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Version 2.0 (Bigger, Longer, Better) - 82%

hells_unicorn, February 19th, 2012

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.