A rainbow in the dark…
Released by Steamhammer/SPV on 23 March 2018 and reviewed by Andrew Manning
It is a mystery to understand why some established European artists have such a low profile in the UK. Axel Rudi Pell certainly falls into this category. He has an underground following over here but throughout his 30 year solo career it is surprising that his style of hard rock and power metal has not attracted the masses. Maybe he missed the opportunity to get his foot well and truly through the front door when this genre of music was so popular back in the eighties. Since this time visits to the UK have been sparse and have lately consisted of a few occasional gigs in London. Sometimes you have to put in the ground work at grass roots level to create a solid fan base over here and this is one market that seems to have sadly been neglected.
Originating from Bochum in Germany Pell has seen success with more than 1.5 million worldwide sales and his last release Game of Sin peaked at number 11 in his homeland. As guitarists go some of the biggest names in rock historically pump out self indulgent sub standard music which focuses more on the shredding speed rather than the quality of the overall product. This is not the case with Pell who has surrounded himself over the years with individuals who are not just backing musicians and the result is output that feels like a band and not a solo artist.
So the latest release, Knights Call, from this under the radar musician is studio album number 17 and it contains much of the medieval mysticism and fantasy folklore that has been a staple of many of his previous releases. The album begins with a short instrumental intro harking back to the middle ages which creates a sort of calm before the storm as it launches into ‘The Wild And The Young’. A hard and heavy song with some great powerful vocals from Johnny Gioeli, a native of New York City, who also fronts the melodic rock band Hardline who once featured such rock giants as Neal Schon, Deen Castronovo and Rudy Sarzo. This is a real rocking anthem with some outstanding guitar playing from Pell.
‘Wildest Dreams’ is the archetypal type of track that shows what an influence the Dio years fronted Rainbow has on the overall sound of the band. Fans of this type of music will love the epic grandiose sounding classic rock. Melodic patterns ebb and flow throughout the song with the production delivering a big and bold sound. Power metal riffing heads up ‘Long Live Rock’ with Pell giving a sly nod to fellow Germans the Scorpions. This is another energetic track with the addition of a catchy sing along choir chorus. It’s back to the medieval theme with ‘The Crusaders Of Doom’ which is an 8 minute track full of atmosphere portraying images of swords and shields. This is a slower paced offering with some nice guitar work conveying real emotional feel taking us back to the era in question.
It’s time for the musicians to shine through on the instrumental ‘Truth And Lies’. Bobby Rondinelli (Drums) formerly of Rainbow will be in familiar territory here as the track meanders through the style of a ‘Difficult to Cure’ type track from his former band. A very uplifting piece with some lavish hammond organ playing from Ferdy Doernberg (Keyboards). The centrepiece of the album is the beautiful ‘Beyond The Light’. A ballad type tune with a haunting guitar and piano intro which then develops into a real highlight with some passionate singing from Gioeli. You can close your eyes to this one and picture the lighters being held aloft in the live arena as Pell delivers a luxurious solo. If you love your classic rock to be melodramatic and moving then look no further. The tempo needed raising after this and with an intro of pummelling guitars on ‘Slaves On The Run’ we are back to a dose of mindless headbanging. The guitars here are typical of Pell with memorable hooks and some blindingly fast fingerwork. ‘Follow The Sun’ is the penultimate track and is another balls-out display of aggression that makes you want to punch the air.
‘Tower Of Babylon’ will be a real Marmite moment for many who will either love it or hate it. It is no secret that Pell lists Rainbow ‘Rising’ as one of his all time favourite albums and this is one track that some will find maybe just a little too close to living in the shadow of ‘Stargazer’ from that particular period. There is certainly plenty of opulence and class oozing from this number and if nothing else it keeps alive the true spirit of the epic songs that we all used to enjoy. You will need to make the ultimate judgement on this one yourself.
Some artists continue to mature with age and Pell has delivered one of his strongest releases to date. This will most definitely appeal to the true metal fan of old. So now it’s time to slot in some gigs in the UK Mr Pell and make sure a journey to the provinces is included this time. There is a market out there for one of the best rock guitarists around…. come on make it happen!
- The Medieval Overture (Intro)
- The Wild And The Young
- Wildest Dreams
- Long Live Rock
- The Crusaders Of Doom
- Truth And Lies
- Beyond The Light
- Slaves On The Run
- Follow The Sun
- Tower Of Babylon