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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.