Axel Rudi Pell – Into the Storm


Review by Paul H Birch


Stately pomped keyboards stir questioningly before a taught riff moves us thematically from ‘The Inquisitorial Procedure’ to the ‘Tower of Lies’, drums a tumbling like axe-hewn heads even as a clear-pitched voice screams out; all delivered with a rush of power and excitement even though you’re second-guessing every key change in this solid overture with tasty high end guitar solo.

25 years of riffmeistering achieving over 1.5 million sales, now 15 solo studio albums in with a variety of limited edition box sets stuffed with souvenirs and bonus tracks for Into the Storm the latest offering from German axe-hero Axel Rudi Pell, this is the first time I’ve listened to his work in depth. Heavily influenced by Blackmore’s Rainbow, and now with Bobby Rondinelli on board tub-thumping loudly with snare and cymbals crashing sharply on tracks like the mid-paced melodic AOR of ‘Long Way To Go’, that direction holds firm. What’s most appreciated is Pell doesn’t widdle for the Rheine like far too many other neo-classical rock guitarists; tending to cut to a direct expressive solo statement, while not afraid to chase up a good rhythm guitar sound while bass guitarist Volker Krawczak pulls in solidly, adding depth to the sound (the pair having playing together since their youth in Steeler) while keyboardist Ferdy Doernberg embellishes and bolsters. Surprisingly, Johnny Gioeli is American not European yet the folk-like ‘When Truth Hurts’ calls to mind the late Steve Lee of Switzerland’s Gotthard and the nasal quality present in balshy-belter ‘Burning Chains’ more reminiscent of Klaus Meine, and that’s putting aside the ‘Lovedrive’ rewrite with added guitar riff of ‘Changing Times’.

Pell delivers some strong shapes and bends between some deft shredding, particularly on ‘Touching Heaven’. However, it’s all a little too earnest, not helped by a loose song cycle storyline (not quite rock opera), vaguely about medieval political or religious persecution. And, even if you’re up for all that, the mournful ballroom torch song delivery of the ninth song in, played with sincerity, could be a Spinal Tap moment too far: Neil Young fans “This is the tale of Johnny Rotten” a cover version you might not wanna hear. In redemption is the concluding epic of ‘Into the Storm’ itself, a ‘Kashmir’/‘Stargazer’/’Gates of Babylon’ hybrid with Pell again strident on rhythm guitars and incorporating an unexpected acoustic section alongside the electrified drama, Gioeli passionately relating how fleeing one disaster has lead to another, and thus inferring a follow-up album.

Pell’s a gifted guitarist, and this is a great sounding classic rock-styled album but the songs themselves are not always as uniquely memorable, taking their time to sift into your subconscious to have you humming the odd tune as you go about your daily affairs.

Axel Rudi Pell – Into the Storm7 out of 10

Track listing:

  1. The Inquisitorial Procedure
  2. Tower of Lies
  3. Long Way To Go
  4. Burning Chains
  5. When Truth Hurts
  6. Changing Times
  7. Touching Heaven
  8. High Above
  9. Hey, Hey, My, My
  10. Into the Storm