AXEL RUDI PELL “Into The Storm” /CD/

The sixteenth full-length studio album by the legendary German Hard Rock/Heavy/Power Metal band.
There are bands that opt to change with the times, there are bands that gradually evolve with little sense of the scene around them, and then there are the unmoved stoics like Axel Rudi Pell that sneer at the very concept of evolution. One might venture to say that Axel never left the 1980s, but rather the eighties may have left him to be their spokesman throughout the several decades to follow. His band's sound is one that saw its most significant developments in terms of quality right in the midst of the musical wastelands of the mid 1990s, and is arguably one of the earliest and most conservative purveyors of what is now remembered as the turn of the millennium Power Metal revival. To be clear, there has been a fair degree of development in the overall heaviness and depth of ARP's sound and production, but a constant air of familiarity with the early days of Melodic Metal from the primordial wells of Deep Purple, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Dio, Uli Jon Roth and early Yngwie Malmsteen permeates every inch of their sound and has done so for the full 25 years of their existence.
Though the sound in question has not really changed all that much, it is curious to note that the tides of time has brought a significant change to the lineup of this fold for the first time in 12 years, namely with the exodus of longtime drummer Mike Terrana, himself filling the massive shoes of kit extraordinaire Jorg Michael. Naturally questions arise of what sort of larger than life personality could man the percussive battery in a similar fashion to the two persons in question, and Axel seems to have quadrupled down on hims commitment to the mystique of 80s Metal by tapping Bobby Rondinelli, who arguably embodies the decade in question more than any drummer still out there since the close of said period and whose past band associations (including Warlock, Rainbow and Black Sabbath) make him probably the most logical choice. His contribution to this album is maybe a bit more fancy and fill-happy than that of Terrana, but follows the same mode of power and rock-solid punch that he brought to the kit on the last several albums.
In spite of the shift in membership, "Into The Storm" follows the recent precedents of "The Crest" and "Circle Of The Oath" to a sheer fault, and even dredges up some occasional similarities to the colossal one set by 2006 new classic "Mystica". It starts on a somewhat atypical note with the instrumental prelude "The Inquisitional Procedure", which opts to skip a guitar driven melody with a keyboard backdrop for something a bit more Symphonic, Atmospheric and subtle, but once the full band kicks in it's business as usual. The flashy Speed Metal that was largely abandoned following "Kings And Queens" is still absent, but there is a healthy dose of upper mid-tempo rocks in "Tower Of Lies", the Deep Purple infused Rock organ meets driving Metal cruiser "Burning Chains", the galloping delight "Changing Times" and the catchy bruiser "High Above". Actually, this album does mark a slight shift towards an approach that could be described as more well-rounded and reliant on mid-paced impact, as the more back-tempo rocker "Long Way To Go" and the epic semi-ballad turned catchy march after the "Mystica" mold "Touching Heaven" follow a similar mode of mostly punch and only occasional nods to Axel Rudi Pell's signature balladry approach.
While being a bit lighter on the ballad work and quirky eastern influences, those same elements that reminisce upon the more creative side of Axel catalog where the more ambitious moments of Dio and Rainbow are emulated definitely find themselves well represented here. The woeful piano driven ballad "When Truth Hurts" is kinda cliche and arguably the weak point of this whole experience, but Axel's expressive lead playing definitely bolsters an otherwise commonplace ballad, while the dreary reinterpretation of Neil Young's "Hey Hey My My" works a bit better and finds itself with a vocalist in Johnny Gioeli who is bearable for more than two minutes. But in usual Axel Rudi Pell fashion, the coup de grace turns out to be the long-winded title song "Into The Storm", which takes the same cues that "Circle Of The Oath" took from the Eastern-inspired side of the Rainbow catalog (aka "Stargazer" and "Gates Of Babylon"), but without the quirky switches in feel and with more of a straight-forward, down tempo drag somewhat reminiscent of "Holy Diver".
Generally speaking, “Into The Storm” tends to be marked by a general sense of tightness and togetherness between the rhythm section, guitar riff work, keyboards and vocals, while Axel's lead work tends to be a bit more loose in character. While some songs obviously sound quite alike on here, this album includes no stinker and has a constant high quality. In times where comparable German bands such as Axxis, Edguy, Gamma Ray, Primal Fear and Sinner are releasing somewhat lackluster records, Axel Rudin Pell still incarnates the power other Power Metal bands seem to have lost. Fans of Dio, Jorn, Lizzy Borden and even Whitesnake will also feel at home when they are listening to this release. The veterans are really attacking the genre thrown this year! They don’t do it with a big bang but prove their honest consistency that their colleagues have lost over the last years. Fans of all aforementioned bands should check this album out as it’s never too late to discover Axel Rudi Pell!!
Steamhammer/SPV, 2014 (SPV 266372 CD). Made in Germany. First press.

1. The Inquisitorial Procedure 1:48
2. Tower Of Lies 4:26
3. Long Way To Go 5:32
4. Burning Chains 5:23
5. When Truth Hurts 6:46
6. Changing Times 6:05
7. Touching Heaven 7:02
8. High Above 4:49
9. Hey Hey My My 5:02
10. Into The Storm 10:35
Total playing time: 57:28 min.


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