ReviewsAxel Rudi Pell – Risen Symbol (Steamhammer/SPV)

Axel Rudi Pell – Risen Symbol (Steamhammer/SPV)

Celebrating 35 years as a solo artist, Axel Rudi Pell seems intent on keeping his career steady with releases of all types. What with six Ballads albums, two Diamonds Uncovered cover records, and five live set collections beyond his regular original studio works, you can always expect something in the pipeline from the German axe hero. Risen Symbol is his latest effort – another ten track offering that contains the ideal mix of original mid-tempo rockers and speedier melodic metal numbers, plus the exquisite epic cut, ballad effort, and cover track to round out what we’ve come to know and expect out of these musicians.

Axel’s songwriting and influence bank hasn’t really expanded much over the decades – paying homage to the likes of Rainbow, Deep Purple, and Dio through his mystical, magical, wizards and medieval lyrical stance plus subsequent power chord channeled atmosphere with the occasional darker or emotive aspects in play. After the swirling “The Resurrection” intro, Bobby Rondinelli hits the fleet snare to kick combinations that match the driving guitars to get “Forever Strong” off to that glorious, heart-pumping start. Smartly pushing a more commercial anthem next with “Guardian Angel”, it’s a track that illustrates the bluesy pipes and thoughtful delivery Johnny Gioeli takes vocally that ascends to the stars for key bridge to chorus moments. On the back half of the record, Axel measures his lead spots in reflective splendor for “Crying in Pain” – Ferdy Doernberg keeping his piano parts restrained next to the slower tempo, the mix of bluesy, weeping leads against the distortion the epitome of his masterclass skills at proper execution in the art of the ballad.

The two standouts occur in the ten-minute plus epic “Ankhaia” as well as the reinterpretation of the Led Zeppelin staple “Immigrant Song”. The first cut of course takes on all the hallmarks of a Ritchie Blackmore meets Tony Iommi-spun affair – mystical landscapes painted in this marching atmosphere, Johnny channeling some exotic melodies in spots while the midsection provides a lengthy instrumental sequence for Mr. Pell’s circular solo activities. And when it comes to the latter, be prepared for some deeper synth soundscape effects, additional Middle Eastern guitar motifs, and a longer lead break sequence that enhance the undeniable groove that helped cement the Plant/Page team as a singer/guitar duo never to be forgotten in the heavy music landscape.

When you have this long of a career, some albums survive the test of time better than others. Time will tell if Risen Symbol has that staying power – but to this scribe’s ears, Axel Rudi Pell can still deliver the goods for an addictive track or two, and that’s inspiring for a man in his early 60’s.

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