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Pell, Axel Rudi - Tales of the crown 3.5/5

Reviewed: 3-13-09


1. Higher
2. Ain't gonna win
3. Angel eyes
4. Crossfire
5. Touching my soul
6. Emotional echoes
7. Riding on an arrow
8. Tales of the crown
9. Buried alive
10. Northern lights

German heavy metal guitarist, Axel Rudi Pell and his band have returned after a short absence to release their 12th full-length CD. In between previous studio CD ‘Mystica’ and this one entitled ‘Tales of the crown’, Axel Rudi Pell released a CD of cover songs called ‘Diamonds unlocked’. The CD covered such bands and artists like U2, Phil Collins, Kiss, The Who and Michael Bolton. Axel Rudi Pell also released a DVD in early 2008 called ‘Live over Europe’.

Keeping themselves busy with those above-mentioned projects, the band were also able to release ‘Tales of the crown’ in October 2008. The CD follows the same formula as previous Axel Rudi Pell releases, after all they have never strayed from what they know and do best; 100% pure European melodic heavy metal, with influences ranging from Rainbow, Ronnie James Dio, Ritchie Blackmore and Yngwie Malmsteen.

Aside from the brilliant and creative guitar work of Mr. Axel Rudi Pell, who also writes all the music and lyrics, there is also vocalist Johnny Gioeli; who in my opinion is one of the best metal singers around today. His voice is so perfect for this style of melodic heavy metal; full of emotion, depth and melody. And let’s not forget the exquisite veteran drummer, Mike Terrana, who has been with the band since 2000. Filling in the large shoes left by current Stratovarius drummer Jorg Michael, who left the band in 1998, Mike Terrana has been a major factor in Axel Rudi Pell’s sound and success.

Releasing the next CD after (arguably) one of their best releases to date, ‘Mystica’, is always a hard thing to do. There is always added expectations that the successor will be just as good, if not better than the previous. Fortunately, the band has had a knack of doing just that. Axel Rudi Pell have released quality CD after quality CD, including such masterpieces as ‘Oceans of time’, ‘The masquerade ball’, ‘Shadow zone’ and ‘Kings and queens’; all released in sequence from the band’s discography. Now, they have done it again, with ‘Tales of the crown’ being a superb release after the awesome ‘Mystica’.

Breaking habit, the CD does not begin with Axel Rudi Pell’s trademark instrumental introductions, which has donned every release since ‘Between the walls’; the band’s 4th full-length CD. The opening track is also not a short and speedy one, again something that usually follows the typical intros. Instead, the opening number is an epic 7-minute wonder, entitled “Higher”. This type of track would usually sit somewhere around the middle or to the back end of an Axel Rudi Pell release. Nevertheless “Higher” is still a strong opening track, with a great driving beat and full of Pell’s signature riffling that will get your foot tapping and your air guitars from out of the closet. The track basically sets the scene for what you will expect from the remainder of the CD.

Once “Higher” has been imprinted into your brain, the 2nd track called “Ain’t gonna win” begins. With another typical Axel Rudi Pell galloping guitar riff backing the track, Johnny Gioeli’s emotional vocals brings you into the song, much like the rats and children who were mesmerized by the Pied Piper of Hamelin. The CD continues with “Angel eyes”, your typical speedy Axel Rudi Pell track in the same vein as “Fly to the moon” from ‘Mystica’, and “Flyin’ high” from ‘Kings and queens’.

After the mid-paced rocker “Crossfire”, we get the first epic ballad of the CD, entitled “Touching my soul”. Now we all know that Axel Rudi Pell loves to write ballads. He loves ballad so much that he has released 3 CDs dedicated to all the ballads which have graced their entire discography. “Touching my soul” is yet another standout ballad, with heartfelt lyrics and heartfelt vocals from Johnny Gioeli. After the somewhat disappointing instrumental “Emotional echoes”, comes one of the best tracks on the CD, “Ridding on an arrow”. It’s catchy, melodic and superbly written. The awesome chorus is one of those which sticks in your head, long after you’ve heard the track.

The title track “Tales of the crown” is the 2nd of the 3 epic tracks, which Axel Rudi Pell is widely known for. The song follows in the same footsteps as previous wondrous epics such as “The masquerade ball”, “The gates of the seven seals” and “Magic”. As always, Mr. Pell places his signature extended guitar solo through the middle part of the energetic track. The CD rounds off with the fast “Buried alive” and the final epic track, “Northern lights”.

It’s fantastic to see a band such as this to be always on their game and releasing so many high quality CDs for so many years. There are not an awful amount of bands which could say the same thing. Although Axel Rudi Pell has never strayed from their original sound that began with “Wild obsession” way back in 1989, every CD they produce sounds fresh, exciting and full of talent, emotion and heart. ‘Tales of the crown’ continues this trend and is just as good as previous “classics” from the band. Fans of other metal genres can also find something enjoyable from the band’s music, particularly power metal and gothic rock. Power metal fans could enjoy the guitar work, riffs, hooks and solos; while those gothic rock fans can find enjoyment from the song’s melodies and the passionate vocals of the lead singer.

So whether you enjoyed ‘Mystica’, ‘Kings and queens’ or anything else, especially from the Johnny Gioeli era (1998 onwards), then there is a good chance that this release will again tantalize your ears as well as your emotions.




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