Sound — 7
Renowned guitarist Axel Rudi Pell first established himself as part of the heavy metal group Steeler. After releasing four underrated studio albums with Steeler, Pell launched off into a successful solo career, which showed the guitarist performing alongside such names as Jeff Scott Soto of Journey fame and Mike Terrana, a drummer well known for collaborating with virtuoso guitar talents including Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Lukather. Nowadays, Axel Rudi Pell continues to perform and create music as a solo artist, and has surrounded himself with a conclave of established names and musical talent.
The Axel Rudi Pell solo band features lead vocalist Johnny Gioeli from Hardline, keyboardist Ferdy Doernberg from Helloween, Pell's former Steeler band mate Volker Krawczak, and all star drummer Bobby Rondinelli, well known for his work in Black Sabbath, Quiet Riot and Rainbow. With such a formidable list of talent surrounding the dynamic guitarist, the expectations surrounding his new solo album "Into the Storm" were relatively high. Thankfully the group does not disappoint, as all ten new compositions are filled to the brim with the very same elements which made Axel Rudi Pell's earlier efforts standout.
"Into the Storm" starts out with the climatic instrumental entitled "The Inquisitorial Procedure", with dramatic orchestral arrangements slowly building the listener's anticipation. Just as soon as we reach the peak of this upward climb, crunching rhythm guitar welcomes the listener to "Tower of Lies", while serving as an explosive jump start to the rest of the studio album. We fall into a comfortable pace on the next track "Long Way to Go", which is very much in line with Johnny Gioeli's most recent work with Hardline. Punching bass lines, sporadic guitar riffs and complimentary synthesizer playing comprise the backbone of this cut, with Gioeli's still impressive vocal range taking center stage throughout the entire piece, save for a standout guitar solo from Pell towards the end of the song. "Burning Chains" is a familiar guitar driven anthem, where Pell's solid chord progressions have the ability to take charge and become one of the main highlights. "Changing Times" showcases more of Axel's lead guitar work, whereas the piano driven "Hey Hey My My" reveals a more emotional aspect to the band's songwriting. Even during the album's more diverse moments, Axel's guitar work serves as a stabilizing factor which ties the entire compilation together.
Lyrics — 8
Being already familiar with lead vocalist Johnny Gioeli's catalog with Hardline, I was personally intrigued to hear how these two musicians would be able to collaborate with one another. Coming into this album I was unaware that Gioeli had been a member of Axel Rudi Pell's solo band for well over a decade, so seeing his name on the personnel list took me by surprise. Regardless, I was repeatedly wowed at how well these two artists work together throughout "Into the Storm." Knowing how Gioeli and Pell each have their tendencies to take the main spotlight during a performance, it was interesting to hear these two musicians allow one another their own respective moments to take charge and shine throughout the album. Instead of these two talents repeatedly clashing, something which does occasionally happen when you combine bombastic talents together on the same track, the listener quickly discovers that this is quite the opposite on "Into the Storm."
Overall Impression — 7
Axel Rudi Pell and company deliver an applaudable performance throughout the new studio album, "Into the Storm." This is an album soaked in enjoyable amounts of melody and talent, and has more than enough to hook the interest of unfamiliar hard rock listeners, not to mention established fans of each member within the Axel Rudi Pell solo band.