Released: 2008, SPV
German guitar god Axel Rudi Pell has carved out an impressive career of almost 20 years now. The “German Yngwie” as it were, he’s also had the privilege of working with some of the best vocalists in metal: Rob Rock, Jeff Scott Soto, and for the last ten years, Johnny Gioeli. All have been perfect fits for Pell’s melodic metal riffery and fiery solos. Personally, 2006 marked a high-water mark in Pell’s career, as the brilliant MYSTICA album stayed locked at the top of my playlist for months on end (and still gets played quite a bit!). Although the band faltered with last year’s poorly conceived cover album, DIAMONDS UNLOCKED, I had high hopes for this album.
After listening to this album 20+ times, I’m pleased to report that they have not disappointed. Let me clear right away: TALES OF THE CROWN is not as good as MYSTICA. However, it is easily on par with past glories like OCEANS OF TIME or BETWEEN THE WALLS. Opening with the soaring “Higher”, the band proves they have lost none of their vitality. As expected, they proceed to run through the power metal handbook, with the speedy “Angel Eyes” and “Buried Alive”, the obligatory soulful ballads (“Touching My Soul”), and guitar showcase (“Emotional Echoes”). To be sure, there are no surprises to be heard here, but the touch of class and aristocratic glare that has always set Pell’s albums apart is still intact.
As always, Gioeli’s vocals shine and give the album the over-the-top power to match Pell’s molten riffs and fluid solos. Similarly, the rest of the band are mere background players to the front men. This is no slight on their ability (especially well-traveled drummer Mike Terrana), but a simple fact of playing in a band like this. Seriously, has anyone ever truly cared about anyone in Yngwie’s bands other than the guitar hero himself and his vocalist? Of course not. Well, it’s the same thing here.
At this point I think Pell and co. are incapable of releasing a poor album. While they may never put out something experimental or surprising, so long as the output keeps the high quality, I and the band’s legions of fans will be happy.