Axel Rudi Pell

The Crest

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In rock, the bandleader/musician/composer who doesn't sing at all but records under his/her own name is a rarity. That has long been a common scenario in jazz, traditional pop, and various forms of Latin music (including salsa, merengue, tango, and cumbia), but in rock, one rarely comes across non-singing bandleader/musician/composers who are very reliant on singers to help them get their ideas across. Veteran guitarist Axel Rudi Pell has long been such a rarity, and the fact that he doesn't sing on his albums has not prevented him from becoming a standard bearer for '70s/'80s-style metal. Pell's hardcore fans could care less if he is "stuck in the past" -- matter of fact, they welcome it. And it is Pell's impressive bandleading skills, along with his impressive skills as a guitarist/songwriter, that enable him to continue cranking out solid albums like The Crest. This is yet another dose of enjoyable '70s and '80s worship from the German headbanger, who is smart enough to oversee an effective, hard-working team that understands where he is coming from musically. That team includes drummer Mike Terrana, bassist Volker Krawczak, keyboardist Ferdy Doernberg, and lead singer Johnny Gioeli -- a Jon Bon Jovi-ish vocalist who is perfect for this 2009/2010 recording's pre-'90s mindset. However, most of the songs that Pell wrote for The Crest don't sound like they were written for a Bon Jovi album but rather, have more in common with the fantasy metal of UFO, Rainbow, Deep Purple, and the late Ronnie James Dio. Pell does detour into pop-metal on "Prisoner of Love," which wouldn't have been out of place on a Bon Jovi or Winger album back in 1986 or 1987. But fantasy metal, not pop-metal, dominates this 57-minute CD -- and Gioeli is in very good form throughout the disc. Gioeli helps Pell deliver yet another album that isn't the least bit groundbreaking but is very easy to enjoy if one is a die-hard fan of pre-'90s metal and hard rock.

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