Axel Rudi Pell – Oceans of Time
There are some big name guitarists in the world of rock. Joe Perry, Keith Richards, and whoever gives a fuck are all names you hear thrown around by non-elitists. News flash: elitists like me know those guys are awful. The real totally awesome guitarists are the crazy blonde-haired German dudes. Amongst this group, Michael Schenker, Uli Jon Roth, and Axel Rudi Pell are the official holy trinity.
Probably the most obscure amongst non-European audiences, Pell originally played in the largely generic band Steeler throughout the ’80s before breaking out on a successful solo career. After five albums, including a trilogy with veteran singer Jeff Scott Soto, Pell tapped Hardline vocalist Johnny Gioeli to take over on his 1998 release Oceans of Time. Aside from a revolving door of drummers, this establishes the same line-up that Pell has today almost twenty years later.
In a way, Oceans of Time also solidifed Pell’s style. It continues the direction of his previous album Magic but with better songs. The clearest influence is Dio and Rainbow, with Gioeli’s vocals and the storming high fantasy sound. Wizards, oaths, demons, and everything in between dominate the lyrical content and the searing guitar follows suit.
Still, the approach is re-shuffled in interesting ways. The emphasis is on ultra-epic riffs and simple arrangements that keep everything going well past the seven minute mark. Even more interesting is how gloom-and-doom these high energy tracks really are: “Carousel”, “Gates of the Seven Seals”, and “Oceans of Time” all stick to minor melodies and atmospheric synths that keep the rockin’ positively bleak.
Between these rockers are a large number of monster power ballads punctuated by mid-range melodic solos, with the ten minute “Ashes From the Oath” being the best of the bunch. Half the track is dedicated to monumental fretwork that wraps around your mind, never growing repetitive and topping the ho-hum vocal melodies.
There’s a couple straightforward upbeat tunes buried under the larger-than-life behemoths. “Ride the Rainbow” and “Pay the Price” are awesome headbanging material. The latter features the corniest synth-choir vocals that crank the already over-the-top sound to full throttle. “Prelude to the Moon” goes even further: keyboardist Ferdy Doernberg rocks the harpsichord setting while Pell rips through the only outright shredding on the whole album.
And honestly, the whole album really rips. Pell knows what makes fantasy-themed metal great and he channels it better than most Iced Earths or Blind Guardians could ever hope to. I wish the drums were a little further up in the mix, but there’s a simple solution: turn this shit up until your ears bleed.
Oceans of Time is receiving its first ever vinyl release on June 3rd. I’d import this baby real quick before you accidentally buy something that sucks.