Released: 2013, Steamhammer
There are few things you can count on in life. But you can be sure that along with death and taxes, every twelve moons Axel Rudi Pell will release an album. For every year since 2004 Axel Rudi Pell has released something, be it an album, a compilation, or in this case his 4th Live album, LIVE ON FIRE. Few artists have the longevity or productivity of Axel!
This thirteen track double-disc set was recorded not that long ago (at time of writing) on October 18, 2012 in Cologne, Germany on the Circle Of The Oath Tour’. I’m not thrilled with the album art, a flaming Fleur De Lis has been associated with Stratovarious for well over a decade. He has his own cool and unique snake/skull/guitar logo why not use that? Come to think of it all his Live album covers have been uninspired. In terms of the line-up, they are consistent and reliable, the quintet has not changed since 1999. By this time Johnny, Alex, Volker, Ferdy and Mike are a well-oiled Metal machine and each individual performance is great. I’m glad they have the balls to include the drum solo, keyboard solo and naturally, guitar solos! Mike Terrana's eight-minute solo is a monster! I can just feel the new generation of Metal hipsters shudder in fear at the thought of an eight-minute drum solo!
Traditionally Axel Rudi Pell albums have had very few songs but they are long songs. Seven of the 12 songs are over 9 minutes long! This set runs almost two hours but only has 12 songs. He presents his music in a true 70’s format, with long medleys and extended jams and solos with a cover tune wedged in. He has done this on his last three live albums. ‘Masquerade Ball/ Casbah/Dreaming Dead/Whole Lotta Love’ runs 17 minutes. The last live album (ONE NIGHT LIVE, 2010) it was ‘Masquerade Ball/Casbah/Tales Of The Crown’ that ran 14 minutes and on KNIGHTS LIVE in 2002, it was’ Masquerade Ball/Casbah/Stagazer’ for a whopping 27 minutes! He could to mix it up a bit more.
Elsewhere on this album two other medleys run 12 minutes and 15 minutes! I feel he could drop the medleys a little bit and add a few deeper tracks from his massive 15-album, 150+ song catalogue. There is heavy duplication on all of his last three live albums with cuts like ‘Fool Fool’, Mystica’ and ‘Tear Down The Walls’ appearing on all of them. Great songs yes, but he could change it up. He plays four songs from the latest album but really only three if you don’t count the brief intro music. Having said all that, one of Axel’s trademarks is the medleys and extended jams. That style gives the album much more of a ‘live’ feel than a band like Iron Maiden for example, who, on their live albums, do relatively faithful representations of the songs on the studio album. Axel versions are very different and spontaneous in the spirit of Rainbow and Deep Purple.
As with all live albums, your affinity for them is determined by your enjoyment of the studio albums. I love Axel Rudi Pell so accordingly I love this live album. LIVE ON FIRE is another great live platter from a group of wily veterans who keep the spirit of indulgent Live albums, alive in the hearts and minds of Metal fans.