Charred Walls Of The Damned
posted on 1/2010 By:
Atrocious artwork and overlong inside-joke band-name aside, this eponymous debut from metallic super-group Charred Walls Of The Damned is pretty much exactly the record I'd expected when I first heard that it was coming. Largely the brainchild of Richard Christy, current Howard Stern sidekick and one-time drummer for Iced Earth and Death (among others), Charred Walls is traditional-leaning speedy metal with a hefty dramatic flair and the expected stout musicianship. Alongside Christy, Charred Walls features some of metal’s best players: journeyman bassist Steve DiGiorgio (Sadus, Death, Testament), guitarist Jason Suecof (producer of All Shall Perish, the Black Dahlia Murder, DevilDriver and more) and vocalist Ripper Owens (Iced Earth, Judas Priest, Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force, Beyond Fear).
Although most of Charred Walls is straight-ahead epic metal, it touches upon the thrashier side of death in the dizzying violence of the instrumental interplay. At times, this is a balls-out blistering attack, and at times, it’s a more somber, melodic record, although even in its moodier moments, Charred Walls shreds circles around you. Ripper's vocals bring to mind his usual influences (Halford highs, Dio mids), but the combination of his layered approach and the moody riffage often reminds of Nevermore. The Ripper is and has always been a gifted vocalist—although his talents have at times been stranded on boring records—and his multi-octave range and massive vocal power are on full display here. DiGiorgio’s trademark fretless bass slides and glides effortlessly beneath Suecof’s tasteful shredding—the former completely expected and the latter a pleasant surprise from a man better known for his skills behind the boards than atop the frets. Even as DiGiorgio, Christy and Suecof push the shred and aggression up against death metal territory, Owens’ voice keeps this squarely in realm of the traditional, bordering on power metal.
There’s certainly no questioning the pedigree of the players, but what of the tunes themselves? Lead track "Ghost Town" opens the record with a shred-tastic gallop and a moody chorus (a structure microcosmic of the entire record), but it’s actually one of my least favorite tracks on hand. The chugging riffage of "Blood On Wood" is offset nicely by its catchy chorus, and the same can be said of "Creating Our Machine" and "Manifestations," which sports a stomping chorus that harkens to Dio’s darkest moments.
All told, the album does drag on a bit—by the time "The Darkest Eyes" rolls around, I begin to wear down, my attention span sunk beneath the trad/thrash heroics and Owens’ vibrato. I’m impressed with Charred Walls Of The Damned—it’s solid, if not quite a knockout. If a blend of Nevermore, Agent Steel, Dio and dashes of Death sounds like something you’d enjoy, then this one’s right up your alley.
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