Axel Rudi Pell – Game Of Sins (2016)

If this act is new to you, then you’ve probably been living under a rock. But don’t feel bad, as I just discovered the band upon the release of their twenty-five year anniversary DVD, Magic Moments. But what a great place to start, right? Hearing some of the band’s greatest tracks performed in a raw live setting truly shows you what they’re capable of. Yet now we have Game Of Sins, the band’s next in an unbelievable line of heavy metal albums that have spanned throughout the ages. Obviously we can tell where a lot of Axel Rudi Pell’s influences come from, and the very heat and fire of the heavy metal gods (some who’ve become saints, like Dio) can definitely heard on this one.

Just like any good heavy metal record should, this thing truly pounds as a memorable vocal performance from frontman Johnny Gioeli delivers the experience face-first into your auditory nerves, making for the type of heavy metal world that you might have seen adapted in Deathgasm as of late. When you see an armored guitarist standing on top of a mountain with two naked women swooning over him as he shreds a solo, that’s exactly what you can expect here. If “Fire” doesn’t hit you as hard as it to me, or for some odd reason you can’t feel the eighties power of “Sons Of The Night” then you obviously don’t get it. But maybe I don’t get the scene these days either. While talking with a group of metalheads around my own age, I was a bit surprised to see them call this kind of music “old man metal.” I really kind of thought that heads would embrace the very roots that brought forth extreme metal, but that apparently doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Even so, it won’t change my opinion on the power and majesty of a record that has delivered as well as this one has. Game Of Sins is one of those records that can have a powerful title track which extends to nine minutes in length, most of those being moments where a massive solo effort is employed, just like the old days. You know, those “old man metal” days.

There is a ballad here as well, but it’s a little too Poison for me and I guess I’m not feeling it as much as the heftier cuts, but I will say that a fine solo effort is utilized here and surely there’s an audience for this sort of approach. Another interesting note about Game Of Sins is that there are actually three huge cuts here other than the title track, “Til The World Says Goodbye” which is almost a ballad, but far memorable than the previous one and “Forever Free” which is the album’s technical closer. It is also a much slower track, highlighting the fact that Axel and the boys wanted to make a strong, almost AOR friendly album full of real power ballads that drag us kicking and screaming back into the house of hair. I’ve never found anything wrong with these power ballads, especially when those ballads come with balls.

While not as punchy as one might like, it hits you where it counts and shows that we can still make classic music in today’s age that doesn’t feel dated. At least not to me. Keep in mind all the heads that call this stuff “old man metal.” But you know what? That’s fine with me. Because I’ll take my Axel Rudi Pell and age gracefully with the rest of these guys. I’m definitely looking forward to the next one, and the one after that. But before I get too ahead of myself here, I need to mention one very special thing about this record, which is only available on the digipack release. The legendary Jimi Hendrix has indeed been covered here, a definite saint of rock if there ever was one, and the song in particular is the classic “All Along The Watchtower.” The band have definitely given it their own touches though, making it more of a personal interpretation than a karaoke number. This is something Axel has wanted to do for years and is truly excited about having it appear on the album, so definitely pick up that digipack if you want to hear it. In the end, I’m happy with the performance delivered on Game Of Sins and it shows that these guys just keep plowing on without stopping. Here’s to many more.

(11 Tracks, 64:00)

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