The first two tracks on the new album from the hardest working man in heavy metal, Axel Rudi Pell, will amaze and delight in equal measure, of that I’m sure.

I refer to Herr Pell’s work rate – in the eight years that Sentinel Daily has been extant, this is the seventh album he’s put out – because, stolid and reliable though he undoubtedly is, I’ve long thought that his production line attitude to releases must have an effect on the quality of the output. I don’t think many people would disagree if I pointed out that many of Pell’s albums have a certain ‘familiar’ feel to them.

Now, back to my initial statement. All of what I have said being taken into account, I feel sure you’ll fall off your chair when confronted with opening track Forever Strong, which is as good a piece of vicious, sidewinding Teutonic metal as I’ve heard in some while. If Forever Stong appeared on a Dirkschneider album, for instance, you wouldn’t be surprised, and it is undoubtedly a feather in the band’s cap that they’ve opted to go with this as an opener when something a little more ‘lived in’ would have been the easier option.

Similarly Guardian Angel, track number two, goes a little further than before, being a fully fledged piece of melodic metal you might imagine Bon Jovi coming up with pre-Slippery When Wet… It’s great to hear Johnny Gioeli in his wheelhouse on an ARP album, rather than huffing and puffing and trying to be the best Ronnie James he can be. This isn’t world changing stuff by any means, but in the context of an Axel Rudi Pell it’s a step in the right direction.

However all that momentum is stopped in it’s tracks by an overlong and pointless version of Led Zeppelin‘s Immigrant Song, which adds nothing to the original but does take the shine off of the promising start made by the first two tracks. Two steps forward…

Darkest Hour goes some way to getting the band back on track, again featuring some fine drumming from Bobby Rondinelli, who it must be said is impressive throughout, but then Axel Rudi’s obsession with eastern-tinged epicality is indulged by ten minute epic Ankhaia which opens promisingly – think Tony Martin-era Sabbath – before bleeding out ten minutes later with only Ferdy Doenberg‘s keys – played on the setting marked ‘Kashmir’ – for company…

Still, I guess Sabbath and Zeppelin is progress of a sort – there’s barely a whiff of Blackmore here, and the muscular mid section of the track, with it’s Innuendo-styled flamenco touches, is actually pretty entertaining if truth be told… and as usual the musicianship, as opposed to other factors, is beyond reproach.

Things pick up significantly with Hell’s On Fire, which again harnesses a bit of olden day New Jersey piss n’vinegar and joins the two opening tracks in the ‘best they’ve done in ages’ file. An album full of this kind of stuff would have been, well, amazing, actually…

But, at the end of the day, who am I trying to kid? Axel Rudi Pell knows what he likes, his audience obviously more so. Why fix what ain’t broken? He’s thrown old cynics like me a bone here with some neat, if minor, adjustments to the format, and maybe that’s the best anybody could hope for. If you’re already a fan, this will only intensify your devotion. If you’re not… move on. There’s nothing to hear here…

Risen Symbol releases on June 17th.