Review Summary: They're the Legions of Hell...
Germany's become one of the biggest music capitals of the world. Their country has coined artists such as the vastly popular Scorpions, the influential Gamma Ray, power metal pioneers such as Blind Guardian, Helloween, and Gamma Ray. So when all's said and done, there's one person in the middle of it all: Axel Rudi Pell. He started as a heavy metal player with Steeler in the 80's, then formed his own solo career. Kings and Queens is an interesting album, because it shows just how far this German has progressed. With the breathtaking voice of Johnny Gioeli, and the help of Volker Krawczak (bass), and Mike Terrena (drums), you have AXP.
Kings and Queens is not only an underrated album, but their best so far, because of how this album proved that they are not just some heavy metal band trying to make it big, but there's a professional amount of hard work and experience put into this unsurprisingly likable album. AXP's first five albums went on, just brushed away, until the release of Magic in 1997, which therefore pieced together a reputable respect from the underground community and fans alike, but, on the same hand, not attracting critical attention. Oceans of Time (1998) was their career-changing album, with the replacement of the previously bland singers, replaced with one of the most extraordinary voices in rock history: Johnny Gioeli, previously of Hardline and nowadays Crush 40.
Gioeli's voice is not only the greatest of the vocalists in the band so far; not just one of the best vocalists in the metal genre; but one of the best vocalists of ALL TIME. You could put Gioeli in any genre: be it melodic rock, jazz, j-rock, or alternative, and this would blow anybody away with his mature, powerful voice, that progresses throughout this album. Definitely up to the standards of artists like Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden), and Jorn Lande, and is probably the single highlight of Kings and Queens in itself, soaring beyond all possible notes.
The 10-track LP follows through events regarding war, famine, dictation by the church, hunger, and public cataclysms. This isn't the stereotypical metal album that causes regular teenage pandemonium in the streets: barely comprehensible voices screaming about dying, the urge to kill, and overly loud, horrible guitars, repeat it on 11 tracks, then release an LP and gain a fanbase. Axel Rudi Pell writes with hooking lyrics, though it does get to be tedious at times.
The instrumental work is superb. Axel Rudi Pell is an amazing guitarist, and it shows off in nearly every tracks here: from the crushing melody and haunting midtempo solo in "Legions of Hell", the softer, eerily calm, more emotional riffs throughout "Sea of Evil", and a more catchy, modern day drum-guitar lick mix in "Cold heaven", all have unique beats. The chugging, throbbing bass beats throughout also pack a powerful punch to help make a more memorable album, as shown with the wicked, almost telekinetic riff in "Take the Crown".
There's not a whole lot of things wrong with this album, it really crashes through your mind and packs a powerful punch. One complaint that I have is that, like in every Axel Rudi Pell album, unfortunately, there's one or two songs that don't exactly fit in the album. Said song would have to be "Flyin' High", which features a rather tired, drawled out riff, a little off-beat with the juggernauts on this album. Otherwise, it's an extremely pleasing album. I highly recommend this: it's the greatest album from a band that nobody knows about.
Legions of Hell
Sea of Evil
Take the Crown
Hardline - Double Eclipse
Axel Rudi Pell - The Ballads Vol. 1, 2, and III