Album Review – Charred Walls Of The Damned / Creatures Watching Over the Dead (2016)

A magnificent lecture in Heavy Metal by four high-skilled electrified beasts who need absolutely no introduction.

Rating2

coverSome people call American Heavy Metal band Charred Walls Of The Damned a “supergroup”, but in my opinion they’re a lot more than that. Formed in 2009 by the immensely talented drummer Richard Christy (Death, Control Denied, Iced Earth) after a five-year absence from the metal scene since leaving Iced Earth and joining The Howard Stern Show in 2004, and having the one and only Tim “Ripper” Owens (Judas Priest, Iced Earth, Beyond Fear, Winter’s Bane, Dio Disciples) on vocals, Jason Suecof (special guest musician and producer for Death Angel, Trivium, Kataklysm, Chimaira, DevilDriver and tons of other amazing bands) on guitar, and Steve Digiorgio (Testament, Control Denied, Death, Iced Earth, Sebastian Bach) on bass, Charred Walls Of The Damned go beyond the boundaries of almost all known “supergroups”, being an already established named in the world of heavy music and always delivering first-class material to metalheads all over the world.

If you have never heard their first two releases (their self-titled masterpiece Charred Walls of the Damned, from 2010, and Cold Winds on Timeless Days, from 2011), don’t waste any more time and go after them because those albums are definitely worth a shot, especially for fans of a high level intricacy together with sheer heaviness in music. And now, after almost five years waiting for more of the vigorous music by Charred Walls Of The Damned, Mr. Christy and his henchmen are finally back with another lecture in Heavy Metal entitled Creatures Watching Over the Dead, the third installment (all of them with beautiful names, by the way) by this band that’s a synonym to classy Heavy Metal and, unarguably, one of the best supergroups of all time, if not the best as they are for this guy that writes to you right now.

As soon as the serene intro in the opening track My Eyes explodes into pure Heavy Metal, Ripper’s voice starts penetrating deep inside your mind while the flawless beats by Richard crush your soul, proving how incredible this duo always sounds. We’re treated to the right amount of complexity and progressiveness in this outstanding composition, and don’t forget to check Richard’s drum demonstration for this song as it’s simply awesome. The Soulless, the first single of the album, has everything we love in traditional Heavy Metal. Fast and blazing guitars, a perfect drumming, rumbling bass lines and Ripper’s screams soaring as high as the sun make this demolishing fusion of Death, Thrash and modern Heavy Metal a newborn metallic classic, with its acid lyrics criticizing what’s happening with many of us in our modern but extremely toxic society (“I see you tripping into this electric world / As your brain melts into glass / Thoughts focusing upon a dark screen of deceit / A life that’s paid in full and wallowing in grief / Stepping through the mindless threshold / Now amongst the soulless”). Moreover, I have no words to say how good the guitar solo by Mr. Suecof is, it really gives me goosebumps every single time I listen to it.

It’s time to enjoy the acoustic lines by Jason and the smoother-than-usual vocals by Ripper before their demonic side arises in the dark power ballad Afterlife, presenting a dense musicality where the thunderous bass by Steve perfectly complements the crisp beats by Richard; followed by the best song of the album in my humble opinion, As I Catch My Breath. Gripping, groovy, atmospheric, powerful and inspiring are only a few adjectives we can use to describe it, with all four band members having outstanding performances showcasing all their skills in this classy hymn. Furthermore, it’s quite impossible not to sing the chorus along with Ripper and the guys, unless you’re absolutely not into metal music, of course. Slightly similar to the musicality from “Afterlife”, Lies brings forward a solid and potent sounding with hints of Power Metal, enhancing the epic vibe of the song. It’s another tune tailored for Ripper to shine with his enraged vocals, also presenting a soulful guitar solo by Jason that puts a beautiful end to such an awesome composition.

cwotd-2016Do you like what Ripper did with Judas Priest and Beyond Fear? If your answer is yes, Reach into the Light will put a humongous smile on your face. Its rhythmic drumming and cutting riffs provide Ripper exactly what he needs to fire his old school high-pitched screams, with all breaks and variations adding more flavor to this bestial composition by this incredible quartet. It truly amuses me how they can sound extremely aggressive and very harmonious at the same time, which is the case in another one of my favorites, Tear Me Down, displaying some electrifying vocals and guitar lines while Richard continues to impress on drums. Put differently, they get the best elements from their musical backgrounds and careers, and easily transform that interesting mixture into high-end metal music.

I personally recommend Living in the Shadow of Yesterday for your road trip playlist due to its pleasant rhythm, not to mention how good the crystal clear sound of drums is, as well as the song’s mighty bass lines. In addition, despite minimal, the song’s backing vocals end up working extremely well, and I guess I don’t need to say how tuneful all riffs and solos by Jason sound. Finally, the last sonic strike by Charred Walls Of The Damned, Time Has Passed, is a lesson in bass guitar by Steve. His instrument sounds insanely heavy, slapping the listener in the face pretty hard with each note played, which only gets better when accompanied by Richard’s groovy and furious beats and fills. When the song was over after my first listen to the album, it left me craving more Charred Walls Of The Damned. Well, it’s just a matter of going back to the beginning of the album and savor all songs again and again (something I’ve been doing nonstop since the album’s official launch).

Although there are no live dates scheduled yet for Charred Walls Of The Damned, I’m certain a tour to promote Creatures Watching Over the Dead will happen soon, and I truly hope they add a few Canadian dates to that. When that happens, you might notice Jason and Steve won’t probably join Richard and Ripper due to their other duties, but that’s not a big deal as the live musicians for the band include the also awesome Dennis Hayes (bass) and John Comprix (guitar) from Beyond Fear, as well as Matt Sorg (guitar) from Shed the Skin (check the review for their kick-ass debut album Harrowing Faith by clicking HERE). While we wait for a Creatures Watching Over the Dead tour, you can enjoy the entire album at the Howard Stern’s official website, and obviously purchase your favorite version of it at the Metal Blade Records’ website. More than just a metal album, Creatures Watching Over the Dead is a magnificent lecture in Heavy Metal by four high-skilled electrified musicians who need absolutely no introduction if you live and breathe heavy music.

Best moments of the album: The Soulless, As I Catch My Breath, Reach into the Light and Tear Me Down.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Metal Blade Records

Track listing
1. My Eyes 4:30
2. The Soulless 4:03
3. Afterlife 2:53
4. As I Catch My Breath 5:03
5. Lies 3:31
6. Reach into the Light 2:39
7. Tear Me Down 3:50
8. Living in the Shadow of Yesterday 3:36
9. Time Has Passed 3:16

Band members
Tim “Ripper” Owens – vocals
Jason Suecof – guitar
Steve Digiorgio – bass
Richard Christy – drums

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Album Review – Death Angel / The Evil Divide (2016)

Fast and furious anthems, dark mid-tempo songs, austere lyrics and endless stamina. This is how high-quality Thrash Metal should always be done.

Rating3

death angel_the evil dividethrash
/THraSH/

verb
1. beat (a person or animal) repeatedly and violently with a stick or whip.
“she thrashed him across the head and shoulders” 

noun
1. 
a violent or noisy movement, typically involving hitting something repeatedly.
“the thrash of the waves”
2. a style of fast, loud, harsh-sounding rock music, combining elements of punk and heavy metal.

In case you didn’t know the meaning of the word “thrash”, this is the official definition of both the verb and the noun for you to memorize anytime someone asks you why Thrash Metal has such a peculiar name. However, if this is too much for you to remember during a conversation (or if you’re too drunk to make long and complex sentences), simply keep two words in mind, those being Death Angel, and it will be extremely easy for you to explain exactly what Thrash Metal is all about. Those thrash metallers from Daly City, the largest city in San Mateo County, California, in the United States, might have gone through several line-up changes and a huge hiatus during the 90’s, but after their resurrection in 2001 they have been delivering nothing but top-notch heavy music to the world.

After the release of the excellent The Dream Calls for Blood, in 2013, one of the key bands in the Bay Area Thrash movement of the 80’s returns at full force in 2016 with their eighth studio album, the also amazing The Evil Divide. Featuring a distinct artwork by American tattoo artist Bob Tyrrell, The Evil Divide is a feast of fast and furious Thrash Metal anthems, dark mid-tempo songs, austere lyrics and, of course, flawless performances by all band members, especially frontman Mark Osegueda who displays a wider-than-usual vocal range throughout the entire album, providing a special taste to each one of the ten songs masterfully played by the band, turning The Evil Divide into one of the best albums of the year and a must-have for lovers of old school Thrash Metal.

Get yourself ready for a high-octane onslaught, because the opening track, named The Moth, offers those piercing riffs and overpowering drums we truly love in this type of music, being melodic and polished but keeping the overall violence at a high level. Moreover, as already mentioned, Mark Osegueda is getting more demonic (and consequently more awesome) through the years, bringing more dynamism to Death Angel’s musicality. Right after that solid start, the sick bass lines by Damien Sisson kick off the circle pit-generator Cause for Alarm, where guest guitarist Jason Suecof (Charred Walls of the Damned) fires an amazing solo while drummer Will Carroll paves a path of devastation behind his drum kit. Honestly, there’s no way a real metalhead can stand still to this hurricane of Thrash Metal.

Then it’s time to slow things down a bit in Lost, a powerful heavy ballad by Death Angel with Mark stealing the spotlight with his passionate performance on vocals, while guitarists Rob Cavestany and Ted Aguilar make sure the band’s aggression keeps burning nonstop through their riffs and solos; followed by Father of Lies, a belligerent Thrash Metal tune that reminds me of the golden years of Bay Area Thrash. All you have to do is grab a beer, slam into the pit and enjoy this excellent song, paying good attention to the outstanding job done on guitars and singing along with the band its catchy and vicious chorus.

death angelIn Hell to Pay, not only its lyrics and chorus couldn’t be any thrashier (“Lurid speaker, you toxic feeder / There’s no damage on the way / Selfish user, trust abuser / There will be hell to pay”), but the overall performance of the entire band is superb. Mark leads this sonic havoc with his sharp screams, while the rest of the band keeps “feeding the beast” with all their strength. Holy fuckin’ shit, what an amazing Thrash Metal anthem! And Death Angel keep blasting their fantastic music in It Can’t Be This, another tune to sing along with the band with highlights to the amazing riffs by Rob and Ted, as well as the rumbling bass lines by Damien, which increase the song’s impact on the listener. And there’s still a lot more to come, as Hatred United/United Hate is yet another song born to be a Thrash Metal classic of modern times. Guest guitarist Andreas Kisser (Sepultura) provides an excellent guitar solo that sounds like some of his classic creations from the early days of Sepultura, whereas Mark effectively follows the lines crafted by guitars and drums with his enraged screams.

In Breakaway, an intro keeps growing until the music explodes into cataclysmic Thrash Metal, with pure electricity flowing through all instruments in one of the best tracks of the album. This is an ode to everything we admire in the music by Exodus, Testament, Slayer and so many other icons, bringing forward the speed, melody and heaviness of most classic Thrash Metal anthems.  The Electric Cell, with its old school lyrics (“A cold deathly grip on the shovel of greed / You dig a mass unmarked grave / Just know your bones will be the first to lie / At the bottom of the masses betrayed”), is a good exhibit of the endless stamina present in all band members, especially Will who doesn’t seem to know the meaning of the word “soft” while playing drums, before the cutting tune Let the Pieces Fall closes this superb album. It’s heavy and thrilling just like the rest of the album, with the vocal lines by Mark transpiring hatred. Thus, when it’s over you’ll go back to the beginning of the album and start listening to it all over again, and probably repeat that a few (or even a lot) more times until your body collapses due to unstoppable moshing and slamming.

In a nutshell, what Death Angel (or maybe I should call them “Thrash Angel”) offer us in The Evil Divide might not be a revolution in music, but it is exactly how high-quality Thrash Metal should always be done. And that seems to be an easy task for them due to the refined skills of each band member, a good sign of the bright future that lies ahead for the band and also for traditional Thrash Metal without a shadow of a doubt. No one knows if they’ll be able to top what they have achieved with The Dream Calls for Blood and The Evil Divide in recent years, and while we wait for their next release there’s plenty of awe-inspiring metal music from this iconic band in The Evil Divide to keep us banging our heads and raising our horns to the unparalleled and unrelenting sound of Thrash Metal for a good while.

Best moments of the album: Cause for Alarm, Hell to Pay, Hatred United/United Hate and Breakaway.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. The Moth 4:38
2. Cause for Alarm (feat. Jason Succof) 3:22
3. Lost 4:57
4. Father of Lies 5:05
5. Hell to Pay 3:12
6. It Can’t Be This 4:16
7. Hatred United/United Hate (feat. Andreas Kisser) 5:17
8. Breakaway 4:01
9. The Electric Cell 4:38
10. Let the Pieces Fall 5:47

CD/DVD Digipak bonus track
11. Wasteland 5:18

Band members
Mark Osegueda – vocals
Rob Cavestany – guitar
Ted Aguilar – guitar
Damien Sisson – bass
Will Carroll – drums

Guest musicians
Jason Suecof – guitar solo on “Cause for Alarm”
Andreas Kisser – guitar solo on “Hatred United/United Hate”