Thursday, March 15, 2018

Album Review: Axel Rudi Pell - Knights Call

When it comes to melodic heavy metal, there is probably no one more consistent than Axel Rudi Pell. He may get thrown in with AC/DC and Motorhead as artists who deliver the same album time and again, but given how much we often criticize left turns that don't work out, I hardly think someone can be blamed for sticking with what they're good at. This new album marks his seventeenth outing, and once again finds Axel and his cohorts doing exactly what they do. When you put on an Axel Rudi Pell album, you know what you're getting. The differences are only in degrees of success. So where do we stand this time?

After the obligatory intro, we go to the well that has been in place since at least "Neon Knights", with the album starting off with a shorter, swifter, and punchier number to get things going with a bang. The guitars are a bit hazier than I remember Axel preferring, but Johnny Gioeli continues to be one of the most underrated vocalists in the game. He sounds great, and the melody comes through enough to make "The Wild And The Young" a fine way to ease into this record.

Like I said before, Axel Rudi Pell albums are gradations on a monochrome at this point. Some are slightly darker, some are slightly faster, but they all are cut from the same cloth. One thing of note is that Pell can't hide his affection for Ritchie Blackmore, as this album features both "Long Live Rock" and "Tower Of Babylon", which aren't dissimilar titles to Rainbow songs. Unfortunately, the former succumbs to the trend of songs about rock and roll neither rocking nor rolling. I've noted this before, though I've never pinned down exactly why, but songs with this subject matter go for simple jingoism that simply isn't that interesting.

In typical fashion, we get a couple of more epic cuts, which are properly dramatic and satisfying, as well as a ballad. I'm usually the first guy to say I'm a sucker for ballads, but this one lacks some of the romantic sweep of his best ones, dragging on too long without enough of an emotional payoff. Seven-plus minutes is a bit too long for how much material is in it.

However, that concern is a small part of the record. For the most part, Axel Rudi Pell has delivered another album that succeeds at providing us a healthy dose of melodic metal in the old-school way. Axel hasn't changed over the years, which is a good thing. When you have a sound that works, there's nothing wrong with giving people what you know you can do. Axel has been doing that for a long time now, and he does it again here. Is "Knights Call" better or worse than the other albums he's been putting out in recent years? That's hard to say. What I can say is that he always delivers a solid product, and that's the case here too. "Knights Call" is certainly an enjoyable record.

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