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Review: Axel Rudi Pell - Tales of the Crown
Axel Rudi Pell
Tales of the Crown

Label: SPV
Year released: 2008
Duration: 60:30
Tracks: 10
Genre: Melodic Heavy Metal

Rating: 1.75/5

Review online: December 31, 2008
Reviewed by: Larry Griffin
Readers Rating
Tales of the Crown

Rated 3.53/5 (70.59%) (17 Votes)

So the other day I was thinking to myself, "Hey, I'd really like to hear one of my favorite bands making royal asses of themselves and creating something moronic and embarrassing." Well, luckily I had this piece of crap on hand to fulfill my desires. As I said, Axel Rudi Pell are one of my favorite Power Metal bands, and to see them fall this hard is nothing short of disheartening. I mean, it isn't even like Tales of the Crown is that different in style from what they normally do. It's still a hefty mixture of ballsy Hard Rock and melodic Power Metal, and it still has the choruses and Johnny Gioeli's spellbinding vocal lines, so what makes it such an unappealing album?

Well, let's start with Gioeli himself, since I've already mentioned him. The man has class, I must say. I've always liked his sleazy, melodic croon, and the way it meshes into the Rainbow/Dio mode of the music hits the spot every time. He hit the highs with relative ease, and pretty much everything he sung just oozed with confidence and personality. To put it lightly, you would be a fool to discredit the man's ability, and...well, actually I don't like him much on this album. I don't know if it's his fault entirely, but he never hits any highs here. What the hell? This much wasted talent on one album should be a goddamn crime. But no, he never hits any highs here, and most of the time his vocals are frightfully dull and uninspiring. Again, I'm not sure how much of this is Gioeli's fault, because I'd guess a lot of the songwriting duties are handled by our very own metal maestro himself, Axel Rudi Pell.

Yes, let's talk about Pell, next, then. I've been hearing some bad things about his recent work, like that covers album he did last year, and I wisely avoided that, but this one hit me right in the face at the height of a little Axel Rudi Pell listening spree, and I couldn't avoid it if I tried. To put it plainly and simply, I think Mr. Pell is losing it. While you wouldn't be able to guess from looking at the cover or the song titles, which still remain pretty normal for these guys, this album is a huge step down in terms of songwriting quality. Whereas previous albums boosted themselves to the heavens with sky-high rockers like "Cold Heaven," "Ashes from the Oath" and "Mystica," this album's best points include the groovy, modern sounding "Ain't Gonna Win" and the unmemorable "Angel Eyes." And the instrumental "Emotional Echoes" is cool, but it isn't really that memorable either, and doesn't even sound like Pell. It's more akin to a lush Prog Rock band or something, but at least the experimentation here works.

And if those are the albums best points, just imagine how much worse it gets otherwise. The opening "Higher" isn't terrible, but it sure as fuck isn't good either. It's got this boring, slow, plodding riff that seems to be trying to be "epic," but it really just goes nowhere. In fact, that's the main problem with most of this album. It doesn't go anywhere. This album is just filled to the brim with stupid shit like "Crossfire" and the ridiculously generic "Touching My Soul," and the underwhelming closer "Northern Lights." There doesn't seem to be any logical conclusions for these songs; they start and end in the same place. There is no point to this stuff except for Pell to prove that he and his band are still active, and I must say that it is all extremely uninspiring and insipid. Axel Rudi Pell were always a good band because they wrote tunes that soared with iron wings and unbeatable morale, and on Tales to the Crown, the compositions just sort of lurch and shuffle along like zombies in a George Romero movie. I don't listen to this band because I like zombies, I listen to them because they used to be good. I listened to this band because they were uplifting and happy sounding, so why is this album different? Why?

The two worst songs here deserve mention, as they actually come right after one another. The title track is the bigger offender, as Axel's epic compositions have always been great, so it's that much more painful to admit that this one sucks goat testicles. Seriously, this is horrible. It's got this bizarre layered "dark" sounding chorus that seems more fitting for a band like Edguy, because Edguy knows how to do it right. This just sounds really awkward. Then the song proceeds to meander on for eight minutes with a slow part that sounds like they ripped it out of a totally different song and some chugging riffs that will make you roll your eyes in boredom and disgust. "Buried Alive" comes next, one of the "fast" songs that Pell promised, and man does it ever blow. It should be good, in theory, but the execution is all wrong, with Gioeli singing the chorus in this strained, angry sounding "darker" voice over these heavy, pummeling quasi-Thrash riffs, with no sign of a classic Pell solo in sight. It just sounds incredibly awkward, silly and puerile. The kind of thing that makes the listener feel dirty even listening to it.

I know I'm sounding a bit biased and unfair here, as bands experimenting is never a bad thing, but would it really be too much to ask for said bands to do...I don't know, an actual GOOD EXPERIMENT? Come on, this album is terrible. Axel Rudi Pell was famous for being one of the most consistent and stubborn artists in the business, putting out album after album of his big, cheery Power Metal mastery, so what the fuck is the logic in finally deciding to experiment almost twenty goddamn years after starting his band? I mean, seriously, do I really have to write that much about this? Tales of the Crown is a weak and pitiful album by a band that I think we can pretty much write off at this point. Pass.

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