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CD Review: Charred Walls of the Damned, “Cold Winds on Timeless Days”

When you’ve got the pedigree of the members of Charred Walls of the Damned you expect great things right away but I think it was pretty clear from the start of this band in 2009 that it was going to be the second album that would really make or break them.

If you listen to Howard Stern, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you who these guys are but for everyone else (and that includes me) you’re talking about drummer and Stern prankster Richard Christy, guitarist Jason Suecof, bassist Steve DiGiorgio and vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens. All of them except for Suecof were in Iced Earth at one point along with what seems like 10,000 other power metal bands. Suecof is relatively inexperienced compared to the rest of the group but is more known for being a metalcore producer.

Despite the Iced Earth connection (a band which I totally respect and have done some fantastic things in their career) Charred Walls’ 2010 self-titled debut essentially became the disc from the guy on the Stern show and I frankly didn’t take it very seriously, probably nowhere near as serious as I should have. I don’t think it helped that I’m one of the few metalheads that seem to dislike Ripper’s voice. Biased or not, I still thought the disc had some interesting moments but was kind of all over the place and therefore tossed it in the scrap heap. Of all the metal fans I talked to about this album, Stern was always brought up in every single conversation but the prevailing thought was that once the second record came out they would weed out those buying the record just for that angle rather than the music. And here I am.

Frankly, until I looked it up I forgot who these guys were and that’s a good thing in this case. Ripper’s got an unmistakable voice so I picked that up on first listen but then figured out why I knew the name after a few quick web searches. So, I got a listen to the record without quite realizing who I was listening to at first and either that eliminated my bias altogether or the disc is just plain good this time around because I’m digging the fuck out of it.

Charred Walls seem to get the label of being a power/thrash metal band and while the basis of this record is rooted in power metal, the thrash quotient is present here and there. The thing that impresses me the most about Cold Winds on Timeless Days is that it’s not like the hundreds of other power metal albums in the last few years that sound like they are made just by connecting the dots. There’s a lot of really complicated riffs throughout the disc, punctuated by some fierce guitar riffing and vocals from Owens that fit the sound perfectly. Suecof certainly brings a bit of a metalcore feel to the album as well and while that usually turns me off, blended here with the power and technical aspects of the music, it really sounds quite interesting. “Lead the Way” contains the elements of everything just mentioned along with some sweet harmony vocals and “Forever Marching On” is really a jarring mix of angular riffs with a fist pumping epic chorus.

I vowed a while back to never review another power metal record from a band with under eight albums to their credit because it seems like a band in the genre really needs a good 15+ years to understand how to not duplicate the same sound over and over again but I guess if you add up the years in other bands here, we go way past that so there’s an exception to every rule. And so, with album number three in a few years, I will remember these guys for their great second album rather than for the novelty of what one band member was a part of. The music speaks for itself, just the way it should be.

“Forever Marching On”