Axel Rudi Pell - Diamonds Unlocked
Steamhammer
Melodic Hard Rock Covers
10 songs (58:05)
Release year: 2007
Axel Rudi Pell, Steamhammer
Reviewed by Mike

German melodic rocker Axel Rudi Pell is back with a new studio album, Diamonds Unlocked. Axel has decided to follow up his last two albums, which are both very solid, with a cover album. Usually, I'm not too fond of cover albums. With most, I find myself listening to such an album once or twice out of curiosity, but nothing more. I suppose that's partly because cover albums almost never improve upon the original they are paying tribute to. Furthermore, many cover album aren't too adventurous in song selection, and don't make much of an attempt to 'personalize" the song. With this album, Axel Rudi Pell has made some very interesting choices, resulting in mixed bag as far as this album is concerned. The band doesn't simply try to copy-paste the original song. Instead, they give each song a new sound, much like a new ARP song.

After a useless instrumental introduction (I wish bands would quite plopping these at the beginning of albums), the albums kicks off with their rendition of Riot's Warrior. Right away, I can tell that even though this is a cover album, it will stick with the familiar recipe of all ARP albums. That is, a speedy melodic metal track will open, followed by a couple melodic hard rocking tracks, then a ballad, and then a mix of AOR, hard rock, and a couple more ballads for the balance of the album. Sure enough, that's exactly how Diamonds Unlocked unfolds. But, I digress. The band's cover of Warrior stays pretty true to the original, unlike most of the other tracks. As a huge Riot fan, I will say that this version of Warrior is a respectable and worthwhile track, but it's impossible to duplicate the raw energy of the incredible Rock City debut album from Riot. Next is the first adventurous selection from Axel and the guys. U2's Beautiful Day is given the ARP treatment, and I like the result. Axel turns this into a great, guitar driven melodic hard rock tune. The original is weak in terms of the guitar work, but Axel Rudi Pell fixes that quite nicely on this album. While different from the original, Gioeli tackles the vocals on this one very well. Next up is the first ballad, Chris Rea's Stone. Again, the band turns this into what would otherwise sound like your typical Axel Rudi Pell power ballad on any other album. It's not a stand out by any means, but it is a respectable tribute to the original. The truly interesting ballad is next, Kiss' Love Gun. Yes, Axel Rudi Pell has turned this 80's sex tinged rocker into an acoustic ballad. I will give credit to the band for trying to put an interesting spin on this track, but I don't like the end result here. Stripping the song of all its pomp and circumstance just doesn't fit a song like Love Gun, in my opinion. Again, I think Axel's intentions were in the right place, but they just missed the mark on this one. Many of you may not realize that current day adult contemporary, "wussy ballad" extraordinaire, Michael Bolton actually used to rock way back when. He was in a melodic rock / metal band called Blackjack in the late 70's, and his self titled debut album in the early 80's features some great melodic hard rock and AOR with appearances by Bob and Bruce Kulick. Axel Rudi Pell has chosen Fool's Game from this debut album to cover, and again, great result. He strips back the Bon Jovi-ish keyboards from the original and beefs up the guitars for what turns into a heavier, melodic hard rock cut. A cover of Free's Heartbreaker is next, and this is a pure blues song. The guitar work is excellent, sure to please blues fans out there. Stylistically, this track is somewhat out of place from the rest of the album, in that it doesn't fall under the melodic metal / hard rock / AOR umbrella. This is a pure blues jam here, so that will certainly make it a love it or leave it type of song for many. Rock the Nation by Montrose is next. The band stays pretty true to the original, with the big exception being the guitar solos. Axel takes this opportunity to inject his own extended solo into the song, and it works very well. As I've commented elsewhere, it's enough of a difference and "personalization" to make this sound like a true ARP rocker having not knowing any better. Another interesting choice comes next with Phil Collins' In the Air Tonight. The band gives this song a lot more guitars (intense, but very tasteful), a slightly different drum beat, and some very cool keyboard textures to provide an excellent atmosphere. Also, the song is sped up just a bit from the original. Gioeli nails down some passionate vocals to boot. Certainly, this is one of the highlights of the album. The British pop tune Like A Child Again follows, and ARP has turned this into an acoustic, piano ballad. This time, the ballad treatment is surprisingly effective. Unlike Love Gun which really falls flat, this is a masterful reconstruction of the original. Closing the album is a cover of The Who classic, Won't Get Fooled Again. The verses and choruses stay pretty true to the original, and the keyboards are very reminiscent of the 70's rock from which the song was born. The guitars are fattened up a bit, and Axel tweaks things with some of his own guitar solos. However, the drums aren't nearly as intense as the original, so that kills some of the appeal of the ARP version for me.

All in all, Axel Rudi Pell has put together a very worthwhile cover album for his fans. I won't call it a "can't miss" album, but fans of the band will likely enjoy a large part of this album. Thanks to some bold song selections and more importantly, Axel's willingness to tweak the original into his own interpretation, this album isn't just some stale rehash of the original cuts. Aside from Beautiful Day, I wouldn't say that any of these tracks surpasses the original. However, that is the case with most cover albums. Where this album does gain it's value is from the fact that an effort has been made by the band to tweak each song, giving it a true Axel Rudi Pell sound. Luckily, the band hits with this approach more often than it misses. If you were completely unfamiliar with all the original tracks on this album, the songs are played in such a manner that they would all pass for ARP songs.

Killing Songs :
Beautiful Day, Fool's Game, In The Air Tonight
Mike quoted no quote
Other albums by Axel Rudi Pell that we have reviewed:
Axel Rudi Pell - The Crest reviewed by Marty and quoted 88 / 100
Axel Rudi Pell - Mystica reviewed by Mike and quoted 80 / 100
Axel Rudi Pell - Kings And Queens reviewed by Danny and quoted 92 / 100
Axel Rudi Pell - Knights Live reviewed by Ben and quoted no quote
Axel Rudi Pell - Wild Obsession reviewed by Ben and quoted 83 / 100
To see all 9 reviews click here
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