A fantastic “storm” of heavy riffs and solos by one of the best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal guitar players from Germany.
As I mentioned here, 2014 is becoming an excellent year for Heavy Metal. The 53-year old German guitar player Axel Rudi Pell, who has been on the road since 1981, has just released his sixteenth studio album, Into the Storm, and the final result is so pleasant that it will be hard for any headbanger not to enjoy it.
The only change in the band from the previous albums, since 1998, is Bobby Rondinelli on drums replacing the beast Mike Terrana, but that didn’t affect the quality of the music negatively: Mr. Axel Rudi Pell is one of those guys that really masters the art of shredding and playing amazing solos without sounding stupid or arrogant, and that also uses his gift to leverage the whole band’s potential instead of only showing off himself, making the final result always above average.
After the nice intro The Inquisitorial Procedure, the band already provides us one of the top moments of the album with the song Tower of Lies, which sounds like a Heavy Metal tune from the 80’s with excellent riffs and Johnny Gioeli doing a superb job on vocals, and of course a unique solo from Pell. The energy level remains high with Long Way To Go, a pure Hard Rock composition which reminds me of some old Axel Rudi Pell songs, and it’s also a highly recommended track for a road trip or for a sports TV commercial. Then comes Burning Chains, another one of my favorites with its awesome intro and constant duo between Mr. Pell on the guitar and Ferdy Doernberg on the keyboards. This song will become a fan favorite for sure, especially for the band’s live performances.
The amazing ballad When Truth Hurts has beautiful lyrics and shows another great performance by Johnny on vocals, and easily explains why Mr. Pell already has four ballad albums in his career. The guy is a “ballad genius”! Things speed up with Changing Times and its cool keyboards, dirty riffs and another classic solo, while Touching Heaven, despite being a good quality Hard Rock song, doesn’t add much to the album. The same happens with High Above: the rest of the album is so awesome that this song sounds weak compared to the others, although it’s pretty good too. The way, this song is probably what Bon Jovi could have been doing if he had a heavier approach or a guitar player like Mr. Pell by his side.
Hey Hey My My is an outstanding version for one of Neil Young’s greatest hits, with Johnny doing a brilliant job one more time. That’s one of those songs that confirms why this excellent American singer has been with the band for such a long time, since the album Oceans Of Time. The last song of the album is the title-track, Into the Storm, an epic song with a great atmosphere in its more than 10 minutes of duration and another good example of how to compose long songs without sounding boring after a while. Furthermore, the digipak edition brings two very interesting bonus tracks: the instrumental White Cats (Opus #6 Scivolare), and a cover version for Ritchie Blackmore’s Way to Mandalay, most probably as a tribute to one of Mr. Pell’s biggest influences.
And last but not least, I was going to give Into the Storm a 3.5, but I couldn’t find a reason not to give it a 4.0 after listening to it for a couple of times. Besides, the album art is so marvelous that it helped raise the album’s rating a little. As previously mentioned, it’s hard to find an album in the career of this great German guitar player that doesn’t make you start playing air guitar, bang your head or simply sing along with his beautiful ballads. I don’t know if Into the Storm is going to be one of the best albums of 2014, but I know that it will be hard for most of the other bands to beat it in terms of quality, musicality and feeling.
Best moments of the album: Tower of Lies, Burning Chains, When Truth Hurts and Hey Hey My My.
Worst moments of the album: Touching Heaven and High Above.
Released in 2014 SPV/Steamhammer
1. The Inquisitorial Procedure (intro) 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 (Neil young cover) 5:02
10. Into the Storm 10:35
Digipak edition bonus tracks
11. White Cats (Opus #6 Scivolare) 4:54
12. Way to Mandalay (Blackmore’s Night cover) 7:52
Axel Rudi Pell – guitar
Johnny Gioeli – vocals
Volker Krawczak – bass
Bobby Rondinelli – drums
Ferdy Doernberg – keyboards