Full disclosure: I never listened to anything from AXEL RUDI PELL before this new album Into the Storm, out on January 21 via Steamhammer/SPV Records. I don’t really know why that is, just wanted to put that out there. I know all about his legacy as a guitar hero and I respect that, obviously, but I guess I thought it would be all noodling and 50,000 notes a minute. I can’t stand that crap, it drives me insane. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that this is an album full of good, solid, old-school metal, heavy on the riffs and solos done right, with a crystal clear production that allows each member to shine.
The main riff on album opener “Tower of Lies” is straight from the old days, as is longtime vocalist Johnny Gioeli’s singing and delivery, so I was sold right away. “Long Way to Go” is a mid-tempo number that is placed EXACTLY where it should be on a record like this. The old formula was always fast song first, mid-tempo second, right? I think it’s great to see someone giving us an album that sticks to what we know and love. Right away I knew I had to take this disc with me in the truck, because there are a lot of drivin’ tunes on here, like “Burning Chains” a fast-paced song where new drummer (and legend in his own right) Bobby Rondinelli gets to have some fun and Ferdy Doernberg’s keys mix nicely with the bass lines of Volker Crawczak. Yep, this one’s my favorite! The solo is, too.
After that barrage it’s time to slow down and let everyone catch their breath with the piano-led “When Truth Hurts”, which is a good song, but at nearly seven minutes, it’s a bit much. No worries though, things get back on track with “Changing Times” and we’re off and running once again. There’s an extremely hummable solo at the beginning before Gioeli comes in almost a minute into it as well. Another standout for me was “Touching Heaven”, combining a heavy, deliberate, driving rhythm with one of Gioeli’s best performances on the record. And I have to say that Pell’s soloing on “High Above” is really, really something. But then, all you longtime listeners already know that. This is my first exposure to this stuff, so I’m like a kid in a candy store for most of the album!
Let me also say this: I am NOT a NEIL YOUNG fan. In fact, I HATE his music with a passion. And even though this version of “Hey Hey My My “is done as more of a piano ballad-type of thing it doesn’t make me like the song any more. I will admit that the mix on the album and this song in particular is very well-done. Still, it’s not my cup of tea. The album ends with the epic title track “Into the Storm”. It is ten minutes and change, has a decidedly Middle Eastern flair, and gives off the feel of being lost in the desert somewhere. Epic really is the perfect way to describe it. So all in all, my first AXEL RUDI PELL experience was a good one, and it’s safe to say I’ll be going through the back catalog in the near future.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Into the Storm”, “Touching Heaven”, “Burning Chains”, “Tower of Lies”, “High Above”