We are to the band’s 13th Studio album now in the series, however, 13 isn’t really their lucky number with this one. First off, longtime Scorpions drummer, Herman Rarebell, left the band to go start his own record label. They didn’t replace him right away and used a session drummer, Curt Cress, to handle the daunting task of following Rarebell’s footsteps. The band did replace the role with James Kottak who ended up being in the band longer than Herman was as he lasted almost 20 years before he was fired in 2016. The rest of the band was in tact with Klaus Meine, Rudolf Schenker, Mathias Jabs and the newest member Ralph Rieckermann. And for this album, they brought back as producer, Keith Olsen, who helped produced the album ‘Crazy World’. He produced the first seven tracks while Erwin Musper and the Scorps did the rest.
‘Pure Instinct’ followed in the footsteps of several Scorpions albums and showed nudity. My CD has the original nude cover of the humans in the cage being watched by the animals instead of the other way around. For those parts of the world that had issues with the cover, there was an alternate cover of just the band which is what I am showing as the header as I don’t want to be flagged on Facebook or any site for the so called offensive cover. But what I find offensive is the music on this album. This is not a rock album by any stretch of the imagination. Instead we get an album that is mostly ballads and then heavier songs that are more pop than hard rock except maybe for the opening track.
They released several songs as singles and the only one to chart in the U.S. was “Wild Child” which went to #19 on the Mainstream Rock Chart. All the other singles charted, just not in the U.S. as the album didn’t do well at all not even reaching Gold. The album only went to #99 on the Album Charts which is not good for a Scorpions record. There isn’t anything else I want to add at this point so let’s get in to the meat of this album and the music.
The album starts off with what sounds like bagpipes before the full band kicks in with the heavy drums on the verses and riffing guitars throughout and a solo that is so high pitched the dog howled! Klaus vocals are as perfect and classic sounding as ever. The chorus is catchy and sounds like Scorpions through and through. “Wild Child” is a great opening rocker to kick things off.
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!!