After the last album, ‘Black Moon Pyramid’, Axel Rudi Pell wanted to do a tour, but Jeff Scott Soto’s schedule wouldn’t allow it. He was fully committed to his other project Boogie Knights which was a 70’s funk, R&B tribute style band. The commitment was due to a very steady paycheck. As a result, Axel took a short break and then started working on his next album which became ‘Magic’. Jeff was still on board for vocals as he didn’t want to let his friend down. While performing 3-4 nights a week with Boogie Knights, Jeff would work on the vocals for the this album. It became utterly exhausting for him as his voice had no rest.
The keyboardist for Axel’s band was Julie Greaux up to this point, but she left the band mostly because she became Jeff’s ex-girlfriend. As a result, a friend of Axel’s was brought in named Christian Wolf to help out. Christian was still in the band Rage, but was able to do this album as well. The rest of the band, Jorg Michael and Volker Krawczak were still in tact. Axel wanted to a heavier album than the previous and I think he succeeded. The album ‘Magic’ was released on May 21, 1997. Again, Axel was wanting to tour, but Jeff wasn’t feeling it. Boogie Knights was too important at this time and when it got down to it, this wasn’t his favorite type of music to sing anyway. In fact, Jeff didn’t co-write any of the songs on this one. It was all Axel. After much discussion, he parted with Axel and moved on. He and Axel are still good friends today and nice to see there were no hard feelings between the two gentleman.
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!
Return of The Pharaoh (Intro)
Gettin’ Dangerous – Keeper
Fool Fool – Keeper
Hole in the Sky – Keeper
Touch the Rainbow – Keeper
Sphinx Revenge – Keeper
You and I – Keeper(1/2 Point)
Silent Angel – Delete
Black Moon Pyramid – Keeper
Serenade Of Darkness (Opus #1 Adagio Con Agresso) – Keeper
Visions in the Night – Keeper
Aquarius Dance – Keeper
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!!
While Jeff Scott Soto was touring with Talisman in Europe, Axel Rudi Pell was ready to make another album. After the mixed reaction from the fans on ‘The Ballad’ album, Axel was going to go to his roots and make a pure metal album…a German Metal Album as he has stated. He contacted Jeff and arranged for him to come in and work on the album while his other band was touring. Jeff was happy to do so as he really enjoyed working with Axel since it wasn’t a dictatorship like other bands he had worked in. Jeff and Axel work well together and Soto co-wrote 4 of the 10 tracks.
Most of the band was back from the last studio album, ‘Eternal Prisoner’. There was obviously Axel and Jeff, but Jorg Michael was back on drums and Volker Krawczak on bass. Keyboardist Kai Raglewski was out and in his place was Julie Greaux who has worked with Billy Idol and happened to be Soto’s girlfriend. That’s convenient wouldn’t you say!! What I would say is that this was a solid line-up and had me interested to hear what they had put together this time around. It is definitely more fantasy and mystical lyrics and it is truly metal for sure! One more thing, in the liner notes, it lists out what instrument each band member plays with and for Jeff…it says he plays with Julie….”Oh Heffe, Oh Oh Ooh”…Let me just say…Wow!! Okay, hold on tight and let’s get to the music.
After Jeff Scott Soto had finished his vocals on the ‘Eternal Prisoner’ album for Axel Rudi Pell, he went back to the states to continue to work with his band Slam. Then it was on to work on the next Talisman album ‘Genesis’. But his obligations weren’t done with Axel. Axel wanted to do an album full of nothing but ballads so Jeff was brought back in April 1993 to finish up some work on several songs to be included on the album. Jeff was only on 4 of the 10 songs, two were instrumentals, two from Rob Rock with one from Karl Holthaus both previous singers of Axel’s.
The album was released on September 7, 1993 and I guess it was successful as Axel did a total of five of these Ballad compilations. ‘The Ballads’ release had a mixture of previously released tracks, some previously unreleased tracks and even a couple covers. It is a lot of ballads to have on an album. It caused a mixture of reactions. Some metal fans were turned off because the album was nothing but ballads, however, you had a section of non-metal people that were now introduced to Axel’s music because it was all ballads. Heck it was the ballads that probably brought a lot of women in to the Glam music scene anyway…that and the fact they wanted to know the secrets on how the guys got their hair so big and poofy. But lets talk about the music instead of the hair.
“You Want Love” opens the album and was one of the new tracks recorded by Jeff Scott Soto for this release. Opens with acoustic guitars and then Soto comes in singing in a soft falsetto. The chorus brings harmonies and the bass and drum. From here on out, the tempo stays relatively consistent. Jeff does sound great, I’ll give him that, but the song is a little dull as it is too same-same sounding throughout. Even the solo is a little lifeless and boring.
During 1991, Axel Rudi Pell wanted to go out and do some live shows for his most recent album, ‘Nasty Reputation’. There was only one problem. His lead singer, Rob Rock, left the band. That does cause a problem not having a singer. Axel started searching and one name was thrown out to him and that was Jeff Scott Soto. When Jeff found out that he could sing with a former guitar player from the band Steeler, he thought he was having de ja vu! Didn’t he just sing in a band with former Steeler guitar player…oh yeah…Yngwie Malmsteen. Soto couldn’t pass that up so he did it. He also couldn’t pass it up because his band, Slam, he was working with at the time hadn’t completely got off the ground so off he went.
After the tour, Jeff went on his way back to the Slam. That was until a short time later, Jeff got another call from Axel Rudi Pell. Axel was so impressed with Live Singer Jeff, why not have Jeff sing on his new album. Since Jeff really enjoyed working with Axel, why not and off he went. The result of that collaboration was the album ‘Eternal Prisoner’. Soto did more than just sing for Pell, he also co-wrote 6 of the 9 songs on the album. Along with Kai Raglewski on Keyboards, Volker Krawczak on Bass and Jorg Michael on Drums, the album was recorded at RA.SH Studio in Germany from June to September 1992. After a quick turnaround, the album saw the light of day on October 1, 1992.
We might be in the year 1992, but musically the music is still drenched in the 80’s rock and metal sound. If you like Black Sabbath, maybe some Deep Purple with a dash of Aerosmith and AC/DC there is going to be something on here you like. Axel is also a huge fan of Dio and Richie Blackmore and that influence is seeping from all corners of this album. Throw in the powerhouse vocals of Jeff Scott Soto and you have the making a damn fine album…but is it? That is what we are here to find out so turn it on, turn it up and I can’t think of of another turn it statement…oh well…on to the music.