Axel Rudi Pell has been pumping out the same kind of musical product for the past dozen or so years. He really refined the style over time, beginning in a more straight forward hard rock direction ("Wild Obsession" and "Nasty Reputation"), then bending more toward a Rainbow-esque vision after Jeff Scott Soto
took the mic (all of which were high quality, barring the final Soto outing, "Magic", which had its abysmal moments).
Once Gioeli came aboard, he solidified the current package in "Oceans of Time" and none of them have looked back since. His musical style borrows from many artists, but yet is unique in and of itself. There is the epic bombardment of power metal, but the songs are slower, more in a dramatic shift than relying on sheer velocity. The music is surprisingly rich in melody and retains this hard rock edge, without surrendering the soul completely to the power side. It's a fine balance, and one that he walks effortlessly these days. Pell's guitars are always a joy to hear, too. Flowing, bubbling, the agility of Yngwie and the heart of Blackmore, and like the songs he crafts, his guitar tone is his own signature. He is one of a handful of guitarists that can truly claim to be instantly recognizable and apart from everyone else.
Pell surrounds himself with talented musicians, most notably the thunder god Mike Terrana on the drums and ex-Hardline singer, Johnny Gioeli on vocals. Gioeli has been his lead frontman since the late 90s, taking over where Jeff Scotto Soto left off. He is able to switch between that majestic, commanding presence into a moody rock vocalist without a hiccup. Axel calls frequently on both sides of that vocal coin, so its a real boon to the music having his versatile voice adding that necessary vocal fuel to the musical fire. Rounding out the lineup is Volker Krawczak on bass who's been in Axel's camp since the Steeler days and Ferdy Doernberg layering on the keys.
Now after a million or so studio albums, you pretty much know the kind of product you are buying when approaching a Pell album, even before you pop the disc in the player. It's good music, but naggingly familiar. He hasn't pushed at the boundaries much as of late. Songs such as "Aquarius Dance" from his past, hinted at a musician that played around in a bit more variety. But really it doesn't matter. These albums are popped out now to please the fans most of all, and he is proud of his work (as he should be). Musicianship is top notch, his solos sizzling and the songs are a blend of epic anthems, blistering hard rockers and smoldering ballads (although this album's ballad is more limp than lusty, and more insincere than heartwrenching).
The lyrics are typical of these albums as well. There is much talk about shadows. You can't have an Axel Rudi album without shadows. He seems to be fascinated by them and they pop up especially prominent in the pompy power piece opener, and classical appreciative "Higher"
. There's more fantasy lore thrown about here than in a Dungeon
and Dragons Sourcebook. It's done in that Rainbow/Dio
-esque ease, where it seems like all the mystery and magic is going to transform itself into grand mythical beings right before your eyes. The title track is another big sweeping medieval pomp and rock that has Johnny singing in fine, fevered form. It's a sweet throwback to the "Black Moon Pyramid" tunes and really cranks the keyboards. "Buried Alive"
shakes the stadium rocker foundations and thunders through in frantic, crushing pizazz. "Northern Lights"
conjures the ghost (or shadows!) of Dio
and brings them into the fold for a mid-tempo earthquaker that also has a softer underbelly that the others here. "Ain't Gonna Win"
along with "Angel Eyes"
turns things into a friendlier, hook-filled direction, with "Angel" being the one with more roar and velocity."Riding on an Arrow"
whips out the melodies and an ultra catchy chorus. Sharp riffs abound for this one and its another album slayer. "Crossfire"
is quick paced but quality rock steeped in a traditional German Euro-metal sound and tempered rhythm, and "Touching My Soul"
just cheeses up as a corny slow crawler. This isn't going to shatter hearts like some of his past ballads, but it a makes an alright breather, even if its a bit on the B-side of things.
This is another significantly delightful epic album in Axel's massive discography. The songs are well crafted and as always, its a pleasure to hear Pell focusing on building (real) songs around his solos rather than making flimsy backdrops to bookend instrumental tangents. Too many guitarists are just there to showcase their precious talents and to hell with the rest of the song, because its *them* that matters. Pell actually makes great songs and drops his fabulous solos in them. "Tales of the Crown"
might not win any new fans to the cause, being so alike to his previous few efforts, but it will surely keep the fires burning in those that already love the guitarist, as well as anyone that craves music along the lines of Dio
-era Rainbow, Dio
-era Black Sabbath
and, well.... Dio
. It may be getting a little stale (and full of shadows) but atleast its solid, quality music, even if a bit predictable.
Written by Alanna
Saturday, November 22, 2008Show all reviews by AlannaRatingsAlanna: 7.5/10
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