Axel Rudi Pell – Into The Storm
Reviewed by Kevin Hathaway
I’m just going to come right out and say it – I’m an Axel Rudi Pell fanboy. There’s really no other way to describe it. I usually don’t fanboy, but Axel Rudi Pell has such a consistent formula that he has stubbornly stuck with, tweaked, and perfected over the many years of his career that I can’t help but anticipate every new release from him. A blend of neoclassical guitar pyrotechnics, heavily Dio-inspired lyrical imagery, melodic hard rock, pure Germanic riffing power, and ballads that actually have effort put into them, ARP is all I could ask for in music and more, having composed several of my favorite songs ever. Now on his 16th album, things don’t seem to have changed much in the Pell camp for Into the Storm aside from a new drummer, Bobby Rondinelli, who fits the band like a glove, having drummed for many of Pell’s musical heroes including Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, Rainbow, and Riot.
If you’re expecting vocalist Johnny Gioelli to belt out some black metal shrieks or Pell to incorporate core-style breakdowns into his sound, you’re barking up the wrong tree, sonny. Into The Storm is more of what makes Pell’s music what it is. That is to say, the purest of heavy metal. Johnny Gioelli is in top form like always, putting forth tons of passion in each and every line. Ferdy Doernberg’s keyboards have a bit more presence than on previous albums. Bobby Rondinelli’s drumming is the peanut butter to Pell’s chocolatey songwriting, making an already great thing even better with an astounding amount of energy for a guy who’s almost 60 years old. And then there’s the man behind the music, Axel Rudi Pell himself. Pell lives and breathes the classics – Dio, Sabbath, Deep Purple, Rainbow, etc. – and it shows in his music. “Burning Chains,” for example, combines Dio’s lyricism with a riff that reminds me of Deep Purple’s “Burn” (and has an equally fill-happy drum performance from Rondinelli) and it’s just a magnificent slab of melodic heavy metal, like most of the material here.
One of the many things I love about Axel Rudi Pell is how he’s a jack of all trades in regards to his songwriting. He can do it all with ease – speedster numbers, stomping mid-paced tunes, emotional ballads, 10-minute epics, and he can even pull out a mean cover song once in a while. All of the above are in full swing here, done just as masterfully as can be expected from Pell. The album loses a little steam after the ballad “When Truth Hurts,” but just a little. The cover of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My” is unexpected but not unwelcome. The 10-minute titular track is one of the better ones ARP has done, with funky Egyptian-sounding keyboards in the chorus that I didn’t like at first, but got used to (they still sound kind of cheap, though, to be honest). “High Above” and “Changing Times” come across as a it of filler, but everything else is an instant ARP classic, from the fist-pumping melodic opener “Tower of Lies”, to the catchy and simple riffing of “Long Way To Go”, to the organ-heavy “Touching Heaven.”
If I have any complaints, it’s that Into The Storm is creatively a bit stagnant compared to Pell’s other works. I would even say this is Pell going through the motions. But even Pell going through the motions churns out fantastic material. I just wish there was something a bit more daring or ambitious on here like “The Clown Is Dead” from Magic. Regardless though, Into The Storm is a no-brainer for ARP fans and a winner for fans of melodic hard rock and metal in general.
4.0 // 5