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This album I highly inconsistent especially for Axel. ARP’s age old formula of keeping things simple and straight forward have cost them dearly in this album. ARP’s earlier albums worked due to excellent songwriting and arrangements which stayed interesting no matter how long you dragged them and highly catchy choruses. The fact that this album lacks the power in the choruses doesn’t help it. Many of the songs don’t sound epic and atmospheric the way they used to sound during Oceans Of Time. They are tolerable during the fast parts, but when the songs get slow, or even mid-paced, the album is in trouble.
Incredible individual performances were never found on an ARP album, and this one is no exception. The performances are well-to-do by everyone; not too excess but not sloppy either. The guitar work is standard for Axel, melodic and grounded, yet well composed. The vocals sound the same, Bon Jovish, with a little more range. The drum work is not hyper-technical power metal work, but just provides the background necessary for percussion. The production is once again good.
We start the album by a random intro which is easily omitted. The opener Fly To The Moon kicks off with a standard ARP riff. It has excellent pace and a superb chorus and I might not hesitate even a bit in claiming this to be the best song in the album. The main riff is damn catchy and is used effectively. The lead work is also excellent. The song contains all the ingredients of a perfect ARP song. Rock The Nations takes the pace down from the opener several notches. It’s not that great, because it feels too random, and the chorus though being catchy, isn’t quite inspiring. Actually the song reminds me of Bon Jovi with better guitar work. Valley Of Sin is much better. It starts softly and builds up with a mid-paced and generic (yet quite effective) riff. The chorus is again good. The problem with it is that it feels overlong and does not contain enough caliber to keep it interesting for seven minutes. Living A Lie brings the pace back and is another highlight, the chorus being excellent. No Chance To Live is the ballad from the album, and this one is boring, mediocre and cheesy. It fails to hold our attention and lacks imaginations of composition. Where are the great ARP ballads that they used to write, Oceans Of Time, need I say more. ARP title tracks are always great and so is Mystica. It opens as expected with an atmospheric guitar passage and then breaks into a mid-paced trot. This is the only song which has the mystical atmosphere of their earlier albums. The chorus is again brilliant. Over eight minutes in length it comes together as an excellent epic. Haunted Castle Serenade is an instrumental which again sounds too random. Thankfully it is short and is just OK. Losing The Game is fast but mediocre. The chorus lacks depth. The closer The Curse Of The Damned is nearly ten minutes long and tries to be epic and mystic like the title track, but fails miserably. It is overlong and the chorus is just dull. It picks up in the middle for the solo, the only killer part in it. The rest of the song is mid-paced and boring.
The major problem of the album is that ARP sounded too random here and the sound being extremely simple didn’t help the album at all. The inconsistent nature of the album was another hole in its armor. When the album gets it right, it does sound great and reminds of their earlier glory and their construction capabilities. The album lacked the epic atmosphere which is also one of the reasons many of the songs sounding boring. The choruses were poor. Overall this album is average and is recommended only as a one-time-listen. But don’t expect an Ocean Of Time as this one is miles from it.
Oh yeah, the new Axel Rudi Pell CD has arrived and what a joy it is. Their new CD is entitled ‘Mystica’ and is the band’s 11th full-length release, since beginning all the way back in 1989. ARP has a straightforward melodic metal/hard rock sound, which they haven’t changed since their very first CD ‘Wild obsession’. And why not, as you know the old saying...if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it...
One thing that has made ARP so good over the years, to release excellent CD after excellent CD, is their line-up. Axel has always surrounded himself with real pro musicians, right from the start. Band members from the past including current Stratovarius drummer, Jorg Michael, and vocalists’ Rob Rock and Jeff Scott Soto. Their current line-up has been together for 7 years, which shows great strength.
When I listen to Axel Rudi Pell’s CDs, there has always been the same thing which stands out, that makes this band so good and why I am such a big fan... emotion and passion. It relates obviously to Axel’s mastery on guitar, but especially on vocals. So much emotion and passion in Jeff Scott Soto’s voice and more recently with current vocalist, Johnny Gioeli. Their voices improve every song they sing, and entwined with power drumming from Jorg Michael and current drummer Mike Terrana, and Axel’s wailing and powerful guitars makes for a wonderful listening experience that I personally can’t get enough of.
So, onto the new CD. ‘Mystica’ is exactly the CD I was expecting and hoping for, after their previous very strong releases, ‘Kings and queens’, ‘Shadow zone’ and ‘The masquerade ball’. In fact, I believe ‘Mystica’ is ARP’s best CD to date. On previous releases, there has usually been maybe one song which could be defined as the weakest track. Whether it didn’t sit right with the flow of the CD, or the songwriting wasn’t as strong as the others, or whatever. But with ‘Mystica’ there are no “weak” tracks at all. Every one of the 8 vocal tracks are great, the other 2 tracks being the mandatory intro every ARP CD has and the instrumental track, in which Axel shows off his skills as an excellent guitarist.
The CD’s production is absolutely fantastic, like with all of ARP’s CDs. Having great production adds to the emotion and passion which pours out in this release. Everything is crystal clear and tweaked to perfection, especially the bass drum, which is very full and deep and can make even the crappiest of speakers thump and vibrate and sound good.
Although every track on the CD is great, there are 5 which stand out above the rest. “Fly to the moon” is your typical fast ARP opener, in the same vein as previous openers such as “Edge of the world” ('Shadow zone') and “Nightmare” ('Magic'). Straight away Johnny Gioeli’s vocals are strong and soaring and makes the song a winner. “Valley of sin” is a mid-paced track which clocks in at 7:10. After a slow acoustic start, the song kicks in to a galloping rocker with an awesome chorus which will stay in your head. “Living a lie” is a great fast track which again shows off Gioeli’s wonderful vocals, his voice soaring and full of passion, with another great chorus.
“No chance to live” is an emotionally charged ballad, which ARP is great at creating. Instead of a “love” topic as with his usual ballads, this one is about Axel’s cry out about animals kept in laboratory test cages, doomed to be prodded, poked and ultimately killed. Gioeli’s emotional vocals are the highlight on this track, as well as Axel’s passionate guitar playing. It seems the 2nd best track on the CD is to be followed by the best track. “Mystica” is an 8-minute plus epic which could be one of ARP’s best ever songs. It contains an awesome opening riff/beat, and is used throughout the song. Once again the highlight of the track is the emotion and passion brought forth from all members of the band, and contains one of the catchiest chorus’ ever heard on an ARP song. And to make the song complete, Axel performs a powerful 2-minute solo.
The end result is clear, as ‘Mystica’ is easily one of the best CDs for 2006 and like I said earlier, arguably ARP’s best CD to date. Anyone who has enjoyed any of ARP’s releases will absolutely love this release, and any melodic rock/metal fans should scoop this CD up right now, especially fans of Yngwie Malmsteen and Ritchie Blackmore.
For all the modern albums that do nothing original and just rehash the formula that made the Scorpions, Dio and Judas Priest successful with a more polished production...this is one of them. And a damned good one, at that. Mystica was released in 2006 by Axel Rudi Pell, culminating their nth release (I'm not about to check and see what number this is...) in a career chock full of them. It's really not much better or worse than anything else he has ever released - well, except for that awful 2008 album he put out, Tales of the Crown - but what matters is that it's a ton of fun for all. So let's go ahead and see why.
Axel Rudi Pell's basic sound is big, creamy, rocking riffs and melodious leads fronted by the man with the golden voice, Johnny Gioeli, with his attitude-smeared sneer, soaring on the high notes and bellowing out the mid-ranged ones with conviction to spare. The drumming is confident and alert and the bass carries the songs with a ton of class and style. Everything is done very acceptably, and in the case of the vocals and guitars, excellently. You would think a band named after the guitarist would have mostly all of the focus on the guitars, but Axel has always been smart enough to put the focus on writing great songs rather than showing off his chops. The chops are definitely there, as he does rip into solos with ease and smash out heavy, lead-iron riffs without blinking an eye, but it's all downplayed in favor of songs that will remain lodged in your head for weeks. The hook-craft on here is mesmerizingly good. Every song is packed with swagger and bravado, careening through the speakers with attitude and memorability to topple a giant. The songs are all well-crafted, never sounding too long or too loose or anything like that. They start and end perfectly where they have to. And the production is fabulous, too. Clear as a brand new whistle, and heavy as a brick to boot.
The best song on here is pretty obviously the title track. I have loved this fucking song ever since I first heard it many years ago before I really knew this band well, and why shouldn't I? It's fucking awesome. In fact, I would award full, perfect points to this song alone if I could. Listen to that domineering riff, listen to the mystical bassline it rides on, listen to Gioeli's piercing croon wailing out the opaque lyrics: "Mysterious journey\ on our way through the gates\ black moon on the horizon\ sailing on through the oceans of time\ will we ever arrive?" I just love stuff like that. It's visual word candy. Just sounds good. But other tracks deliver, too, like the careening, soaring opener "Fly to the Moon" and the hard-hitting "Living a Lie." The epic Sabbath-romp "Valley of Sin" is cool, and "Losing the Game" just flat out rocks. "Curse of the Damned," running on for a good 10 minutes, is a more ambitious piece, but it still has enough mystic fantasy flavored lyrics and heavy riffing to keep people happy. Or it does for me, anyway.
Axel Rudi Pell might never be a real A-class act, but they do know what works for them and they stick to it like glue. Mystica is one of the best I've heard from this group of metal maestros simply for its superior hook-writing and the way the songs are put together being good enough so that I never get bored. Everything is placed just right. Nothing ever feels stagnant or like the band could have shortened its length. The title track is the most inspired song on here, and the only one to really reach above what the band is capable of, but the fact that every other song is of such a consistently high quality anyway says something. A good effort from a good band. Go get it if you like this kind of music.
When Axel announced his new CD "Mystica" back in 2006 and stated that it was going to be in the veins of "Oceans Of Time" I was counting day-by-day to the release of "Mystica" to listen to it and to see if Axel was right about this being better than his 1998 release.
What I read is what I got!! "Mystica" is better than "Oceans Of Time" and that's why the title THE MYSTIC ONE, just as the first song starts with Mike's drums so fast that I already turned up the volume of my stereo even more to wake up all my neighbors and just as Johnny enters with his brilliant vocals I was already banging alone in my room, what a tremenduous fast song.
This CD goes straight this way throughout the CD, in order as: "Rock The Nation" with a brilliant sing-along chorus, "Valley Of Sin" kind of ballad in the beginning which gets really mid-tempo throughout, "Living A Lie" just like the third song in this CD amazing chorus and great work in the solo by Axel, "No Chance To Live" an awesome ballad with great lyrics, difficult to judge if this one is ARP's best ballad ever, “Haunted Castle Serenade” another great instrumental song done by the mystical Axel Rudi Pell and "Losing The Game" in his chorus "the jealous" I think for sure is Malmsteen after listening to the CD.
Now the best two songs in this CD are "Mystica" what an atmosphere, I just can't stop listening this song 'till now, one of my favorite epic songs, again very difficult to judge which one is the best ARP epic song. To finish the CD now Axel chose the right song even if he decided to choose with any other song of this CD would be brilliantly finished, but the way "The Curse Of The Damned" is played is what makes me wanna listen to the CD all over again or think why Axel doesn't add more than 10 songs in his CD's, the last minutes of this song is brilliant what a duet by Axel Rudi Pell and Ferdy Doernberg, simply the best, it's mystical, it's the Mystic One!!
There is a dark place buried deep within the imagination of every die hard metal fan, a series of structures steeped in mist and an ominous purple glow. Castles, temples, and shrines to undead spirits and witches fill this realm. It is in this place where we encounter a rather astounding and mystical genius in that of Axel Rudi Pell, the keeper of the magical tavern where many a brilliant homage to traditional metal outfits such as Rainbow, Sabbath, and Dio are paid.
ARP has never failed to amaze me with their ability to combine the various elements that made these forefathers of the metal genre who they were in new and inviting ways. The guitar riffs are heavy, the solos are both melodically expressive and technically astounding, the keyboard ambiences are dense, the bass brings all the needed constancy to the instrumentation, and the drums are blazing with power. There are no slouches in this outfit, everybody puts forth a tireless effort to aid Axel in building the 10 castles of sound that make up the dark city of Mystica.
Johnny Gioeli’s vocals deserve special mention because they have become synonymous with the ARP sound. His voice has an rough and sleazy tinge to it, but also has a somber quality to it, particularly during the ballads. He soars into the higher male range with relative ease, but for a tenor, he has a very powerful lower range as well. Although he is going on overdrive pretty much throughout this entire album, he really blew me away with his vocal work on the longer tracks on here, particularly “Valley of Sin”, the title track, and “Curse of the Damned”.
We kick this album off with the obligatory instrumental prelude “The Mysterious Return”, which has a similar slide guitar line to the one found on the first track of the “Shadow Zone” release, but has much more dense keyboard sounds in the background. We are then introduced to a classic up-tempo rocker ARP style in “Fly to the Moon”, spearheaded by one of the heaviest main riffs Axel’s ever put out. The drum work on here is powerful, as Mike Terrana’s snare sound has not lost it’s punch after more than a decade behind the kit either with Yngwie or ARP.
“Rock the Nation” is a straight-forward rocker that actually reminds me quite a bit of “Cold Heaven” on the last album and maybe a tiny bit of “Carousel” off of Oceans of Time. “Valley of Sin” is sort of a hybrid of a ARP ballad and a more mid-tempo rocker, very powerful chorus on this one. “Living a Lie” is another heavy ended rocker with some amazing lead work. “No Chance to Live” is another ballad from the vault of sad and lonely songs, complete with dreary keyboards, quiet and melodic leads, and some somber yet nostalgic lyrics.
From here on in the album gets so amazingly brilliant that each track requires special mention. “Haunted Castle Serenade” is an amazing guitar driven instrumental that rivals the “Moonlight Serenade” off of Oceans of Time”. “Losing the Game” is the strongest up-tempo rocker on here, with more great heavy riffs and a passionate vocal delivery. The title track is a track that pretty much stands on it’s own amongst the others, loaded with mystical lyrics, hard edged guitar riffs, and a driving line that reminds of older ARP classic title tracks such as “Magic” and “The Masquerade Ball”. The chorus on this one is unforgettable, I can’t stop humming the tune, and often find myself picking up my guitar and performing my own rendition of it. This song actually reminds me a lot of my favorite anthem off of the Oceans of Time album “Gates of the Seven Seals”, and gives it a run for it’s money in terms of musicality.
However, despite all of the amazing tracks on here, we have yet to hear the highlight of the entire album. When I arrived at the last track on this album, I was introduced to a gloomy, yet charming piano line wandering alone amongst a sea of synthesized string sounds. I was expecting to get a full fledged ballad similar to “Eyes of the Lost” off the Magic album. But I was given a jolt when I beheld a high speed section that featured one of Mike Terrana’s double bass drum lines, accompanying an epic solo battle between Axel’s flashy leads and Ferdy Doernberg’s equally riveting Jon Lord style organ solos. There was only one song on Oceans of Time that I thought was more musically intricate than “Gates of the Seven Seals”, and that was the long-winded power ballad “Ashes of the Oath”, which had a similarly riveting solo battle between Axel and Ferdy.
In conclusion, ARP really outdid themselves on this one, bringing a new energy to the metal scene with their uncompromising loyalty to the sound of the traditional metal wing. This album has crossover appeal to all fans of melodic heavy metal, young and old. Although both Rhapsody and Blind Guardian had amazing releases this year, this album has my vote for best release of 2006. It’s fresh, it’s consistent, and it’s waiting for you at the local CD store.