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Pell and Soto chapter 1. - 83%

hells_unicorn, February 11th, 2007

This is the first ARP album with Jeff Scott Soto, acclaimed vocalist of Malmsteen’s Rising Force fame. Unlike the rather dramatic vocal theatrics of Rob Rock, Soto’s vocal approach is a more straight forward mix of passion and sleaze. He has lost none of his power since his incredible work on Malmsteen’s brilliant opus “Marching Out”, but the music on here gives him a chance to really explore his vocal capabilities, as ARP likes to emulate the lyrical storytelling of Ronnie Dio.

Although this was recorded after “Nasty Reputation”, unlike its predecessor this album contains some tracks that are more comparable to ARP’s cock rock style found on “Wild Obsession”, both in terms of lyrics and music. “Sweet Lil’ Suzie” is the most obvious of the culprits, containing a heavily blues inspired intro fit for the strip clubs, followed by a rock groove oriented song with lyrics and sleazy vocals. “Ride the Bullet” also borrows from the cock rock style, with an opening riff highly reminiscent of Motley Crue and Def Leppard.

We’ve got two ballads on this one too, “Your Life” being a slightly more 80s sounding acoustic ancestor of “Forever Angel”, while “Dreams of Passion” is cut from the restful yet passion driven instrumental ballads where Axel really lets his emotional side of his lead playing hang out. “Shoot her to the Moon”, “Wheels Rolling” and “Long Time” are all heavier oriented mid tempo rockers that normally occupy 2 or 3 slots on every subsequent ARP release, the last of the 3 having the most catchy and powerful chorus. “Streets of Fire” is a highlight track in that it is the lone speed metal song on here, reminding heavily of the crushing speed of later Soto speed tracks like “Nightmare” and “Talk of the Guns”.

The strongest song on here is the title track, which as is the case with all of his post 80s epics, is loaded with amazing yet simple lead guitar brilliance and a magical atmosphere. While “Land of the Giants” off Nasty Reputation is an obvious blueprint for extraordinary Pell classics such as “Gates of the Seven Seals” and “Mystica”, this one is an early incarnation of more Black Sabbath inspired epics such as “Magic”, “The Masquerade Ball”, and the Rainbow-like “Casbah”. It’s nothing short of amazing, both in the overall musical performance and Soto’s gritty yet tuneful vocal delivery.

To prospective buyers, although this album has its quasi-80s cheese moments, it’s a great listen with plenty of the classic ARP devices that have since become standard on his various opuses. If you like Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Deep Purple, Dio, and Malmsteen then this album is an essentially buy, not to mention a necessity for any fan of guitar driven metal.