Live albums seem to be all the rage in the Power Metal scene these days. After enduring two hours and twenty minutes of Iced Earth, I discovered that Axel Rudi Pell had a live album, too. Live on Fire is their 2012 set from Essigfabrik, in Cologne, Germany. [The retail CD/DVD sets have a second disc featuring the band’s performance at the 2012 Rock of Ages festival.] In a way, this live set reminded me of listening to the Dio at Donington UK 1983 & 1987 live album in more ways than just one. I’ve always thought that vocalist Johnny Gioeli had a voice that was eerily similar to the late Ronnie James Dio. This is especially noticeable live. They have comparable accents and intonations. It always made Axel Rudi Pell sound like a Power Metal version of Dio to me. The other similarity between the Dio live CD and Axel Rudi Pell’s is the extensive use of medleys. In order to compress a whole array of songs into a short set, Dio would often play several songs mashed up together. I always hated that and wanted to hear the complete songs. A truncated version of “Holy Diver” never did it for me because I thought the whole song was awesome. It made portions of the live show seem like a DJ set instead of a concert. I might just be weird like that, but it gets my goat. Such is the case here on Live on Fire. The medley of “The Masquerade Ball” and four other songs was pretty good, but I would’ve preferred that each song get its own time instead of including a drum solo, keyboard solo and a jam session in the middle of “Carousel.” I’ve always found drum solos to be a waste of time (unless you happen to be Neil Peart of Rush) because they’re pretty uninteresting even by drum wanker standards. The one on Live on Fire is eight minutes of intermission. It’s enough time to go to the bathroom or go to the fridge for some food and still get back in time before the next actual song (“Mystica”) starts up. Maybe it’s more exciting on the DVD version of this (the label, as usual, only sent us the audio portion for review, and just half of even that), but I can’t see how it would be. The keyboard solo is marginally better, but it was still pretty pointless. The playing on this album is essentially spot-on otherwise. If you’re a fan of Axel Rudi Pell, you’ll definitely like it. As with most of my live album reviews, I always recommend getting the video version if there is one available (and there typically is one). The visual element adds a lot to a live recording. Concerts are as much about the visual aspects as they are about the music. When you just listen to the audio, you miss out on half of the show. If you’re a fan of the band, this is definitely worth it for the most part. The sound is great, and outside of the obvious filler material (the drum and keyboard solos), this is a solid release.
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