Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Black Moon Pyramid’ (1996) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)

Axel Rudi Pell had fallen in love with the idea of the Pyramids. He had studied them immensely and was fascinated with the mystery behind them. So much so that he wanted to do a whole concept album on the pyramids, but in the end thought better of it and as a result, only a handful of the songs actually have a pyramid theme.

From October 1995 to January 1996, Jeff Scott Soto and Axel Rudi Pell worked on the next Axel album. Out of the 14 tracks on the album, 4 were co-written with Soto. The band was unchanged with Volker Krawczak on bass, Jorg Michael on drums, Julie Greaux on keyboards, Jeff Scott Soto on vocals and of course, Axel Rudi Pell on guitar. The album came out in Germany on March 3, 1996. Axel wanted to tour the album, but due to scheduling conflicts with Jeff Scott Soto they were unable to do so. Axel could’ve grabbed another singer and done the tour, but Jeff was too important and Axel knew it. What was so important for Jeff, that is easy. It was a 70’s tribute band called Boogie Knights. They were constantly playing at least 3-4 nights a week. Mr. Soto needed a steady paycheck and the Boogie Knights gave that to him. We will get to them later down the line so back to the music.

The album kicks off with an intro called “Return of the Pharaoh”. It is a haunting storm brewing as the Pharaoh is escaping from his tomb…at least that is what it feels like. The thunder and lightning build, the instruments build until the explode in to the opening track “Gettin’ Dangerous” which is a pure speed metal at its best. It is like an adrenaline shot straight in to your vein. The drums are immense, the speed is frenzied and Jeff’s vocals are all powerful. Pell’s solo is freaking sick and the whole song is an attack on your senses. A slammin’ opener.

Next up is one of the coolest songs on the album, “Fool Fool”. It feels like an homage to Black Sabbath’s Heaven And Hell. The riff is totally killer and Jeff’s vocal style is deep and darker and fits the groove so well. He stays reserved and doesn’t over sing which is what this song needed. It is the chorus that hooks you in and won’t let go. The bass work on here is great as there is a groove throughout that just resonates. Pell’s solo has this whole atmospheric vibe that plays for the song and then he goes nuts and delivers another riveting solo.

“Hole in the Sky” brings the speed metal back and Pell shows what he can do best. Jeff’s sings back in his higher register to match the speed of the song. I don’t know how Jorg can pound the kick drum so fast and furious without missing a beat. Another beast of a track with Pell doing what he does best.

With “Touch the Rainbow”, we get another mid-tempo rocker where the guitar work is pure Jimi Hendrix and I love it. The rest of the song is a pure 80’s rocker with a very melodic and harmonized, catchy chorus which gives you a whole Dio vibe with the Rainbow themes. A song in the wheelhouse of Mr. Soto’s vocal prowess. And Pell’s solo…wow!! That is all I need to say about it…wow! A very different track and all very cool.

“Sphinx’ Revenge” is the first instrumental and what a piece it is. It is full of riffs and the speed is ridiculous. Axel really let’s loose and shows he is no Blackmore or Yngwie clone. Jorg Michael’s shows what a beast of precision he is on the drums and Volker’s bass is so key to the sound on this one and he gets a solo break as well with Jorg laying the beat behind him. But it is the fret work and riffing by Pell that makes this song stick in your head.

The grammatically incorrect “You and I” is up next and gives you another heavy 80’s rocker style song. It has the catchy chorus and the Dio styled lyrics and the Pell riffs. If there is a weak song on the album, this would be it but it isn’t by much.

“Silent Angel” is the first ballad and opens with Julie’s keyboards doing a whole Journey even Motley Cure “Home Sweet Home” sound. Jeff sings softer and brings as much emotion as he can muster. But the song itself is way too generic and even the solo is less than. It is a poor man’s Scorpion ballad at best.

Axel loves to throw in one epic 10 minute track and this time around it is the title track, “Black Moon Pyramid” which harkens back to Sabbath and Rainbow as Axel likes to do. Think “Stargazer” if you need to have a comparison. Jeff does some speaking vocals at the beginning and then when he goes in to the singing his vocals soar. More proof of his talent and versatility. He owns this one along with Axel’s guitar playing which is rich, dramatic and technically incredible. His solos are far from boring as they are their own symphonies. Julie’s keyboard work on here is great as well as there sounds like some string arrangements which I believe are all done on keyboard as there are no credits for it. I love all the changes in the song as it takes you on a journey and a heck of a thrill ride it is that goes by so fast.

“Serenade Of Darkness (Opus #1 Adagio Con Agresso)” gives us another Pell instrumental. It is done in a whole Back classical style and shows Axel isn’t a one trick pony that he his skilled well-trained musician. Then the song explodes into a mad-frenzied solo where the song becomes a pure rocker. I have to say Pell gets better and better with every album.

Next up is “Visions in the Night” which brings us back to the power metal we are used to hearing but it goes back and forth between heavy and soft though not a ballad by any means. This one has some softer, more tender vocals from Jeff until he brings it home with the chorus and man does his voice sound good here. They soar to new heights and his shining moment on the album.

Then we get a minute long instrumental called “Aqua Solution” and it sounds like it is in water. That goes in to the most unusual song and heavily Jeff Scott Soto influence “Aquarius Dance”. It is funk-filled rocker. Jeff loves his funk and he definitely funkafied Pell. Totally doesn’t fit on this album, but so what. It is so good and I love the psychedelic funkiness of Pell’s guitar and who added the bongos…love it. As a Pell song, ehh…As a Soto song…totally awesome!!

Then we get another version of “Silent Angel” and this is the Guitar version which is totally instrumental and a much better version of the song. It is tender, sweet and brilliant at the same time. It doesn’t feel generic like the vocal version…sorry Jeff. It has more heart and soul and that is all you want in a ballad…right!

Track Listing:

  1. Return of The Pharaoh (Intro)
  2. Gettin’ Dangerous – Keeper
  3. Fool Fool – Keeper
  4. Hole in the Sky – Keeper
  5. Touch the Rainbow – Keeper
  6. Sphinx Revenge – Keeper
  7. You and I – Keeper (1/2 Point)
  8. Silent Angel – Delete
  9. Black Moon Pyramid – Keeper
  10. Serenade Of Darkness (Opus #1 Adagio Con Agresso) – Keeper
  11. Visions in the Night – Keeper
  12. Aqua Solution
  13. Aquarius Dance – Keeper
  14. Silent Angel (Guitar Version) – Keeper

The Track Score is 10.5 out of 12 Tracks or 88% (I didn’t score the Intro or “Aqua Solution” as not real songs). This is a step in the right direction for Axel and might be favorite of his albums we’ve review so far.  It is the total package, great variety, impressive playing by all, solos galore and melodic vocal prowess by Soto.  You get speed metal, hard rock, instrumentals and hell, even funk.  It is a smorgasbord of variety and it keeps your interest from beginning to end.  The minor missteps don’t overshadow the greatness included here.  I’ve really started to enjoy Pell’s playing more and more with each listen.  The album also got better with each listen.  And Soto…well, he is why we’re hear anyway. What else do I need to say. My Overall Score is a 4.0 out of 5.0 Stars.  Worth a buy if you find it, no doubt!!

UP NEXT: HUMAN CLAY – ‘HUMAN CLAY’ (1996)

THE JEFF SCOTT SOTO SERIES:

  1. Panther – ‘Panther’ (1986) – recorded in 1984
  2. Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force – ‘Rising Force’ (1984)
  3. Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force – ‘Marching Out’ (1985)
  4. Kuni – ‘Lookin’ For Action’ (1988)
  5. Kryst the Conqueror – ‘Deliver Us From Evil’ (1989) / ‘Soldiers of Light: The Complete Recordings (2019)
  6. Eyes – ‘Eyes’ (1990)
  7. Eyes – “Nobody Said It Was Easy” (1990) – 7″ Single – Bonus Edition
  8. Talisman – ‘Talisman’ (1990)
  9. Talisman – “I’ll Be Waiting” (1990) – 7″ Single – Bonus Edition
  10. Skrapp Mettle – ‘Sensitive’ (1991)
  11. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Eternal Prisoner’ (1992)
  12. Bakteria – ‘Deficate! Suffocate! Mutilate! Masturbate!’ (1992 / 2009)
  13. Eyes – ‘Windows of the Soul’ (1993)
  14. Talisman – ‘Genesis’ (1993)
  15. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘The Ballads’ (1993)
  16. Biker Mice From Mars – ‘Biker Mice From Mars (Soundtrack)’ (1993)
  17. Takara – ‘Eternal Faith’ (1993)
  18. Talisman – ‘5 Out Of 5 (Live in Japan)’ (1994)
  19. Talisman – ‘Humanimal’ (1994)
  20. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Between the Walls’ (1994)
  21. Gary Schutt – ‘Sentimetal’ (1994)
  22. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Love Parade’ (1994)
  23. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Made in Germany (Live)’ (1995)
  24. Takara – ‘Taste of Heaven’ (1995)
  25. Talisman – ‘Life’ (1995)
  26. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Black Moon Pyramid’ (1996)
  27. Human Clay – ‘Human Clay’ (1996)
  28. Talisman – ‘Best of’ (1996)
  29. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Magic’ (1997)
  30. Human Clay – ‘U4IA’ (1997)
  31. Boogie Knights – ‘Welcome to the Jungle Boogie’ (1997)
  32. Takara – ‘Blind in Paradise’ (1998)
  33. Talisman – ‘Truth’ (1998)
  34. Talisman – ‘Live at Sweden Rock Festival’ (2001)
  35. ‘Rock Star (Soundtrack)’ – Various Artists (2001)
  36. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Prism’ (2002)
  37. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Holding On E.P.’ (2002) – Bonus Edition
  38. Humanimal – ‘Humanimal’ (2002)
  39. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘JSS Live at the Gods 2002’ (2003)
  40. Talisman – ‘Cats & Dogs’ (2003)
  41. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Lost in the Translation’ (2004)
  42. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Live at the Queen Convention 2003’ (2004)
  43. Talisman – ‘Five Men Live’ (2005)
  44. Soul Sirkus – ‘World Play’ (2005)
  45. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Believe in Me E.P.’ (2006) – Bonus Edition
  46. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Essential Ballads’ (2006)
  47. Talisman – ‘7’ (2006)
  48. Journey – ‘Live from Atlanta (Bootleg)’ (2006)
  49. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘B-Sides’ (2006)
  50. Redlist – ‘Ignorance’ (2007)
  51. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Beautiful Mess’ (2009)
  52. Jeff Scott Soto – “21st Century” / “Gin & Tonic Sky” CD Single (2009) – Bonus Edition
  53. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘One Night in Madrid’ (2009)
  54. Trans-Siberian Orchestra – ‘Night Castle’ (2009)
  55. W.E.T. – ‘W.E.T.’ (2009)
  56. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Live at Firefest 2008’ (2010)
  57. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Damage Control’ (2012)
  58. W.E.T. – ‘Rise’ (2013)
  59. W.E.T. – ‘One Live in Stockholm’ (2014)
  60. SOTO – ‘Inside the Vertigo’ (2015)
  61. SOTO – ‘Divak’ (2016)
  62. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Retribution’ (2017)
  63. Sons of Apollo – ‘Psychotic Symphony’ (2017)
  64. W.E.T. – ‘Earthrage’ (2018)
  65. SOTO – ‘Origami’ (2019)
  66. Sons of Apollo – ‘Live With the Plovdiv Psychotic Symphony’ (2019)
  67. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Wide Away (In My Dreamland)’ (2020)
  68. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Live and Loud in Milan 2019’ (2020)
  69. Sons of Apollo – ‘MMXX’ (2020)
  70. SOTO – ‘Revision’ (2020)
  71. W.E.T. – ‘Retransmission’ (2021)
  72. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘The Duets Collection, Vol. 1’ (2021)
  73. Jeff Scott Soto / Jason Bieler – Live In Concert (2022) – Bonus Edition

17 thoughts on “Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Black Moon Pyramid’ (1996) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)

  1. This one sounds good. Thanks!

    On Monday, I bought an album from a band called Work of Art. The album is called Exhibits. The band has some well known folks writing with them, such as Jim Peterik. JSS wrote one of the songs. The album was released through Frontiers, but it doesn’t appear to be a supergroup for once. There is no escaping the guy!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I figured you knew of them. They’re a great mix of AOR influences – Foreigner, Journey, Survivor. I even hear some Harem Scarem there too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have this but it’s been ages since I’ve listened to Axel Rudi Pell. Ended up getting punch of his stuff since I like Gioeli from Hardline.

    Liked by 1 person

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