Axel Rudi Pell - Shadow Zone
Melodic Metal
10 songs (61:10)
Release year: 2002
Axel Rudi Pell, SPV
Reviewed by Mike
Untitled Document

Well, another interesting purple album cover. Yep, Axel Rudi Pell returns with another studio album, this being the third with vocalist Johnny Gioeli. This album features the same recipe that Axel has used in the past: mixing powerful songs, mid tempo rockers, and ballads with a keen sense of melody. This album however is weighted much more in favor of the slow songs which makes listening to the whole album beginning to end rather tedious.

After the into, Axel kicks off the album in powerful fashion with Edge of the World. This is a melodic double bass driven tune that somehow reminds of an older Axel song. For me, this has been something I’ve noticed a lot with Axel’s last few releases. You constantly wonder if that melody or hook is simply recycled from a previous song. This is not a bad song at all, actually it is one of the best if not the best song on the album. Next up is a classic Axel mid tempo rocker Coming Home. Again, Axel certainly does not offer anything new to his fans, but this track is as good as any other melodic hard rock songs of his back catalog. Live For The King is up next which begins with a very soft keyboard laden into, then picks up some steam about three minutes in. This track is another moment in which I am wondering where I have heard this riff before - actually it sounds quite a bit like Masquerade Ball. Moving on to the next track, All the Rest of My Life is a rather uneventful ballad in my opinion. Although Giolei nails the vocals, I have never thought Axel wrote particularly memorable or emotional ballads like Axxis or Scorpions for example. Most Axel ballads tend to drag on without capturing my interest, and such is the case with this one as well. Luckily, the next track Follow the Sign is an uplifting rocker with the trademark Axel riffs, solos, and melodies. Yeah, that riff sounds a little like Ghost Hunter from the Wizard’s Chosen Few compilation, but nonetheless it has an infectious melody that will stay with you long after the CD is over.

Unfortunately, the energy level drops like a rock after Follow the Sign. Saint of Fools is the lone exception as it is another melodic mid tempo rocker much in the vein Coming Home tempo wise and musically speaking. Apart from that track, three of the last 4 tracks are slow tempo cuts. Time of the Truth features a darker riff throughout as well as a predominant keyboard texture to give the song an ominous atmosphere. Heartbreaker and Under the Gun are very slow and almost depressing ballads. Again, aside from Gioeli’s vocal performance, these slow tempo songs are very easy for me to simply skip as they tend to drag on without any memorable chorus lines or killer melodies to sink my teeth into. Time of the Truth is actually pretty good considering the riff is in the forefront of the song and the keyboard texture creates an atmosphere that fits the song just perfectly. For those keeping count, four out of the nine tracks (excluding the instrumental intro) are of the slow tempo variety. I feel this weighs the mood of the album down a bit too much, especially towards the end. On top of that, I find that Axel tends to write some boring ballads (there are exceptions of course) that can best be described as filler material. Axel is a master when it comes to writing catchy melodic metal, but he certainly isn’t the master of writing the memorable ballad. The fact that Axel’s faster material is so good (although reminding you of past work at times!), the weak slow songs stand out even more.

Die hard Axel fans can blindly buy this album as his style and sound remains largely unchanged. I might issue a word of caution to those who are turned off by an album that is balanced nearly 50/50 with slow songs. While all the songs certainly feature the ever present catchy melodies, excellent guitar work, and the master vocals of Johnny Gioeli, you will almost certainly ask yourself more than once where you have heard that riff or melody before.

Killing Songs :
Edge of the World, Coming Home, Follow the Sign, Saint of Fools
Mike quoted 64 / 100
Other albums by Axel Rudi Pell that we have reviewed:
Axel Rudi Pell - The Crest reviewed by Marty and quoted 88 / 100
Axel Rudi Pell - Diamonds Unlocked reviewed by Mike and quoted no quote
Axel Rudi Pell - Mystica reviewed by Mike and quoted 80 / 100
Axel Rudi Pell - Kings And Queens reviewed by Danny and quoted 92 / 100
Axel Rudi Pell - Knights Live reviewed by Ben and quoted no quote
To see all 9 reviews click here
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