Released: 2010, SPV
Lucky studio album #13 for Axel (the good Axel, not the flaky, burned out 80’s rocker) and his stalwart crew of metallions. It’s his 22nd release overall if you count all those compilations, live albums, ballad albums and so on. Having started in 1989, his incredible pace is almost unparalleled in metal. Axel Rudi Pell is without doubt one of the most consistent, prolific metal dudes on the planet. That’s one release per year for 20 years! That has to be a record of some sort, if you exclude those freaky one-man Russian or French black metal dudes who live in a cave with a synthesizer and a computer writing an album per month. Seriously, what other actual band can you name that has done a release per year for 20 years? It’s pretty rare, and talent like Pell’s is pretty rare as well.
I reviewed SHADOWZONE here back in 2002 and in hindsight I was a bit harsh saying it was too slow. Again, in hindsight I probably over-rated 2004's KINGS AND QUEENS as well. Well, my long-standing feelings still stand to a degree, I’d like to see the band speed up. In the promo material the band stated there was no double-kick drum on this album. In my mind that is NOT something to brag about, but something to be ashamed of! The CREST again, is mired in mid-tempo rockers and a smattering of ballads. Where is the speed and power? The danger, the excitement?
I’ve always loved fast songs but the power and the strength of this collection of songs is found elsewhere, namely in the song-writing. I think the key difference that makes me overlook the lack of speed is the fact that the songs on THE CREST are stronger. Opener ‘Too Late’ rocks mightily! Even the deeper album cuts like ‘Burning Rain’ still kick ass. The ballad ‘Glory Nights’ is one of the best he has ever done, soaring vocals, piano and some orchestration, a fantastic performance all round. The obligatory epic, ‘Dark Waves Of The sea’ is a welcome re-visitation of the Oceans Of Time theme. Axel solos are as fluid and fiery as always and vocalist Gioeli never disappoints. In the pre-release hype Axel said in a sense the band is going back to it’s roots, and I for one can hear that, as this album has much more of a song-oriented rock/metal feel than the last few.
I’ve come to accept the fact that the band has it’s signature sound and will likely never deviate, and I admire that. For that I’m upping my rating and setting aside my mild (likely unwarranted) grumbling, because the songs are so well done that one can hardly find fault, just because the songs aren’t ‘fast’. Ultimately, THE CREST is another well-executed album by Axel Rudi Pell with no glaring faults. You could say it is flawless and it truly is, but it lacks the killer instinct to put it into the elite albums of his extensive catalogue.