Axel Rudi Pell – Lost XXIII
Steamhammer / SPV
Release Date: 15/04/22
Running Time: 54:43
Review by Simon Black
Very few in the UK’s rather niche Melodic Metal market have even heard of this man (despite his chart successes everywhere), although he’s been cranking out solo albums for decades after a brief stint in Steeler in the 80’s. In many ways he’s a defining backbone in the overall sound of the Melodic Metal movement and probably also the template for eighty percent of the output of the Italian label Frontiers, who have singularly failed to bag him.
So for the benefit of my friends in the UK, Pell is an accomplished guitarist and songwriter from Germany, with an absolute flair for capturing the catchy Melo-Metal song. This is his twenty-first studio record in thirty years – that’s a prodigious rate of output for any artist, and there’s been no shortage of live and compilation records as well. He’s also managed to keep his line up stable for over twenty years (some swivelling on the drum stool notwithstanding) so I would expect the output to be a bit formulaic, stale and by the numbers by this point, given that he usually releases something every year.
How wrong I was…
It’s easy to be pulled into that kind of thinking – like Power Metal, it’s a genre with few true originals, and many, many copycats; but in Pell’s case it’s a reputation well deserved. Check out the infectious radio friendly ‘No Compromise’ for a start. It’s the kind of track that had it been released in the USA in the mid-80’s would have had them headlining arenas state wide faster than you can say “Paternity law suit” on a Mötley Crüe tour bus. I even found myself enjoying the balladic current single ‘Gone With The Wind’, and that’s normally the point I am reaching for the skip button, but this one is thoughtful, soulful and moody, and really gives the gravelly edged larynx of Johnny Gioeli a chance to shine.
In many ways it’s a stylistic greatest hits for Pell, who’s choices in thematics have bounced round the aisles over the decades. From the 80’s lighter-wavers I mentioned above, to the heavier more technical shredding phase of the mid-90’s (‘Freight Train’), or the out Power nonsense of ‘Follow The Beast’, to the blindingly good instrumental ‘The Rise of Ankhoor’ and the epically heavy closing title track, this one runs the gamut, but without sounding messy or jaded.
I wasn’t expecting to like this at all. Indeed I kept putting off writing the review, which meant it had a full five spins by the time I rolled up my sleeves, by which time I was hooked! Unexpectedly and surprisingly memorable.
‘Gone With The Wind’ Official Audio
01. Lost XXIII Prequel (Intro)
03. No Compromise
04. Down On The Streets
05. Gone With The Wind
06. Freight Train
07. Follow The Beast
08. Fly With Me
09. The Rise Of Ankhoor
10. Lost XXIII
Johnny Gioeli – Lead and Backing Vocals
Axel Rudi Pell – Lead, Rhythm and Acoustic Guitars
Ferdy Doernberg – Keyboards
Volker Krawczak – Bass
Bobby Rondinelli – Drums
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