Pell, Axel Rudi - Mystica 4.5/5
1. The mysterious return
2. Fly to the moon
3. Rock the nation
4. Valley of sin
5. Living a lie
6. No chance to live
8. Haunted castle serenade (Opus #4 grazioso e agresso)
9. Losing the game
10. The curse of the damned
Oh yeah, the new Axel Rudi Pell CD has arrived and what a joy it is. Their new CD is entitled ‘Mystica’ and is the band’s 11th full-length release, since beginning all the way back in 1989. ARP has a straightforward melodic metal/hard rock sound, which they haven’t changed since their very first CD ‘Wild obsession’. And why not, as you know the old saying...if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it...
One thing that has made ARP so good over the years, to release excellent CD after excellent CD, is their line-up. Axel has always surrounded himself with real pro musicians, right from the start. Band members from the past including current Stratovarius drummer, Jorg Michael, and vocalists’ Rob Rock and Jeff Scott Soto. Their current line-up has been together for 7 years, which shows great strength.
When I listen to Axel Rudi Pell’s CDs, there has always been the same thing which stands out, that makes this band so good and why I am such a big fan... emotion and passion. It relates obviously to Axel’s mastery on guitar, but especially on vocals. So much emotion and passion in Jeff Scott Soto’s voice and more recently with current vocalist, Johnny Gioeli. Their voices improve every song they sing, and entwined with power drumming from Jorg Michael and current drummer Mike Terrana, and Axel’s wailing and powerful guitars makes for a wonderful listening experience that I personally can’t get enough of.
So, onto the new CD. ‘Mystica’ is exactly the CD I was expecting and hoping for, after their previous very strong releases, ‘Kings and queens’, ‘Shadow zone’ and ‘The masquerade ball’. In fact, I believe ‘Mystica’ is ARP’s best CD to date. On previous releases, there has usually been maybe one song which could be defined as the weakest track. Whether it didn’t sit right with the flow of the CD, or the songwriting wasn’t as strong as the others, or whatever. But with ‘Mystica’ there are no “weak” tracks at all. Every one of the 8 vocal tracks are great, the other 2 tracks being the mandatory intro every ARP CD has and the instrumental track, in which Axel shows off his skills as an excellent guitarist.
The CD’s production is absolutely fantastic, like with all of ARP’s CDs. Having great production adds to the emotion and passion which pours out in this release. Everything is crystal clear and tweaked to perfection, especially the bass drum, which is very full and deep and can make even the crappiest of speakers thump and vibrate and sound good.
Although every track on the CD is great, there are 5 which stand out above the rest. “Fly to the moon” is your typical fast ARP opener, in the same vein as previous openers such as “Edge of the world” ('Shadow zone') and “Nightmare” ('Magic'). Straight away Johnny Gioeli’s vocals are strong and soaring and makes the song a winner. “Valley of sin” is a mid-paced track which clocks in at 7:10. After a slow acoustic start, the song kicks in to a galloping rocker with an awesome chorus which will stay in your head. “Living a lie” is a great fast track which again shows off Gioeli’s wonderful vocals, his voice soaring and full of passion, with another great chorus.
“No chance to live” is an emotionally charged ballad, which ARP is great at creating. Instead of a “love” topic as with his usual ballads, this one is about Axel’s cry out about animals kept in laboratory test cages, doomed to be prodded, poked and ultimately killed. Gioeli’s emotional vocals are the highlight on this track, as well as Axel’s passionate guitar playing. It seems the 2nd best track on the CD is to be followed by the best track. “Mystica” is an 8-minute plus epic which could be one of ARP’s best ever songs. It contains an awesome opening riff/beat, and is used throughout the song. Once again the highlight of the track is the emotion and passion brought forth from all members of the band, and contains one of the catchiest chorus’ ever heard on an ARP song. And to make the song complete, Axel performs a powerful 2-minute solo.
The end result is clear, as ‘Mystica’ is easily one of the best CDs for 2006 and like I said earlier, arguably ARP’s best CD to date. Anyone who has enjoyed any of ARP’s releases will absolutely love this release, and any melodic rock/metal fans should scoop this CD up right now, especially fans of Yngwie Malmsteen and Ritchie Blackmore.
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