Produced by: A.R. Pell & Ulrich Poesselt

Released: April 10 / Website
Closest Relative: Zeno, Hardline
GENRE: Hard Rock

  1. The Arrival (Intro)
  2. Earls Of Black
  3. Voodoo Nights
  4. Night And Rain
  5. The Masquerade Ball
  6. Tear Down The Walls
  7. The Line
  8. Hot Wheels
  9. The Temple Of The Holy
  10. July Morning

Axel's last album was a killer. I had been an OK fan of his, but adding Johnny Giolei (ex-Hardline) to the fold as vocalist and the deeper, darker and stronger songs of Oceans Of Time converted me full time.
This is the follow up new studio album to Oceans Of Time after the Ballads II side project.
Gioeli is back on vocals with the great power drummer Mike Terrana from Rage replacing Jorg Michael, while the rest of the band remains unchanged.
The overall sound of The Masquerade Ball is similar to that of Oceans Of Time, the production team is the same, but there are a few subtle differences.
This album appears to be a little mellower, more restrained and a little less over the top than the usual Axel fare. Oceans Of Time made a move towards a more mature sound and this album continues to move further in that direction.
Unlike some of the axe slinger out there, Axel takes particular pride in crafting a song and adding rhythm
and depth to it before adding some of the much anticipated solo's and lead breaks over that.
Some do it the other way, trying to patch a song together over 4 minutes of soloing!
The main difference with this album are the Epic's. There are again 4 tracks over 7 minute in length, but these tracks try a few different tricks than your traditional slow to fast building epic.
Earls Of Black opens the album in understandably traditional Axel Rudi Pell fashion - flat out pedal to the metal Euro hard rock.
Voodoo Nights is a straight forward rocker. As straight forward as Axel gets anyway! A good hard guitar riff and fairly restrained chorus. Good vocals from Gioeli.
Night And Rain is the first epic, clocking in at 8 minutes. The feel of the intro is thick with atmosphere. A slow guitar break and soft vocal over a moody-ish feel.
The chorus comes quicker than expected as things warm up. A good almost commercial feeling chorus. The expected guitar solo / instrumental break comes, although it's a little more restrained and laid out that I would have expected. Over all a good moody slow to mid paced rocker.
The 10 minute plus title track, The Masquerade Ball, follows straight after. A great vocal from Gioeli sets the song up. He really sings his balls off on this track. But even though the song is slow and dark, neither the guitar, not the vocals rule. It's very evenly balanced and quite laid back in it's feel.
Tear Down The Walls breaks the pace up a little with a fairly straight forward uptempo hard rocker. In the vibe of Ride The Rainbow from the last album.
The next epic The Line opens with an acoustic guitar and another great lead intro vocal. The guitar is heavy without being dominant and then it's back to an acoustic and some soft synth accompaniment. The lead solo is long, slow and very moody. Great playing.
Hot Wheels is another uptempo hard rocker that seem to break the epic's up nicely. I love the guitar riff on this track. Weighty and thick without being overly heavy.
The Temple Of The Holy is an epic that opens with a piano backing Gioeli's ballad like vocal. The song stays on this course for most of it's 7 minutes. Occasional slow lead solo's over a very moody and slow base.
The last track on the album runs 10 minutes. July Morning opens with an organ an then an electric guitar solo with rhythm guitar then being added. The rest of the song varies in pace, again a laid back verse to a heavier moody chorus, but with the organ almost out doing the guitar parts.
BOTTOM LINE: This album is the natural progression from Oceans Of Time and partners that album perfectly. The surprise for me is that is it relatively laid back and filled with many fine solo's, but few of them at the traditional frantic pace some Euro metal albums tend to run with. Axel has tried to create a moody record with the formula for your typical epic being changed to suit. And happily I can report that it works very well.
Add to that some expectedly fine vocals from Johnny Gioeli and this is another killer album from Axel Rudi Pell, albeit a softer on than we have come to expect.
ESSENTIAL FOR: Every Axel fan, fans of Euro hard rock and some Hardline fans.
DISCOGRAPHY:Wild Obsession . Nasty Reputation . Eternal Prisoner . Ballads . Between The Walls . Made In Germany . Black Moon Pyramid . Magic . Oceans Of Time . Ballads 2 . The Masquerade Ball