Axel Rudi Pell: Into the Storm review

Just in case you didn’t know, there is more than one artist in the music world with the name Axel. Sadly, the one that really matters is almost unknown to American music fans. His name is Axel Rudi Pell and if you don’t already know this German axe master, you are missing out on one of music’s best kept secrets and seriously need to catch up. At the age of 53, the guitarist extraordinaire has been in the music business for over 25 years and has one hell of a catalog to back it up. Including four studio albums with his first band Steeler from ‘84-‘88, before going solo in 1989. Since that time he has released an astounding 15 studio albums, six “best of” compilations (all of which contained new and unreleased material), one album of cover songs, three live albums and four official DVDs. He has also been fortunate enough to work some of music’s best singers, including Bob Rock, Jeff Scott Soto and Johnny Gioeli. If you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of an artist with a body of work as impressive as his, it’s because the American music market is saturated with mediocrity, whereas most foreign music markets aren’t driven by the latest thing and therefore have the balls to play what is good, instead of what is currently trendy. Axel has a very pronounced if ‘it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ mentality, which has made him one of the most consistent and steadfast artists of all time. When you buy an Axel Rudi Pell album, you know exactly what you’re gonna get- killer melodic hard rock with a 70’s feel very similar to anything Ronnie James Dio has done, both as a solo artist and his days in Sabbath and Rainbow. He was even quoted as saying “There hasn’t been one day in my life when I wasn’t pushed by the spirit of Ronnie James Dio to write something mystical.” His newest opus for SPV, Into The Storm, is his 15th studio album overall and begins like pretty much every other A.R.P. before it, with a moody and ominous intro called “The Inquisitorial Procedure.” It leads to the stunning melodic rocker “Tower Of Lies,” which kicks the album into high gear, right out of the gate. Up next, is “Long Way To Go,” infectious as hell and it’s easy to see why it was chosen to be lead single. “Burning Chains” and “High Above” are straight up hard rockers reminiscent of A.R.P. standards like “Hot Wheels” or “Tear Down The Walls,” while “When Truth Hurts” is a trademark A.R.P. power ballad, clocking in at almost seven minutes and builds to an epic crescendo and “Chasing Times” has a guitar riff very similar to Lovedrive-era Scorpions. “Touching Heaven” begins with a keyboard intro reminiscent of something you’d hear on a Styx or Kansas record that turns out to be a smoke and mirrors illusion, used to cleverly conceal the lumbering beast hiding just beneath the surface of the phony facade. It winds up being one of the disc’s true highlights. His heartfelt, emotionally charged rendition of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My,” will leave fans of the original breathless. Closer and title track “Into The Storm” is a sprawling ten minute epic masterpiece in the vein of A.R.P. classics like “Masquerade Ball,” “Casbah” and “Mystica,” that showcases what this dynamic artist is really about. It also features what may very well be his catchiest riffs to date. Instrumental “White Cat” will earn the respect of guitar aficionados across the globe, while at the same time, his cover of the Blackmore’s Night song “Way To Mandalay” sounds more like Rainbow, than anything Richie Blackmore himself has done in over 25 years. Here’s the bottom line- imagine the song styling of Ronnie James Dio mixed with the song structures of early Metallica. Now add in a modern sound production and guitar solos that rival those of the great 70’s jam bands. That is Axel Rudi Pell and Into the Storm in a nutshell. Rating: 8.5 out of 10 -Eric Hunker