Axel Rudi Pell is nearly thirty years into his solo career, and has shifted over a million copies (mainly in Germany) of his to-date fifteen solo albums. These are facts that deserve praise, for sure, but beyond that I can’t really find much of positive note to remark upon with the release of his new opus, Game of Sins.
It’S not bad, of course, and never less than solidly professional. Newish drummer, former Rainbow man Bobby Rondinelli, puts in a powerhouse performance behind the kit, and Pell’s Blackmore-inspired rifferama sometimes still manages to bring the hairs on the back of the neck to attention – his closing solo on the album’s title track is particularly pleasing. But the fact remains that this album sounds exactly the same as every other record the man has put out, particularly since the arrival behind the mic of former Hardline vocalist Johnny Gioeli in 1998. Although there’s a pleasing grit to Gioeli’s voice, it’s simply too ordinary to add any colour or panache to what’s going on here. And too often what’s going on here is stodgy, by-numbers Euro power metal sitting somewhere between the Scorpions at their most aggressive and Dio at their least inspired.
Falling Star almost catches the rainbow, as it were, again mainly because of some fine fingerwork from the maestro, but by the time you get to the half way mark on the album Gioeli’s voice begins to grate and the attention starts to wander.
I suspect the root problem of all this is that nobody in the band (rounded out in this instance by Rough Silk bassist Ferdy Doernberg and bassist Volker Krawczak) is a strong enough songwriter or personality to convince the man in charge to depart from his stock repertoire of stodgy rockers and dated ballads and take up some new directions; by far the most interesting thing ARP has released in recent years was his collection of covers, 2007’s Diamonds Unlocked, wherein the likes of Phil Collins and Michael Bolton were treated to metallized makeovers with appealing results, results that confirmed Herr Pell is probably better off interpreting the work of others if the best he can come up with on his own is another workmanlike collection such as Game of Sins. For completists and rabid fans only.
Game of Sins is out now on SPV/Steamhammer