1. The Curse of the Chains
2. Edge of the World
3. Coming Home
4. Live for the King
5. All the Rest of My Life
6. Follow the Sign
7. Time of the Truth
9. Saint of Fools
10. Under the Gun
|More Releases by Axel Rudi Pell:
ARP - The Masquerade Ball (2000)
ARP - Oceans of Time (1998)
ARP - Black Moon Pyramid (1996)
ARP - Wild Obsession (1989)
|Related Releases (in members):
Steeler - Undercover Animal (1988)[Pell]
Steeler - Strike Back (1986) [Pell]
Hardline - Double Eclipse (1991) [Gioeli]
Hardline - II (2002) [Gioeli]
|Not much has changed with Axel Rudi Pell's
albums in the past few years. There is the darkened fantasy inspired purple hued cover
artwork (no dragons I regretfully add), the obligatory Rainbow influenced eight minute
epic off the same page as classics "Stargazer" or "Gates of Babylon"
(pick one, any one) depending on ARP's mood at the time, and of course frontman Gioeli who
seems to be a mainstay now, as this is his third go round with the band. But since
"Magic" or "Black Moon Pyramid" for that matter, the music has changed
very little. Pell has musically stepped up to the plate to deliver where Yngwie left off
before his decline into mediocrity or living metal legend Ritchie Blackmore wandered into
a Renassiance Faire, never to return, before him. Its difficult to follow in such elite
footsteps of celebrated axeslinging individuals such as these two but he has managed to
fill in the empty spots and give us an amazing amount of music that borders on the
superbly excellent with frequency. . Something is offered up to the block every year or so
like a sacrifice to the gods.... of metal that is. We keep buying it, he keeps cranking it
out...so on and so forth, a vicious circle that will likely not end anytime soon as long
as the music is still what we want to hear, with riffs that continue to smoke and melodies
that catch the ear.
"Shadow Zone" is basically "Oceans of Time" regurgitated or revisited if you prefer. A guitar sorcerer conjuring up fretburning spells of considerable power like phantoms dancing in the fire is nothing to take lightly, especially if you are a neoclassical loving shredhead starving for Yngwie circa 1985 instead of the arrogant Malmsteen from 2000 with his definitely regurgitated (nasty imagery, but appropriate here, yes) tuneage that settles like a queasy block of lead in the stomach and a pain to the eardrums. But each album has their standouts and "Shadow Zone" has its share despite the recurring theme of deja vu.
Johnny Gioeli is blessed with a glowing warmth to his voice, he floats with a sunbeam of subtlety and rises to the intensity to that of the hot desert sun, sucking the life from the land and sweeping the dust to harshly irritating grains of sand. An oddly elegant skill that transforms power tripping epics into glorious exotic anthems, thumping with heat and ferocity. But his warm sunshine glow is the favorite, a shower of goldenrod shaded glory that alights the fluttery sorrowful ballads into something more...a celebration of carefully gentle emotion as introduced to us with "Oceans of Time" and continued here with "All the Rest of My Life". He is splendid as proved with hard rock one-offers Hardline before even stepping into ARP's camp, and that is certainly high praise considering the fact he had to step in right after Jeff Scott Soto left off, a formidable and distinctive vocalist in his own right.
With fanfare and never lacking pizzazz, Axel himself rarely changes but does definitely have a unique sound and not just the bluesy nuances of Blackmore and the shreddy arpeggio laden blurfests of Mr. Malmsteen, although these are both incorporated to the overall feel in abundance. He has his own charms, more than a little magical in nature that cast a web of delight across each long winded solo making them seem extravagant of course, but lovely and bareable in their own special way. Ablaze with inner fire, solid like an unbreakable sheet of ice, or quivering with an earthquake of passion or more often a hopeless cry of the forgotten heart but either way with an overpowering magnitude of emotion, he leaves no doubt that he definitely has earned his deserved place among the greats and did the obligatory stint in purgatory known as Steeler to get there.
"The Curse of the Chains"
While nothing on "Shadow Zone" is not as wonderful as say "Night and Rain", it being one of my all time favorite songs and shows my true colours of being quite biased, but this album is an enjoyable disc in its own right. Fans of ARP already know what to expect, and newbies to Pell's blend of Rainbow hued shred happy epic metallic rock would do better to discover him in "Oceans of Time" or "The Masquerade Ball" as a first introduction, "SZ" still deserves a spot in your collection if simply because its yet another piece of continuing quality from this guitarist and another prime example of the perfect showcase for fulfilling our need for this scarce type of hard rock, so rare in this age and promising to become even more extinct in the future to come. For without our fix, many of us would truly be lost in the "Shadow Zone".
Ratings and Wrap Up: