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You pretty much know what you're going to get with Axel Rudi Pell; straight forward, Judas Priest inspired classic metal with a trace of power metal here and there. Well, it's no different on this album. "Between the Walls" follows the exact same formula as the rest of ARP's early discography with Jeff Scott Soto on vocals, even exploring some of the more epic ideas that would be evident on "Oceans of Time" and onward.
For the most part, everything works on the album. Axel Rudi Pell's guitar work is superb, being very melodic and technical, even though some of the riffs sound rehashed. For example, the beginning riff to "Warrior" sounds almost note for note like "Wanted Man" off the "Nasty Reputation" album. A few of the other riffs sound like they come from other songs, but that could be my imagination, as at times Axel's albums sort of blend together if you listen to all of them on a constant basis.
The vocals of Jeff Scott Soto are alright, but nothing spectacular, especially if you compare this to what he did with Yngwie on "Marching Out". I have to give it to him though, his vocal performance has improved since "Eternal Prisoner", as on that album he seemed to give a really tired performance. On this album, you can tell he has a lot more energy, and it shows in the music.
The songs range from great to bland. The opener "Talk of the Guns" is pure speed metal, just as mostly every opening track is on an ARP album. "Warrior" and "Cry of the Gypsy" are great tracks as well, combining straight forward riffing with some really nice melodic guitar soloing, along with some of Soto's best vocal work on the album. "Casbah" is the epic track of the album, foreshadowing what Axel would do on his later releases.Compared to that material, this song is alright, but can get boring after awhile. It just seems to plod along without going anywhere, and with the ten minute track length, it's way too long. ARP would get much better at the epic tracks on later releases, however.
"Outlaw" is another mid paced track, with some great soloing and guitar licks. The cover of "Wishing Well" is one of the albums worst however. Tucked between the other songs, it's really out of place and doesn't seem necessary. Probably the true definition of a filler song, in my opinion. The last few tracks are ok, "Innocent Child" being the albums sole ballad, with some good vocals by Soto. "Between the Walls" can be compared to the first couple metal tracks on the album, and the closer "Desert Fire" is the obligatory ARP instrumental, but a great one at that! Axel pulls of some excellent leads, and all of this is complimented with some really cool Rainbow-like keyboards. One of ARP's best instrumentals!
The song writing, like most of the earlier material, is pretty bland, though comes nowhere near as bad as "Eternal Prisoner", which contains some of the worst lyrics I've ever read. The production is also a boost up from earlier albums, being a bit less empty sounding as before.
If you like Axel Rudi Pell albums, or if you just like melodic traditional metal in general, then you can't go wrong with this release. The guitar work is excellent, the vocals aren't band, the song writing and production improved by a lot, and everything just works. If you want to get introduced to Axel Rudi Pell, however, I'd choose "Nasty Reputation" or "Oceans of Time" over this. That would give you a better representation of his sound.
Axel Rudi Pell has been one of those reliable musicians whom you can always count on to stick to his guns. When one considers the state of metal during 1994, there was much reason to doubt that even a stalwart hold over from the 80s like ARP could keep their heads above water, but this album accomplishes it and more. “Between the Walls” stands along side “Black Moon Pyramid” as one of the more experimental works in his arsenal, but still maintaining that solid balance of Rainbow, Dio, Malmsteen and Sabbath worship.
Among the more standard sounding ARP songs on here is the atmospheric intro with the simple guitar melody “The Curse”, although one should take not that this is the first ARP full length release where the brief instrumental intro appears. “Talk of the Guns” is a solid blueprint for the very massive collection of ARP speed metal songs, combining solid riffing and simple melodic lines with fast double bass drum action and a catchy vocal line. “Warrior” and “Outlaw” are both cut from the harder edged yet slower 80s metal anthems which are also numerous in the ARP catalog. “Gypsy” has some interesting guitar effects as well as an intricate main riff that reminds me a lot of a Van Halen song.
“Wishing Well” is a cover song from a band in the early 70s that penned lyrics fairly similar in nature to what Dio would write; the music sounds like vintage Deep Purple. “Between the Walls” is a highly melodic song that carries one of ARP’s most memorable guitar riffs, definitely an appropriate choice for a title track. “Innocent Child” is probably the closest thing to a ballad on here, although it is still quite riff driven and full of NOWBHM influences.
The two real standouts, however, are ones that can’t be categorized as typical ARP. “Desert Fire” is probably one of the most amazing technical displays by all the instrumentalists I’ve ever heard. There is a riveting set of guitar and keyboard interchanges on this one, Axel rivals Malmsteen, while Julie Greaux actually challenges Jens Johannsen with a series of highly technical leads. Even good old Volker, who otherwise is stuck keeping the bottom the way Ian Hill is famous for, get a few rather amazing technical fret board tapping lines in; how he has the patience to play those 3 note drones all day when he is capable of stuff like this is beyond me. “Casbah” is the essential long epic of any ARP release, loaded with references to Black Sabbath’s Heaven and Hell approach married to some progressions similar to “Stargazer” by Rainbow. The intro section actually sounds heavily jazzed influenced and fits appropriately for a dream sequence, when what follows is probably the heaviest power chord riff I’ve heard out of ARP to date.
In conclusion, this is essential listening for fans of the traditional heavy metal genre, and also good listening for fans of shred playing. Dio, Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Deep Purple, and several NWOBHM acts have influenced the sound present on here, and the result is definitely worthy of the consumption of fans of all mentioned genres. It also is a testament to the fact that fashions come and go, and those whom follow them blindly fall out of significance due to a lack of a solid base, but acts like ARP whom choose long term yet smaller audiences over the fly by night racket of the mainstream.
Axel Rudi Pell, the x-guitarist from the band Steeler, created his own band, and it's a good thing to. This is traditional heavy metal at it's best! Even though Between the Walls came out in 1994, you would think it came out in the late 80's. The riffs sound that of an 80's heavy metal band. Riffs are excellent style of traditional metal, almost like speed metal. Probably the greatest riff on this album is the intro to Talk of the Gun. Vocal wise -its good; clean solid tune, that hits up and down in perfect harmony. Best song for vocals would be Wishing Well, which also has some made keyboards in it. I would have thought Pell would be the singer, but he is not. Oh well this guy is pretty good. Unlike most traditional bands in the 90's its hard to get that clean 80's tone, but Pell's band gets it done and does it in fashion. Axel Rudi Pell also uses some great sound effects, for example on the song Innocent there is this keyboard intro with a fade in guitar effect that gives it this kick ass feeling. Another example is the clean acroustic into The Curse, nice clean intro, then it blasts into Talk of the Gun. It lifts you of your feet into a dimension of extreme metal. If you enjoy 80's metal or plain oold traditional style metal, you should invest in this album!!!