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Pleasantly predictable. - 75%

hells_unicorn, January 15th, 2012

There are a number of bands out there where, based purely on who makes up the lineup, will tell you how they sound even before the first note is played. This trend generally follows the phenomenon of the super-band, where all in congress are better known by other existing acts, and the more members come from the same band, the more predictable the sound becomes. Charred Walls Of The Damned, an outfit whose name would normally lend itself to a follower of the metalcore trend, is perhaps the most blatantly obvious of offenders in this category. Nevertheless, even with a really obvious niche that has little variation from a well known American power metal mainstay; this band manages to sound good while being extremely derivative.

To put it bluntly, there are 3 former members of Iced Earth in this fold, all of them serving their tenure in fairly close proximity to each other. The result is an album that comes dangerously close to sounding like a sequel to “The Glorious Burden” with a slightly colder and grimmer feel. Much of the distinction here can be attributed to Jason Suecof (the only person not involved in Iced Earth), whose riff work has a definite thrash feel to it, but generally avoids the galloping clichés that Jon Schaffer often refers to and opts for something closer to a modern melodeath character (think recent Arch Enemy, and with the lead prowess to match). Generally the songs tend to exude that similar sense of gradual, almost painfully slow development, yet with melodic material that can compensate for the formal simplicity and Tim Owen’s Halford inspired wail to paint over the needed detailing.

For the most part, the radio-friendly song lengths tend to work well for this band, as the formulaic nature of the songs tends to work against any pretentious Iron Maiden styled epics. “Creating Our Machine” and “Manifestations” are the shortest, and ironically enough, the sweetest of a fairly brief musical encounter by power metal standards, conjuring up a nice variation on a sound that would otherwise share more in common with 90s In Flames. “The Darkest Eyes” gets even nastier in its presentation and almost seems to be offering a Judas Priest meets The Crown format that, while not nearly as intense as the latter outfit, definitely bends the rules of standard power metal conventions. Any lack of variety from one song to the next is well tempered by an overall potency of passion, particularly on the part of Owens who perfectly injects that strong 80s vibe into a very modern and brutal reinterpretation of a contemporary style of the time.

As is the case with the material hatched between 1998 and 2004 in Iced Earth, this is decent music for any modern trustee of catchy yet extreme metal Florida style, though it doesn’t really break into the territory of being game changing. Much of what is heard on here was done about 10 years ago in Scandinavia, but with a toneless growl substituting the for the archaic banshee screeches. Iced Earth fans may definitely want to give this thing a listen, particularly ones who were partial to Owens over Barlow. Its power metal removed from its generally heroic tendencies and placed in a fatalistic, socially conscious sphere more readily extreme progressive styles and thrash metal, thus perhaps not suited for the older school USPM fan.