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Axel Rudi Pell
Released: 2002, SPV
I’m still on my guitarists kick and since we only have one other review of Mr. Pell and the guy has 13 releases I figure I comment on the new one. In a word: disappointing. I love ARP and own almost everything he has done, including the ballads album and the rare Live CD.
Why does this disappoint? Too mellow, too dull. ARP can shred but he has really become formulaic, complacent and the song writing has suffered. SHADOWZONE is in many respects the quintessential ARP CD. He has the same stable line-up he has had for the past few years. Same production, same style cover art by the same guy, and the exact formula, a short instrumental introduction, a few fast ones, mostly mid-tempo numbers, a couple of ballads, several 6 minute plus songs that wander aimlessly. Everything is uninspired this time around. The first CD in several that didn’t have a 10-minute plus long song and really there is only one song where he reaches the pace of the other CD’s and that is the second last track, “Saint of Fools”. Song titles and topics are melodramatic and overly emotional, examples being “All The Rest of My Life”, Follow The Sign”, “Heartbreaker” and “Coming Home”. How many bands have a song called “Coming Home”?! I count at least a dozen and for some odd reason they are mostly German…
Johnny Gioeli performance is a little flat, I’ve heard him sing much better, not only in Hardline but on the other ARP discs as well. Mike Terrana is an immense talent who is wasted here. Masquerade Ball kicked ass despite having a slightly dull familiarity that was a bit too close to the last three studio discs. I thought the two-year break might rejuvenate him and he would roar back with a stormer. I guess I was wrong. I have to say this is my least favorite of all his material. He is due for another Live CD, it has been seven years and seven releases (five studio albums and two compilations) so he needs a break, and maybe new producer who will putt a fire under his ass. He has used Uli Posselt as his producer for the previous eight studio CD’s and I believe the same studio. He should churn out a Live CD (He’s supposedly recording some shows this summer) and really assess where he wants to go.
Don’t get me wrong, this album is good solid heavy metal. Better than a lot of the garbage out there; it has great soloing, excellent guitar, keyboard interplay and decent songs but he could do so much more. I would not start with this one to begin your collection. Pick up the double Best of from 2001 , THE WIZARDS CHOSEN FEW instead. Die-hards may be disappointed in the tempo and lack of dynamics but they will also recognize the many subtle layers and influences on this CD ranging from Rainbow, Dio, Hendrix, Zepplin and hints of Malmsteen.
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