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Charred Walls of the Damned is a weird group. Featuring an amalgamation of metal musicians, the "super group" (I'm apprehensive to use the term accordingly) plays a cacophonic mixture of power metal themes mixed with some ideals and techniques often found in the extreme side of metal's realms, curiosity of Richard Christy and the gunning fingers of legendary bassist Steve DiGiorgio. Oh yea, former Judas Priest banshee Tim Owens is here too. Quite the group of super proportions, it seems. Alright, I have to honest: this is remarkably stale stuff. I like all four dudes; their previous musical outputs have been consistent and fun for the most part, so no quarrel on my end. The musical purge into power/thrashy metal itself isn't that bad either. However, "Cold Winds on Timeless Days" becomes a dull experience because it trips over a long-drawn-out process that is way too bombastic and fragile for its own good, and not even the A-list ensemble can resurrect the album once the erosion begins.
Tackling the individual performances, the picture is totally different: Tim Owens wails perfectly, Christy goes to town on the drums, DiGiorgio plucks and plods all over the place with his extravagant bass playing, and Jason Suecof's guitar work leaves a palatable impression on the record. Clearly, that's the strength of "Cold Winds on Timeless Day." Consequently, the several anthems deliver a nifty package of power/thrash metal semi-frequently using blast beats and technical bass work, yet there's still room for Owens' high-flying vocals and catchy choruses. Most of the tracks contain many layers and riffs boiling beneath the chilly atmosphere Charred Walls of the Damned so elegantly conjures like a silent soul singing in a crowded street, unheard yet very profound. And hey, the first few songs kick butt with fantastic lead guitar work and other instrumental performances. So what's the problem, you ask?
You see, it's not an issue of the band running out of ideas or desperately plugging in influence x or influence y just for the shit of it, but rather four dudes taking an enjoyable blueprint and relentlessly beating it into the floor. After "Forever Marching On," they are completely devoid of relevancy. Nothing sticks out, nothing works to enthrall the listener successfully, nothing dramatic appears and just about any other measurable quality one would expect in adequate music is nonexistent. By the time “Bloodworm” rolls around, it’s nearly an unbearable experience, and they consequently end the record on a dull note with the insipid “Avoid the Light,” just another song replicating the same genetic code. Was it really necessary to drag this whole thing out for an entire hour?
Although Charred Walls of the Damned has established a fantastic identity, this is hardly the work of veteran musicians coming together for something completely unique and perplexing. Rather, the accessibility crashes very quickly, and then what? Just add another seven songs that stretch out the redundancy and add nothing new? That’s what it seems like, anyway. This record had all the fundamentals of a stellar experience from the excellent lineup to the glorious edge of fatalism glaring within the group’s icy gimmick. However, "Cold Winds on Timeless Days" fails to reach the goals it should've easily obtained at a primordial state, leaving the album cold, breezy, and timeless like a loaf of bread. You’ll love this if you love disappointment.
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com
While the concept of the super band is one that lends itself to more clichés than I care to delve into, one unenviable outcome of this pedigree of band has been mercifully avoided by American grown power/thrash outfit Charred Walls Of The Damned, namely the fissile out after one album and either not release another one or hit a massive sophomore slump. A mere year later, this group of seasoned veterans accompanied by a slightly greener guitarist to the genre has decided not only to reprise their previous successful excursion into merging modern and archaic power metal practices, but to build upon it. The end result is an album that is bigger, longer, faster, and ultimately a tad bit better than the marginally impressive 35 minute debut that introduced the band in 2010.
As stated previously, the strong affinity that this band has with 3 or its 4 members’ former outfit Iced Earth, namely the 2000s era where Tim Owens replaced Matt Barlow, is all over this band’s sound. But equally present is a somewhat greater sense of bitterness, coldness, and fatalism that definitely fits an album title like “Cold Winds On Timeless Days”. While the band’s approach is very mindful of the melodic accessibility that goes with this particular side of the metal coin, they allot plenty of time for Jason Suecof to mix things up with a faster riff set and some lead break adventures, as well as many opportunities for Tim to launch his high soaring Halford wail into the stratosphere. But most auspicious of all is a complete lack of shyness for fully displaying agitated, high octane thrash metal tendencies, culminating in a healthy number of songs that rival a number of tech. death bands in the drumming department.
Even though the average song length on this album is a good bit longer than the previous opus, the frenetic thrashers tend to be even more intense, and the slightly more restrained numbers tend to be stronger despite more repetition. The drum work alone on “Lead The Way” and “Zerospan” is mind boggling in its intensity, while the bass work on “Forever Marching On” and “On Unclean Ground” occasionally channels those quirky slap bass gimmicks employed here and there by Helloween while avoiding a complete break with the album’s poignant character. The chorus sections of all these songs have a sense of impending tragedy, despite the heroic nature of the riffs and the generally classically minded harmonic structure. But the band’s best and most memorable songs on here take on a more measured character of aggression and atmospherics, culminating in the unforgettable anthems of winter chills and longing that are “Timeless Days” and “Admire The Heroes”, by far the two catchiest songs offered up by this outfit thus far.
The overall collective output of this band is pretty evenly distributed, despite the fact that guitarist Jason Suecof doesn’t come from as extensive a background as the other musicians that make up this band. It’s a testament that even though the professionalism of musical giants in a super band capacity can be overshadowed by ego and misguided ambition, it doesn’t necessarily always happen and that same professionalism can yield a band capable of matching other related projects. This is a band with staying power, and one to watch over the next several years, provided they can keep it together. Whether one’s poison consist of Swedish melodeath or thrashing American grown power metal, either can be adequately satisfied with a listen to this album, save purists in the former category that can’t live without hearing yet another Tomas Lindberg imitator as opposed to a Halford emulator.
Later submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on April 16, 2012.
Charred Walls of the Damned is quite a supergroup, boasting an impressive cast of three of metal’s demigods, as well as a fourth good, with double “o”, member. The brainchild of fantastic drummer Richard Christy, also sports former Iced Earth alumni and ex-Judas Priest Tim “Ripper” Owens on vocals, the outstanding bass-master Steve DiGiorgio and the less remarkable but still much capable Jason Suecof in guitars. Cold Winds on Timeless Days is their second long-play release after just one year of this band’s inception, and it’s a decent, if somehow disappointing, follow-up to the band’s self-titled debut released in 2010. Being longer than its predecessor by twenty minutes, the sophomore is packed with twelve songs that display the musical mastery of this gentlemen and their brand of technical power/thrash.
The wanting cover artwork serves as an indicator of the music within, because in spite of having more songs and ideas thrown in than the debut, Cold Winds on Timeless Days falls a bit short in delivery. While the self-titled album “only” had nine compositions, not counting the bonus track, most of them were memorable to a certain degree and didn’t sacrificed catchiness in favor of technical prowess. Here we have more material and longer songs, but less focused, with less hooks, less compelling riffs and less overall highlights. To be fair, none of the musicians really delve into pure wankery or show off, they all work at unison and have a balanced input, but the songwriting feels weak and uninspired. Moreover, Richard Christy’s lyrics feel “preachier” this time around, while the choruses and bridges end up sounding pretty insipid, despite being powerfully uttered by The Ripper himself.
Production work is an exact replica of the debut, and all the instruments sound exactly the same as in that record, which is not a pejorative characteristic by any means. No instrument overpowers other, they are all clearly audible and enjoy their deserved share of presence. And combined, they really rock. The rhythmic section is on fire again, Christy and DiGiorigo in perfect metallic symbiosis as we can hear at the beginning of “Forever Marching On”, to cite an example of the many I could have conjured up. They’re probably the best reason for listening to this album. Suecof’s guitar-work is perhaps the least striking feature here, but it works efficiently, both as a rhythmic participant or as a lead axeman. And Owens, is Owens, though in this album he mostly maintains an operatic wail of a certain register throughout most songs, and doesn’t show the versatility he possesses. You won’t here any ear-ripping scream a la Halford or any gruffier singing like he did, say, in Jugulator’s closing track “Cathedral Spires”.
As for highlights, I must say I find most songs to have an equilibrated deal of highs and lows, and I wouldn’t consider any of the twelve tracks to be neither a masterpiece nor a total waste of time. Slightly better than the rest, I would say my favorites are the almost-six-minute “Lead the Way”, with its entwining melodies and remarkable rhythmic assault, one of the heaviest tunes here, and “The Beast Outside My Window”, which starts with a tranquil acoustic intro that gives way to a blast-beated power metal number. Ironically, it lacks a solo to further heighten its status, but it’s riffs and vocal lines are among the best in the entire album. “Bloodworm” comes third place, a mid-paced number with memorable melodic guitars, while “Zerospan” and the closer “Avoid the Light” are some of the most head-bangeable, but get a bit tedious in parts.
This album could have been so much better, given the talent at play. Had some songs been trimmed a bit, the meandering parts and lackluster songwriting removed altogether, we could have had one amazing power/thrash album. Sadly it’s not the case, but maybe for the following Charred Walls of the Damned album the guys will hone their composition capabilities to better results. The potential is clearly there.