CharredWallsOfTheDamned_01Depending on your perspective, Charred Walls of the Damned are either a supergroup composed of metal legends, or a fucking joke. Sure, the band is masterminded by drummer Richard Christy (Death, Iced Earth, The Howard Stern Show), and fellow Death veteran Steve DiGiorgio is on bass. At the mic is none other than Tim “Ripper” Owens, one of the most polarizing vocalists in the genre — to the extent that AMG himself has a legitimate beef with the ex-Judas Priest/Iced Earth frontman. Creatures Watching Over The Dead is the unnecessarily-long title of their 3rd album, their first in about 5 years.

Opening track “My Eyes” is nothing special to these ears, but then on “The Soulless,” Charred Walls suddenly hits it out of the goddamn park. From the blastbeat-fueled intro riff, to Ripper’s soaring chorus vocal, to the Andy-Laroque-on-bath-salts guitar solo, this song is pretty much flawless. Ditto for “Reach Into The Light,” which finds Mr. Owens at the Painkiller-esque edge of his range, over riffage that would make Chuck Schuldiner proud. Moments like this reveal the band’s full potential, and I wish they could write a whole record of this caliber, instead of just two or three tracks.

While I don’t hate Owens’ voice nearly as much as AMG does, I will concede that his abilities are limited. He generally sings in one of two styles: the Halford-esque shrieking that got him the Priest gig in the first place, and a lower range in which he tries to sound menacing and dramatic, regardless of lyrical content. The problem is compounded by the fact that Christy himself handles lyric duties, resulting in some awkward vocal phrasing. “My Eyes” is a prime example, cramming way too many words into each measure. Then there’s the power ballad “Afterlife,” where Owens emotes as hard as he can, but the song’s vocal pattern gives him very little to work with.

Nice hat.

Nice hat.

The other tracks on Creatures are a bit of a mixed bag. “Lies” attempts a more melodic “modern metal” approach, but falls flat under weak riffs and an annoying vocal pattern. The upbeat “Living in the Shadow of Yesterday” is power metal at its very cheesiest, but damn if that isn’t a really catchy chorus. Closer “Time Has Passed” straddles that line between melody and aggression, and reminds me a lot of Christy and DiGiorgio’s other old band, Control Denied. All of these songs are pretty short, and the entire album clocks in at a meager 33 minutes.

Despite producing a ton of bands I hate (Devildriver, Chimaira, Trivium, and so on), Jason Suecof is an absolutely incredible metal guitarist. His riffing style complements the heavier material perfectly, and even when the band detours into more melodic terrain, like “As I Catch My Breath,” he makes it work. And his soloing is ridiculously good throughout, weaving melodies in between plenty of shredder flash. Suecof also has my gratitude for giving DiGiorgio the biggest, baddest recorded tone he has had to date. DiGiorgio himself delivers a bass masterclass as always, while also finding ways to play interesting counterpoints around Suecof’s riffs.

Regardless of the band’s all-star pedigree, no one in Charred Walls is particularly known for their artistic vision or songwriting prowess. Yes, three of them were in staggeringly good bands, but merely in supporting roles. On paper, “ex-members of Death and Judas Priest” sounds like a metalhead’s wet dream, and there are a few tracks here that pack a considerable punch. But more often, those highlights feel like a product of luck, as if the band is merely throwing ideas at the (charred) wall and seeing what sticks.


 

Rating: Mixed
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: Variable Bitrate mp3
Label: Metal Blade
Websites: RichardChristy.com | facebook.com/charredwallsofthedamned
Releases Worldwide: September 23rd, 2016

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  • I just can’t get into these guys. It’s like they write music designed to evade my perception.

    • IamRipper

      Their debut album had much better songs than the last two. The songwriting was definitely more focused, the follow ups sound “clunky” in comparison.

  • Elton Chagas

    Damn… the artwork was like crafted for a very, very obscure black/death metal band.

    • The Unicorn

      Suiçmez.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        That’s what it reminded me of!

  • Reese Burns

    I love the caption on the picture.

    • Elton Chagas

      Looks like someone is getting endorsed by the big industry hahaha

      • Reese Burns

        Endorsements are the only reasonable explanation for willingly sporting Monster gear

        • DrChocolate

          So how do you explain the clown who has the huge Monster logo on their sick WRX? Because you know he’s not endorsed.

          • Reese Burns

            How did you know what my WRX looks like?

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          He’s a big boy now and can still wear his monster hat if he wants!

    • Chigo

      I didn’t even notice the caption or the hat until I read your comment. Hilarious.

  • Goldicot

    The riffing is great, but the vocals are poor. I’ll put it right up there with Necromancing The Stone as “so damn close it hurts.”

  • Jason

    Is that an “official” band photo? It is sooo obviously a composite. Sheesh.

    The embedded track doesn’t sound bad. It’s Ripper doing what he does. I can see why some people wouldn’t like it, but it doesn’t bother me.

    • Dr_Fisting

      The Photoshop work on that band shot is offensively bad. Unless Richard Christy is glowing and Steve DiGiorgio happened to be standing next to a small lightbulb.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Agreed… It would have been better to just place 4 photos side by side without the lame attempt at “fooling” people into believing the four guys were there together.
        Offensively bad in the sense that it’s an insult that whoever did it (and approved it for release) thought the public wouldn’t realize it.

      • Bart the Repairman

        Yeah, when you have to combine 4 photos with 4 completely different light sources, it’s nearly impossible to make it look natural. It’s better to take a pencil and draw the whole thing, instead of trying to fix the shit digitally.

  • Ferrous Beuller

    This band bothers me. By rights, I should adore them, but every time I check them out, their material just leaves me cold. Makes me want to Jugulate something…

  • AngryMetalBird

    Thou Shall Not Believe In Superbands That Aren’t Led By John Cobbett

    • Dr_Fisting

      If anyone could’ve whipped these guys into shape, it would have been John Cobbett.

      • AngryMetalBird

        Deeper Than Sky at 4:45 is still giving me goosebumps every time….

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Jason Suecof played in Capharnaum’s “Fractured” which is an awesome album. I am glad I get to mention Capharnaum’s “Fractured” without Trivium being (directly) involved.

    • Trufax here folks.

      Given how much “Fractured” rips, I wonder if Suecof wrote all the music for CWotD, or if Christy contributed to…

      In other words, I’m looking for reasons to blame Christy for CWotD being an ongoing disappointment to me, rather than find fault with Suecof.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        I don’t know who writes the songs but the core of Christy, DiGiorgio and Suecof have been on board since the beginning. But for some reason I have always thought of Charred Walls being run by Christy.

        • That was my understanding too. I just have no idea if Christy is anything like Lee Harrison, Gene Hoglan or Steve Asheim, who write most if not all the music for their main bands

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            I had to go and check and according to Wikipedia, Richard Christy writes most if not all the music for Charred Walls. But I don’t think he would dismiss suggestions for bass parts from DiGiorgio or guitar parts from Suecof.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    So, this is what hired guns sound like when no one’s hiring them and they decide to band up together and strike on their own.

  • Edmund Sackbauer

    I like what I heard. Will buy it sooner or later.

    And I know opinions and so but what AMG is writing about Owens is quite ridiculous.

    I guess they both are having a laugh about anyone taking this serious.

  • Slayerformayor

    Beyond Fear was awesome. Sometimes I can deal with Ripper. Sometimes I can’t. “Red Baron/Blue Max”, awesome. “When the Eagle Cries”, not awesome. His vocals on the Metal Allegiance “We Rock” cover, awesome. His vocals on “Starting Over Again” however, not awesome.
    Overall, I like him, and I think he’s extremely talented. But…man…he’s so hit or miss.

  • Thatguy

    Guess what?

    AMG is correct.

    Thanks Dr Fisting for taking one for the team.

  • Hammersmith

    Give me Matt Barlow or go to hell.

  • Treble Yell

    AMG’s not a Ripper fan? Uh oh. I feel that if I share my opinion of Judas Priest’s ‘Jugulator’ I may torpedo any chance I have to become a permanent staff writer.

    • If you go with “Jugulator is mostly shit” then you’re probably safe. Otherwise best keep that opinion unvoiced.

      • Treble Yell

        In that case…

  • The Unicorn
  • robpal

    I, on the other hand, actually enjoy Ripper’s vocals in general and I’m quite enjoying this album. Arrangements are great, some big hits here!

  • I never knew AMG had a beef with Ripper. That was golden. I always thought “I should like his singing based on my preferences of singers.” Then when I hear it, I default to “please lord, make it stop.”

  • Greg Hasbrouck

    I would love to see Ripper hook up with a songwriter who could provide him vocal lines that compliment his vocals, ala Schaeffer.

  • I dug the attached song and I dig Ripper if for nothing else his skill level. Vocals are such a subjective thing and I guess you just have to really REALLY dig the technical aspect of what Owens does AND like the sound of his voice. CWotD is a decent group, even if they aren’t super enough for you guys…I find their stuff to be easy, hooky and “fun” to listen to and that seems to be what they go for.

  • Suecoff is a fucking sick guitar player. He doesn’t get a lot of love because he’s mostly just a producer, but I really love that dude.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      He should release more of his own stuff…

      • I’ve been waiting for a new Capharnaum album for 11 years now. Allegedly Suecof has been writing new material all this time, but I remember reading an interview where he said that he has ADHD and gets distracted very easily. :(

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          Capharnaum is likely second on the Top Ten List of “Most Awaited Technical Death Metal new albums” right after Necrophagist.

  • Jeff Kent

    Steve sounds so good on this. Speaking of under recorded guitarist/producers..add Roy Z to the list.