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Axel Rudi Pell | Masquerade Ball | review | metal | Lollipop

Axel Rudi Pell

The Masquerade Ball (SPV)
by Scott Hefflon

Funny how close this band (also the guitarist's name) has come to leaving an impression on me over the years, yet the name just never stuck. Sorry, bud... After 10 solo records over the last decade following a decade and four releases with Germany's Steeler (which, I think, had Yngwie wankin' about and Ron Keel singing flat, as usual), I finally catch on to Axel Rudi Pell... Ex-Malmsteen members, members replaced cuz they joined Stratovarious, and Marching Out-era Malmsteen belter Jeff Scott Soto did time here, as did Charlie Huhn (Ted Nugent, Gary Moore, etc.) and Rob Rock (Driver, Impellitteri, etc.). Musically, it's German precision heavy metal with powerful vocals, crunch and tasty leads, so ya know what's what. Weak, fake-sounding drums, surprisingly enough. One of may faves here is the infectious, soaring "Earls of Black," but that's probably cuz it's the same chorus as either "How Many Tears" or "Heavy Metal is the Law" (I think it was the former, I just wanted to sigh nostalgically over the second, fist-throwing gem from Kai-era Helloween). There are a couple/few ballads here that showcase what a set of lungs golden boy Johnny Gioeli, the new guy without a handlebar mustache, has, but the rest rock my stick-twirlin' ass with thigh-slapping beats and melodies that make me want to put my foot up on something and point at things. As is often the case in this genre, the record runs for an hour, the closer, "July Morning," being a 10-minute epic of building majesty, a moving sermon in the House of Metal, can I get an Amen?! (Try not to think of "Can You Take Me Higher" by the Damn Yankees during the whoas though, huh?)

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