Axel Rudi Pell - _The Masquerade Ball_
(SPV, 2000)
by: Alvin Wee (9 out of 10)
The Pell is back! And raring to go, it seems. No introduction is needed to a band, who like compatriots Running Wild, churn out album after album of similar-sounding material, yet never once fail to satisfy. Reprising the tried-and-true power-rock formula has garnered this old rocker no small measure of success over the years. Opening with strikingly memorable leads and Johnny Goielli's searing cries, "Earls of Black" establishes the dark yet epic atmosphere from the outset. Things take a lighter turn with "Voodoo Nights", harking back to older, "rock" days with the singalong chorus and vocal acrobatics, not to mention Pell's effortless solos. Even more nostalgic is the ballad "Night and Rain", and here is where Johnny's rough yet operatic throat shines, dragging out his high notes Dio-style, adding a touch of raw power to former singer Jeff Scott Soto's more polished tones. The title track fills the spot of the obligatory ten-minute "Pell"-epic. Another nod must be made to Dio; just hearing Goielli scream out the chorus evokes images of the dark Elf himself. The remaining tracks show a more "rock" side of the band, and takes a more laid-back approach than _Magic_'s speed-riffing. What more can be said about a man who has eleven albums under his own name behind him, and who's been churning out such quality since his old days with Steeler? I'm already kicking myself for missing last year's _Oceans of Time_, so if you're into German heavy-rock/metal, don't make the same mistake with this one. Available as a "limited" edition of a ridiculous 20000 copies in a nice box with a great poster.

(article published 12/8/2000)

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