Axel Rudi Pell - Shadow Zone
This was one of the most anticipated albums this year, at least for me, since Axel Rudi Pell has done nothing but taken steady steps forward for each release when it comes to melodies, sound, groovness. This is Pell's 13th release since the debut Wild Obsession back in 1989, and among those are a few compilations and a livealbum, and I must say that the talk around this cd before the release about how it would be a bit faster and heavier than most other things that have come from his fingers has been vastly overexaggerated.
A new Axel Rudi Pell album are never to be judged upon the level of development since last time or in general - it would be a gross mistake to claim that the name Rudi Pell stands for newdawning and innovation within the metalscene, cause you mostly get exactly what you expect when buying an Axel Rudi Pell album - it's more about how many real killertunes he has managed to put together for that particular release. And I sadly must say: in this case - not many. If I should start to describe the sound, I don't have much to complain about - as usual when it comes to A.R.P. The sound is clear, but not that "fat" and powerful that I always hope shall appear on his next albums. Musically it goes on in Axel's typical sound gathered from influences from artists such as Rainbow, Led Zeppelin and even Jimi Hendrix - and then mainly when it comes to the epic songs.
If you know your Rudi Pell songs since previous albums, then you know how the ballads, the midtemposongs, and the more fastpaced tunes sound like. It openes with Edge of the World, that is a typical albumopener for A.R.P - double bassdrums, catchy riff and a good chorus, with a melodic guitarpart in the middle. It continues with Coming Home, that is a midtempo and kind of powerful standard song, yet with a catchy chorus, that follows a verseline that is very similar to Carousel on one of his previous albums. This is followed by the epic and mighty Live For The King, which starts in balladstyle, to take off with an excellent riff after 3 minutes that keeps going through the song from here. The way that the song is built up on, is recognizable since a few albums back, and have that strong feeling of Rainbow and Dio hanging over it.
Follow the Sign is one out of 3 of those great songs that you'd wish you got a handful more of on this cd. Great midtempo song with good riffing, great vocals by the extremely talanted Johnny Gioeli, and the whole song with choruses and hooks sticks to your head.Saint of Fools is the third really good song on this album - catchy midtempo with a strong chorus... you get the idea. Time of the Truth is another epic, typical song for Axel, with strong similarities to songs like Oceans of Time and Black Moon Pyramid, both when it comes to riffs, arrangements and vocals/choirs.
The closing bit Under the Gun is another epic song, but by the time we come to this point on the cd, it feels kind of hard to really get engaged in this kind of song as a closer. You sit and wait for the cd to take off at some point, and instead you get this... Great song still, but - one too many. The rest of the cd contains a few more or less ballads like Heartbreaker (good chorus, but too anonymous), All the Rest of My Life (standard A.R.P ballad), and the fans of ballads should really enjoy this as Mr. Gioeli on vocals are one of the best vocalists I have ever heard in this genre of metal, and that smooth yet raspy pipe do miracles to Pell's music.
If you haven't discovered Axel Rudi Pell yet - which I in that case give my deepest sympaties for - I can recommend you to start digging in his albums that was released between 1996 and 2000 first. There he really shows what a genius he is. At least you get to hear what a great guitarist he is - which I found very perculiar that he doesn't emphasize more nowadays. I feel this lacks a bit of his guitarmelodies to make it the great A.R.P you want. This sounds a bit uninspired. The thought actually and honestly struck me more than once when listening to this, that this might perhaps be leftover-songs from the recordingsessions for The Masquerade Ball. Songs that didn't make it for that one, but - that couldn't be....or? To Axel's defense can be said that he on this album has composed some of his better "the-chorusmelody-as-a-harmonylead-in-the-middle-of-the-song" ever - but at the same time some of his openingriffs for songs, and riffs that songs are based on, are some of the worst and uninspired ones ever.
You always make marvellous music Axel, but by the time the next album arrives I hope that you have gottten a hold of yourself and freshened it up just a few notches - then you will keep your position in the top of today's metal. I hope - and somehow feel - that this is just a temporary downfall between two great albums.