16 albums in a career filled with nothing but highs, well… maybe the one low; Axel Rudi Pell returns in fantastic style here with Into The Storm. More vocally focused than previous offerings but still filled with the signature crunching guitars and eponymous solos we've come to know and love. After the standard brief instrumental intro Axel introduces us to his new album with a fierce boom, Tower Of Light. Filled with the aforementioned guitars and vocals, Tower Of Light sets the album up perfectly leaving me hoping to any higher being that cares to listen that there is much more of this to come. Into the next few tracks Long Way To Go and Burning Chains that provide what I was hoping for; Axel at his sheer best. Two slightly more melodic songs here, but certainly not lacking in the crisp sharp hallmark riffs that we expect from the German metal master. A brief few minutes of calm are served next with the first of two new ballads When Truth Hurts. Throughout Pell's career I've always appreciated the slower ballads that he produces, sometimes for all of his wondrous skills on the guitar the vocals can go unnoticed, and this for me, is a tragedy, as at times Jonnny Gioeli's voice can be so magnanimous in expression and contributes more to his music than people realize. If the second ballad Hey Hey My My (A Neil Young cover. Matt) doesn't prove this then what will? ...Beautiful. Following both ballads the album proceeds to pick up and kick you in the face once more with Changing Times and final track Into The Storm. Accompanied by the slow pounding drums the mix between harsh riffs and perfectly melodic solos epitomize the album. Brimming with sounds that a heavy metal album should deliver yet at the same time served with style and calm that allows you become easily hooked, Into The Storm is an outstanding addition to Pell’s discography and should be to your own collection too. If you haven't been lucky enough to discover this genius yet, this is a great place to start. Metal as it should be constructed, with thought and care. 10/10.
Animus Complex: Animus Complex (Advancing Art)
Animus Complex combines intelligent groove and soaring melodies to make for a mysterious audible adventure with a slight djent edge. Opening with a crunching rip roaring track Admission Of Guilt the band from Arizona set out what they stand for… pounding relentless bass and as already mentioned, endless soaring melodies. Layered nicely throughout the dual vocals of Jeremy Davis (clean) and Matt Turkington (growls) provide this album with a solid depth to keep your ears pricked from start to finish. The album persists with the ear bashing until the more progressive tracks Survive and From The Bottom Of Your Soul enter the frame which highlight the versatility this band have, yet at the same time keeping the pace and tone of the album constant. Within these two tracks, especially Bottom Of Your Soul Davis really shows off a strong at times powerful voice that is able to deliver real emotion. The Forest sends the album back into crushing guitars that make you want to bend your knees and bang your head Till Lindeman style at times, this time Turkington rasping his throat and lungs to bring the darkness and power back into the album. The eight-song debut does have some flaws, mainly The Way Things Should Have Been which quite simply does not belong on this album. Slow, stagnant and well… totally out of place. Finally sliding into the final two tracks I.D and Astral Projection the album finishes where it began shredding melodic solos and endless bounding bass. Not a perfect album but for a debut its brave consistent and damn good! Some good potential shown here, definitely worth checking out as it could satisfy many different tastes of metal. 8/10.
DragonHammer: The X Experiment (My Kingdom Music)
Hailing from Italy DragonHammer (one word) is your plain and simple no frills power metal band, nothing more and nothing less. Riffs, solos and fantasy galore this is a fun album. Opening with a sombre instrumental the album slips nicely into the first track The End Of The World; keyboards and guitar together offer what you come to expect from any power metal album, symphony and melody supporting powerful higher octave vocals supplied by frontman Max Aguzzi, who sounds a little like an Italian Kiske at times (not necessarily a bad trait). The album carries on in much the same vein throughout with heavier tracks such as Seek In The Ice and title track The X Experiment, the latter being dominated by flickering keyboards and grungy riff, finishing with a decent solo from Giuseppe De Paolo. The stand out track from this album is Escape, filled with a multitude of different pace and depth this beauty of a ballad manages to combine power metal riffs with a thrash base, throw in Aguzzi’s voice and this particular song really is a treat. From here on out the album reverts to similarity, tracks such as My Destiny and Follow Your Star although solid and delivered with aplomb really do not break any boundaries, and here lies the problem I have with this album. This album is very much for your avid power metaler, it delivers what it says on the tin and nothing more, which for me is a disappointment. DragonHammer clearly posses some talent but they seem to be content delivering what they have always produced; fun honest power metal without breaking any new ground. If you're a power metal fan grab your air guitars, as this will not be a disappointment, if not maybe look elsewhere first. 7/10.