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Album Reviews : Charred Walls of the Damned – Self-Titled

By on March 12, 2010

Charredwallsofthedamned200So here we have Charred Walls of the Damned – A bit of an ‘all star’ collaboration, if you will. We have Ripper Owens on vocals, ex-Death members Richard Christy and Steve DiGiorgio, and Jason Suecof… but that is no guarantee of a great album – time and time again, i’ve seen collaborations with the best musicians fall to bits or simply lack any interesting material.

In a nutshell, we get an interesting mix of Traditional heavy metal that at times (tastefully) dabbles into more extreme genres, with blast beats and crushing heavy sections here and there.

When I put this album on, the first thing that really grasps me is obviously the drums. Now, let’s get one thing straight – Richard Christy is an absolute machine of a drummer. Actually, he’s even better than that, he’s basically a genius. Because, whilst absolute machine drummers such as Gene Hoglan and Tomas Haake are phenomenal musicians, they are a bit by-the-book at times. I have never heard a drummer come out with cymbal work or put an interesting spin on even the simplest of beats the way Richard Christy does. And he definitely lets loose on this album. There are just mind-blowing fills and sections, he truly is a great drummer and musician in all aspects – it would be a hard task to fault the drums on this album, both in regard to performance and writing.

Now – onto the rest of the music – We have a pretty solid album in terms of production. It’s almost a bit ‘safe’, but it’s nice, thick, and crisp. Everything is where it should be. Particular attention has been given to the bass, seeing that Steve DiGiorgio is not your average bassist – you’ll notice bits and pieces where he sticks out with some really interesting and fresh bass playing, almost complementing Richard Christy’s drumming in technicality and originality.

Then we have the guitars – Suecof is a tasteful guitarist, to say the least. He’s not my favourite from what I’ve heard on this album – but his solos are quirky, have the same little bit of originality that compliments the bass and drums, and he hasn’t written his solos to be a wank-fest to prove his ground as the fastest gutiarist out there; No, he just does what’s appropriate and suits the sections of the music. I really appreciate the different layering he brings out in some parts of the song – Several parts on the album are really enhanced by these layers, it’s a nice addition. He fills his role as an ‘all-rounder’ of a guitarist – all the aspects are catered for pretty well.

Now, as I’ve mentioned with the bass and drums – what they’ve recorded and played sounds suitable. But that’s a bit of a double edged sword – it’s suitable, and tasteful, and almost ‘safe’ if you will. But on the same token, it doesn’t really break any boundaries. It’s nothing I haven’t really heard before, and whilst it’s nice, it doesn’t blow my mind like late era-Death does…

And this brings me to the biggest let-down of the album – Tim Owens. Look – Owens is a great singer, really. He has an incredibly strong falsetto and it’s not difficult to see why he was chosen as the replacement for metal gods Rob Halford and Matt Barlow in his previous work. And he really puts his vocals to good use on this album in that regard. He knows what he does very well, and he uses that to his advantage; Herein lies the problem – that is essentially ALL he does. I really wanted to be impressed with his vocals on this album given my expectations – and he really hits some great high notes with clarity, precision and intensity. But it’s almost as if every time he tried to sing with a different style that wasn’t loud screechy falsetto with excessively wide vibrato, the producer behind the mixing desk stopped him to let him know “Sorry, it’s not as good as that high voice you do – just use that for this song. And the next. And the one after that”. He has one good voice, but he’s almost scared to venture outside of that one style, that one sound he has. He really doesn’t do wonders for versatility as a vocalist, and as a result, the vocals, whilst suitable in certain songs, are extremely one-dimensional. In the same way, some of the songwriting, at least from the band as a whole, suffers from this same one-dynamic issue.

This is an album where the individual elements are phenomenal, but they just weren’t put together properly. It’s like having a christmas present with exquisite wrapping and a box the size of a new TV, only to find that santa got you a new pair of socks. There’s a couple of amazing sections, a couple of really solid songs, and some bland ones that seem to have little difference between themselves and the ones before and after them. If they stick together (unlikely, they all strike me as project-based musicians, who, do an album, then are onto the next project), I’d like to see what could happen, because there is some potential for greatness in this ensemble – but it was just flawed in coming together on this release.

Definitely worth a listen though, a reasonably solid album.

6.9/10

Band: Charred Walls of the Damned
Album: Charred Walls of the Damned
Year: 2010
Genre: Heavy Metal/Thrash Metal/Power Metal
Label: Metal Blade Records/Riot! Entertainment
Origin: USA

Track listing
1. Ghost Town
2. From the Abyss
3. Creating Our Machine
4. Blood on Wood
5. In a World So Cruel
6. Manifestations (Reviewer’s Choice)
7. Voices Within the Walls
8. The Darkest Eyes
9. Fear in the Sky

Reviewed by Demonizer

About

Mitch Booth is the owner, designer and grand overlord of Metal Obsession. In the few seconds of spare time he has outside of this site, he also hosts a metal radio show over on PBS 106.7fm in Melbourne (Australia) and organises shows under the name Untitled Touring. You should follow him on Twitter.