Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Album Review: Axel Rudi Pell - Game Of Sins

Axel Rudi Pell is one of those artists who has been around seemingly forever, and who has a reputation for putting out wildly consistent albums, which is another way of saying that they all sound the same. That's not always a criticism, for as long as an artist has a sound I enjoy, I don't complain about getting more music that fits my taste. Over the years, I've sampled several of Axel's albums, and I always leave with the same impression; I like what I hear, but I'll get back to them next time. That next time is here.

The obligatory introduction is a bit different this time around, with a sound that is a mix of sinister circus and demented polka. That is merely a prelude, as "Fire" opens the album with all the trademarks; Axel's oversaturated guitar sound, plenty of classic rock, and Johnny Gioeli's fantastic voice. Album after album, he continues to deliver great performances that should garner more attention, since his voice is that good. The song itself is a standard melodic metal song that doesn't do anything we haven't heard many times before, but I don't mind when it's done well, and that's the case here.

As the press release that comes with the album says, "Game Of Sins" might just be the heaviest album in recent years. There's a slightly higher focus on the big, pounding songs that lean more towards the metal side, rather than classic rock. Axel's guitar tone has always been pure metal, and a point of contention, but so many of his songs are rooted in the sound of Rainbow. The title track is an epic in the vain of "Stargazer" and "Gates Of Babylon", but it's betrayed by the guitar tone, which simply doesn't match the tone of the song. Axel pushes the amps so hard that when the main riff kicks in, the chugging guitars sound weak and fuzzy, rather than hitting you over the head with their power.

But aside from that, there isn't much to complain about here. Axel and his band have been at this for long enough that they know exactly what they're doing. What you get here is an album of rock solid, melodic metal that never strays from what Axel has always done. There's a couple tracks a bit more up-tempo, a ballad that ups the cheese factor, and songs that are highly enjoyable to listen to. In that respect, "Game Of Sins" is a clear winner.

There is another side to the story, however. I'm not going to argue that Axel should be changing up his sound, since there's nothing wrong with it. But after as many albums as he has released, it is harder to write a truly exceptional song in that same style. Nothing on here is even close to not being good, but even some of the phrasings are starting to sound familiar. They're still enjoyable, but I don't think any of the songs can possibly hit as hard as the first time you would have heard an Axel Rudi Pell album.

So my takeaway from "Game Of Sins" is that if you've ever liked Axel Rudi Pell, this will be another no-brainer. It's every bit as good as the records he's been putting out, and an enjoyable way to pass some time. I don't think it will carve out a place in this year's memory, but not every album has to do that. Sometimes, being a good listen is enough, and if that's true here, "Game Of Sins" has done its job.

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