"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Axel Rudi Pell - "Tales Of The Crown" (CD)

Axel Rudi Pell - "Tales Of The Crown" CD cover image

"Tales Of The Crown" track listing:

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

Reviewed by on April 22, 2009

"Just as it takes people in other lines of work somewhere between 10 and 20 years to become masters of their craft, Axel Rudi Pell is clearly a master."

“Tales of the Crown” is the 18th studio album released by Axel Rudi Pell and his band over the last 20 years. Pell could easily be called the AC/DC of European Power Metal, releasing a plethora of albums that all sound strikingly similar. “Tales of the Crown” offers nothing new that power metal fans haven’t heard a few million times, it’s just that Pell and his band do it better than most everyone else.

Each song follows the same structure with an atmospheric intro that rolls into a mid-tempo riff. Each verse features vocalist Johnny Gioeli restraining himself in the mid-ranges and the chunky intro riff continuing. Between each verse and chorus is a quick bridge where the band kicks up a different key and chord progression. The chorus then brings it all back to the original riff, but it is heightened either by Gioeli hitting a higher octave or more instrumentation layered into the mix. This repeats two to three times, with a searing solo from Pell mixed in somewhere.

Just as it takes people in other lines of work somewhere between 10 and 20 years to become masters of their craft, Axel Rudi Pell is clearly a master. The rhythm riffs are aggressive and meaty, Pell’s solos are nothing short of spectacular, Gioeli has strength and range, and the entire band combined to write tight compositions.

Pell does diverge from the formula a couple times on the album. While he gets kudos for trying, the experiment isn’t wholly a success. “Emotional Echoes” is a Satriani rip-off. Take one part syncopated acoustic guitar and one part over the top solo, and that’s all there really is too it. While the idea is a good one, Pell just doesn’t really do subtle or restrained without sounding cheesy. The title track does work well, however. All the formulaic elements are present, but the band expand on them musically, mixing tempo, chord progressions, and themes effectively, taking the listener through an Old World maze of power metal. The extended length also allows the band to break up the sections of the song, which also adds to the unexpected twists and turns. It is easily the best song on the album.

Just as everyone but hardcore AC/DC fans ignore everything after “The Razor’s Edge,” Axel Rudi Pell’s act is still great, but it is getting old. His dedication to 1980s-style power metal is admirable, but tiring. His compatriots are changing their styles somewhat to fit the musical times, and after 18 albums it may be time for Axel Rudi Pell to do the same.

Highs: Old school Power Metal at its best.

Lows: The lack of imagination makes this boring after a while.

Bottom line: Power Metal fans will love this; everyone else will think it is just okay.

Rated 3.0 out of 5 skulls
3.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)