AXEL RUDI PELL Discusses New Studio Album “Risen Symbol” & The Importance Of Staying True To One’s Craft: “I See Myself As A Regular Guitar Player Who Can Write And Compose Good Songs”

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Somewhere between the organic feel of 70s hard rock and the wild technical craze of 80s heavy metal exists a middle ground where true magic resides. This is the realm occupied by Axel Rudi Pell, German virtuoso guitarist, and longtime solo artist, alongside one of the most prolific artists in the business at present.

Originally cutting his teeth in the European rock scene in the mid-80s with the Wattenscheid-based Steeler (not to be confused with the L.A., Ron Keel-fronted band that was the original springboard for Swedish shred god Yngwie Malmsteen), Pell has since amassed a strong following across the European continent and beyond, fielding a massive 20 full-length albums of original material, alongside an impressive array of compilations showcasing his ballad work and an eclectic selection of cover songs adapted to his own signature style.

Amid his longevity as an artist, Axel’s band has proven a marvel stylistic consistency with a correspondingly stable lineup despite changing and wildly divergent trends throughout its 35-year run. Even at the height of the grunge explosion that saw many similar bands west of the Atlantic lose viability, Pell would unleash an unapologetic display of 80s melodic rock/metal mysticism that bridged the divide between Rainbow’s “Bent Out Of Shape” and Dio’s “Holy Diver” with zero signs of stylistic impact from the Seattle craze in question.

From his own perspective, Pell has expressed admiration for several of grunge’s prominent artists, not the least among them being Kurt Cobain, but his conviction in continuing on his path would see him pen such extravagant albums as “Eternal Prisoner,” “Between The Walls” and “Black Moon Pyramid” with famed former Rising Force vocalist Jeff Scott Soto at the helm during the darkest days of metal’s history as an art form in the public eye; albums that arguably functioned as a rallying cry for the subsequent second wave of European power metal.

“Risen Symbol” Album Artwork

Yet when considering the entirety of Axel Rudi Pell’s run as a band, the most pivotal development would occur in the years that would follow. Arguably the most consequential album of Pell’s solo career, namely 1998’s “Oceans Of Time,” would see the arrival of former Hardline vocalist Johnny Gioeli and keyboardist Ferdy Doernberg, codifying what could be dubbed this band’s signature sound. Though several drummers of note such as ex-Stratovarius kit man Jorg Michael and prolific studio and touring veteran Mike Terrana would filter in and out, the current incarnation with ex-Warlock drummer Robby Rodinelli in congress since 2014’s “Into The Storm” stands as the fold that Pell himself considers the most potent and finely tuned incarnation of the project.

The albums that have followed have showcased a band continually refining their vintage 70s and 80s-inspired sound, with a controlled sense of evolution that has kept things from becoming an overt throwback and well within the realm of present-day studio practices. One might argue that the song ultimately remains the same here, but with the arrival of Pell‘s latest studio entry “Risen Symbol” standing as a culmination of the past 10 years of studio work, it’s a song that also seems to get better and still has few surprises left in store.

Though his fans might see him as either a king who is also a wizard, or possibly the reigning king of wizards, Axel Rudi Pell is a veteran of the stage and studio who has remained humble and approaches his craft with a clear-cut philosophy of his skill serving his songs, rather than the other way around. Jonathan Smith was fortunate to catch up with this auspicious weaver of an older style in a new era to reminisce upon his formative years as a guitarist in the 70s, his subsequent tenure in both Steeler and his eponymous solo band, and his newly minted 20th studio album “Risen Symbol.”

Alongside his glowing words for such noted influences as Ritchie Blackmore, Uli Jon Roth, Michael Schenker, and Eddie Van Halen, Pell was of good humor when discussing the occasional comparisons to Malmsteen, the odd coincidence of his first prominent band sharing the same name with the latter’s first noteworthy project, and was frequently self-deprecating in his approach to humor while plugging his extensive body of work.

Words like staying power, stalwart, and tenacity don’t begin to do justice to the commitment and ethic that has kept him in the game into his mid-60s, and it’s a foregone conclusion that he will continue to build mist-shrouded, magical castles of sound as long as his mortal avatar remains upon this Earth.

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