Review: Axel Rudi Pell “Diamonds Unlocked II” [Steamhammer]

Review: Axel Rudi Pell “Diamonds Unlocked II” [Steamhammer]

- in Reviews

Here’s a first for me: how do you review a cover album? Do you review how the music stands on its own, or how it compares to the originals? Well, I guess you should do a little of both.

There is a pretty nice selection of covers here, and pretty diverse too, including tracks by 80s rock and metal legends like Rainbow and Sammy Hagar, more recent acts like The Subways, more obscure acts like Geordie and Tony Carey, some classic acts like the Rolling Stones and some pop hits by Abba and Paul Anka. This album is a great overview of 80s rock, with some outliers.

After an instrumental intro composed by Axel Rudi Pell, we attack with a fun and energetic cover of “There’s Only One Way to Rock”, which makes a real kick-ass opener. Then the band channels their inner Ronnie James Dio on a pretty good cover of “Lady of the Lake”. Most covers of 70s-80s songs sound relatively close to their originals, and mostly keep what was good about those. You can hear that in the awesome, energized riff of “Black Cat Woman” and its catchy chorus. Or in the sweeping ballad “Room with a View”. Their version of “Sarah (You take my Breath Away)” is also pretty catchy.

However, they take more liberties with the older songs, turning it into their own. “She’s a Lady” is done as a progressively faster power ballad, basically a Pell-ified version of the original. Similarly, “Eagle” is turned into a power metal song with keyboards and a good old epic feel. It drags a little too long, but it’s still worth a listen if you want to hear a power metal version of Abba.

As for the older and newer tracks, the cover of “Rock’n Roll Queen” kicks ass and even tries to use some of the same screamed vocals as the original. “Paint it Black” and “I Put a Spell on You” are among those songs that everyone has covered so you might think we don’t need any other version of those. But these version sound so good that you won’t regret hearing them. “Paint it Black” now sounds like a heavier, faster Pell-ified rewrite of the original. “I Put a Spell on You” is also heavier, but keeps the dark and moody tone of the original and many of its cover versions.

It’s one of those cover albums where some versions are nearly identical to the original and some involve the cover artist making the song their own. I guess I should like the different covers better, but actually, I like most songs I’ve heard on this album. They sound great, there’s a real sense of fun on this album. It’s just a band playing a bunch of songs they love, a varied and diverse selection of songs, some big hits and some forgotten gems. And the fun is contagious, you’ll love hearing it too.

Release date: July 30th, 2021

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