Charred Walls of the Damned // Charred Walls of the Damned
Rating: 3.0/5.0 —Music is really great, but the vocals just kill this record for me
Label: Metal Blade
Release Dates: EU: 29.01.2010 | US: 02.01.2010
Charred Walls of the Damned has two distinct honors from the get-go: not only is it the longest band name EVER, but it’s also the first thing in which excellent drummer Richard Christy has surfaced in since going to the Howard Stern show and leaving American power metallers Iced Earth in the dust. I think everyone was wondering when he was going to jump back into metal, myself included. It’s hard to imagine that the former Death and Iced Earth drummer was just going to leave everything behind. Given his background it was only a matter of time. And not just his background: homeboy has contacts, too! He brings with him the mighty Jason Suecof, mostly known for his production (Trivium, Luna Mortis, God Forbid and so on), but who is also a fucking wicked ass guitar player (seriously, dude can shred). On bass, of course, is the mighty Steve DiGiorgio who played with Christy in Iced Earth and Death. How can this project possibly lose?
To answer that question, enter vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens. I have a bit of a grudge against this guy, and it’s not because of the fact that he replaced any big vocalists. I gave him a chance in both Judas Priest and Iced Earth and I have come to a conclusion: he was never meant for a vocal life beyond cover bands. His voice is thin and his tone is really frustrating, but most of all his phrasing is really terrible and he borders on torturous because his vibrato is so wide that he goes flat, so his harmonies just send shudders up my spine. He is not the dude who should be doing vocals on this record and it is an absolute shame.
The reason it’s a shame is pretty simple: the music on this record is awesome traditional/power metal. Christy’s writing and playing are unparalleled and I love the blending between the death metal style blasting on which the album starts, and the more straight metal that pounds out throughout the album. The guitars, of course, are fantastic and Suecof is a star, ripping it up with the best and giving some of the coolest arpeggiation (that’s right, Angry Metal Guy likes to verb!) and harmonies that I’ve heard and Steve DiGiorgio is Steve DiGiorgio: probably the best bass player in metal.
So I have good news for fans of Ripper Owens, which there are some out there, this is unequivocally the best project he’s ever been involved with. The song writing is awesome, the band is tight and powerful and if you’re a fan of his vocals then you will absolutely love this album. If, however, you’re like me you will feel a great sense of grief coupled with anger every time he opens his mouth. Because instead of adding power to the arrangements and making this record what it should be, he basically adds a generally frustrating, tuneless siren over every song. I’m going to give this record a 3/5 because I think that it deserves the respect for the musical content in spite of the vocal performance.. but man, I personally can’t fathom why anyone would ever use him as a vocalist.