circles that are very familiar with classic heavy metal bands such as Krokus or Saxon may very well also have heard of Axel, but the name hasn’t caught the same familiarity of that of, say, Yngwie Malmsteen or Ronnie James Dio. Before I go on, I should point out that I do not compare Axel Rudi Pell’s music with any of the above mentioned artists. Well maybe there’s a bit of a comparison to Yngwie.
For about 24 years now, the German guitar virtuoso Axel Rudi Pell has released album after album. Sixteen to be exact; and this doesn’t at all include the years spent and albums recorded with mid-80’s metal band Steeler (not to be confused with the early 80’s metal band which featured Ron Keel as well as the previously mentioned Yngwie Malmsteen). The albums released by Axel and his band have progressed from virtuosic speed metal (such as displayed on his debut solo album Wild Obsession) to somewhat of a classic power metal sound, similar to that of what Ronnie James Dio made so popular; particularly in recent albums, of which have consisted of a rather steady line-up that consists of long time bass player Volker Krawczak, whom has been with Axel since 1989. These two, plus keyboardist Ferdy Doernberg and American vocalist Johnny Gioeli, formerly of glam metal band Hardline, round up the same line-up that has been featured on every Axel Rudi Pell album since 1997.
Axel Rudi Pell’s most recent album, Into The Storm, continues the safe route of Axel’s preferred style of heavy metal, not straying too far from what he and his fans have become familiar with. The main difference, and it’s a big one, is the addition of drumming legend Bobby Rondinelli. Bobby is one of those musicians from the 80’s that just seemed to go around from legendary band to legendary band, perhaps most notably having played for Rainbow, but other there is also Black Sabbath and Blue Öyster Cult just to name a few. His presence on Into The Storm just gives more intrigue for any classic metal fan to give it a listen.
The album starts off with The Inquisitorial Procedure, a short orchestral doom sounding instrumental that leads right in to the albums first hard rocker, Tower of Lies. Standard to the usual power metal track, there is a lot of heavy guitars playing over a very listenable vocalist, all accompanied by the sound of keyboards in the background that fill out the sound while not taking centre stage. Such criterion is used throughout the album on tracks such as the slightly more keyboard driven Long Way To Go and High Above. Touching Heaven starts off slightly different, with the sound of a soulful organ providing a soothing sound, but it doesn’t take long for the seven-minute epic to get back in to power metal basics.
The album also takes a bit of a classic rock/metal influence to its sound. Burning Chains, for instance, doesn’t have so much keyboards, thus the song doesn’t sound as mystical as others but rather sounds more like a straight ahead rock/metal track. The same could be said about Changing Times, which starts out with a very Michael Schenker-esque riff and keeps a galloping pace throughout while still retaining some of the mystique that is presented throughout Into The Storm.
Axel Rudi Pell has never shied away from ballads. He even has a few compilations (four to be exact) dedicated to just ballads that he has recorded. This albums power ballad is When Truth Hurts. Johnny Gioeli saves his best singing for this track, which is mostly piano driven. It provides good texture for the album; it changes the listener’s perspective if only for six minutes.
I find the lowest point of the album to be the cover of the Neil Young classic Hey Hey, My My (Out of the Blue/Into the Black). Simply titled Hey Hey My My by Axel Rudi Pell, the band turned Neil Young’s patented raw style of rock into a piano ballad. I wish I could say the band had good intentions with the track, but I can’t. It feels like filler for the album. Johnny Gioeli tries too hard to sound perfect singing a song originally by a singer who certainly never cared about sounding perfect but did anyway. The song basically takes up an unnecessary five minutes on the album that easily couldn’t have been missed otherwise. Perhaps the only part I seem to enjoy on this cover is at the end of the guitar solo when Axel plays the original songs riff.
The album ends typically to other metal albums of this genre, with an all out ten-and-a-half-minute epic. In this case, it’s the album’s title track Into The Storm. This slow metal epic effectively depicts the album’s title and album cover well, sounding like the soundtrack to a pirate ship sailing through churning seas. The curious sound of a sitar is heard throughout the album. I’m uncertain if it is a true sitar or just a well synthesized sound effect of a sitar. My money is on the latter. It gives the song a strange element that, when I overanalyze I don’t see how it fits in to the story of the song; but that’s just me overanalyzing because when it comes right down to it, it provides more of an element to the sound.
The album isn’t a monument. It isn’t something to change the face of music as we know it. However, it is something that will most definitely please many classic metal fans, and it will almost guaranteed satisfy existing Axel Rudi Pell fans. As per all of his most recent albums, there is more of a melodic sound to the album, rather than the fast shredding guitar playing that was heard on his earliest albums, but by now fans of the Axel Rudi Pell have come to expect this melodic sound. The best part of the album is how each of its ten tracks is different enough from one another; this makes it so that the album doesn’t start to sound the same half way through, which is the case for many albums out there.
“Long Way To Go” – Long Way To Go is one of the so to speak stereotypical power metal tracks. It is heavily keyboard driven but at the same time it has enough crunching guitars to please metal fans. Since I would best classify the album as a power metal album, it would seem natural that I pick this as the highlight seeing as how I find this to be the best of the power metal tracks from the album, and the perfect song for anyone to listen to first in order to get an idea of what they are in for.
8 (Out of 10)
- “The Inquisitorial Procedure” – 1:48
- “Tower of Lies” – 4:26
- “Long Way To Go” – 5:32
- “Burning Chains” – 5:23
- “When Truth Hurts” – 6:46
- “Changing Times” – 6:05
- “Touching Heaven” – 7:02
- “High Above” – 4:49
- “Hey Hey My My” (Neil Young Cover) – 5:02
- “Into the Storm” – 10:35
Phil Lisotti of Rock Review Phil