What do you call a musician, who has released his tenth regular studio album, since the very beginning does not have any really big surprises, but still always has had quality material? Exactly, Axel Rudi Pell. The former STEELER guitarist has surrounded himself with great musicians ever since the release of the debut “Wild Obsession” in 1989, among which there has been and still is one constant: Bassist Volker Krawczak.
Especially in vocalists Axel always has had a very good hand, with Charlie Huhn on “Wild Obsession“, Rob Rock on “Nasty Reputation“, then for “Eternal Prisoner“, “Between The Walls“, “Black Moon Pyramid“ and “Magic“ Jeff Scott Soto and since “Oceans Of Time“ he has topped the whole thing off with HARDLINE fronter Johnny Gioeli, whose voice fits the music almost perfectly, even better than Soto, just listen to the title track of “The Masquerade Ball”, who doesn’t get goose bumps there is hopeless.
Now we have “Kings And Queens“ and after the intro “The Gate” “Flyin’ High” sets out in typical double-bass driven manner that it is a bliss, with Pell’s archetypical guitar sound and Gioeli’s great voice, a damn good start, I would say. But it is the only really fast track, apart from that Axel Rudi is living out his love for stomping Melodic Metal and extensive Rock epics. “Strong As A Rock” is a really strong song, where atmospheric keyboards meet heavy guitars and a super catchy chorus, together with a Pell solo that will drop your jaw.
„Forever Angel“ is another proof that Axel is a master of emotional, but unkitschy ballads, majestic most probably is the best expression, Gioeli’s voice does his part. “Legions Of Hell” with its almost nine minutes is one of the two long tracks and is mostly measured, very intense and enriched with foreign sounding melodies in the guitars, so that time flies, that’s the way it should be.
„Only The Strong Survive“ is a bit the life wisdom of Axel Rudi Pell, who never in his career let anybody mislead him and went his own way, no matter what happened and he has survived, no question, here transferred into a powerful song, which after the two previous calmer tracks picks up the pace again, before “Take The Crown” sees Axel fire on all cylinders again, with a calm start the song turns into a powerful Rocker, which should satisfy every fan of ARP, before “Sea Of Evil” (another eight minute epos) closes things off in fashion.
As said before, who expects big surprises with Axel hasn’t heard the shot anyway, but still “Kings And Queens“ has turned out to be a really strong album, which thankfully is not too close to the two previous albums. Let’s put it that way: If you like Pell, then you’ll like “Kings And Queens”, if not, well, then not… (Online March 19, 2004)