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If one knew nothing beforehand about this supergroup, one could suppose this is just another longwinded-named core band. Really, what’s the deal with those extra large monikers? In the end everybody uses acronyms for such acts, so better keep it short and simple pals. But the band in question is no mere bunch of scene kids. We’re talking about some serious metal heavyweights here: Tim “The Ripper” Owens, a man whose range and power led him to step in none other than the Metal God’s black leather boots for seven years, not a mundane feat. We also have (b)ass-kicker Steve DiGiorgio, one of the greatest metal bass players ever, period. And the project mastermind himself, talented Richard Christy, a drummer of exceptional prowess and no shortage of good humor. And standing by the three demigods, all Iced Earth-alumni, we have a guitarist whose credentials might not be that impressive but nonetheless proves that he can deliver the necessary chops to be taken into account here: Mr. Jason Suecof.
First time I learned about the existence of this band, excitement took hold of my very soul as I started to drool like my dog when a savory snack is unintentionally chucked from the dining table and lands a mere inches from his eager maws. Yes, the possibilities in the sound of this band really turned me on. No surprise that they opted for a progressive, percussion-heavy brand of power/thrash metal. I never doubted these gentlemen would add something worthwhile to a somewhat stagnant metal niche, represented by a great majority of Iced Earth/Nevermore clones and few real gems, like German powerhouse Paradox. Whatever minor doubt I had in this project was eradicated with the relentless blasting of opener “Ghost Town”, a thunderous, mighty number that displays the great chemistry these musicians have managed to create together. Owen soars as good as when we was with Priest or Iced Earth, and Jason Suecof shows his abilities put to good use in both rhythmic and lead guitar. But truly, the rhythmic onslaught of DiGiorgio and Christy steal the show.
However, next tune “From the Abyss” tell us this album is no mere showoff and these guys aim is to compose great songs, boasting solid riffing, outstanding and tasty percussion and memorable vocal patterns. That’s a catchy one, more laid-back than the blistering rager before it, but equally compelling and amusing. Each and every one of the nine tracks here showcases the talents of the musicians playing together in perfect conjunction, while at the same time allowing individual shining spots, like Steve DiGiorgio’s bass twiddling intro of “Blood on Wood”, or the varied, aggressive vocal attack of Owens in “Manifestations”, sounding almost Painkiller-esque, while Christy’s maximum intensity can be appreciated at the end of “Voices Within the Walls”. Jason Suecof soloing is also appealing on most songs, most of the time manifesting in short yet forceful outbursts of melody. But he also provides another valuable strength to this debut, and that’s his production and mixing work. There’s no secret that he has great experience in the field, having worked with many bands, mostly death metal acts and popular core bands, such as All that Remains and The Black Dahlia Murder. Whatever you may think about those outfits, there’s no denying in this album potent and muscular sound, granting each and every performer here a suitable prominence.
Lyrics are personal, mildly religious stuff penned by Christy, not brilliant but I’ve certainly red far worse. And while not every second in this record is pure metallurgic perfection, is safe to state that this supergroup earns their categorization as such. At 35 minutes duration, Charred Walls of the Damned leaves you wanting a bit more, perhaps an instrumental closer or a couple of more tunes (although I must add there’s a version with an intriguing bonus track, cult power/thrash band Powermad cover of “Nice Dreams”, which I haven’t heard), but as it stands it’s undoubtedly a good addition to any metal collection. Classic heavy metal lovers, power metal enthusiasts, modernity-embracing thrashers and even fans of progressive death metal will surely find something worthy here. The longer, eagerly awaited sophomore Cold Winds on Timeless Days appeared just a year after this one, but I find the debut a much stronger and interesting beast, as you can read in my review of the follow-up.