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Sinking in sands of inharmony - 70%

Xyrth, January 14th, 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.