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 – Shed the Skin / Harrowing Faith (2016)

Not only an amazing tribute to the life of American musician Tom Rojack (R.I.P.), but also a lesson in old school Death Metal by five skillful veterans.

Rating4

shed-the-skin-album-coverFormed in 2011 in the city of Cleveland, Ohio, in the United States by longtime friends Kyle Severn (drummer from Death Metal legends Incantation) and Matt Sorg (guitarist for Ringworm, Charred Walls of the Damned, Blood of Christ and Beyond Fear, among others) after playing together in a tribute to old school band Blood of Christ at a memorial show for their friend Tom Rojack, who passed away in 1997, Death Metal quintet Shed the Skin are unleashing upon the earth their highly anticipated debut full-length beast entitled Harrowing Faith, following their 2014 7” EP Rebirth Through Brimstone. More than just an album, Harrowing Faith is a statement that proves the fire of traditional and brutal Death Metal is far from being extinguished.

And let me tell you that the name of the band, inspired by the track also named “Shed the Skin” from Blood of Christ’s 1993 four-song promo cassette simply titled Promo ’93, perfectly illustrates what the music by this old school Satanic Death Metal horde will inflict in you. Featuring a gory artwork by James “Human Furnace” Bulloch (Ringworm), Harrowing Faith transpires violence and bloodshed, with each one of its 12 compositions offering the listener the talent and aggressiveness of the band’s five Death Metal veterans in a little less than 40 intense minutes.

The obscure and atmospheric intro Plasmic Flames can be considered the calm before the storm in Harrowing Faith, because when the metallic riffs by Matt ignite the mosh pit-generator Daimonic Adytum all hell breaks loose. Moreover, lead singer and guitarist Ash Thomas (FaithXtractor, Vladimirs, Acheron) vomits his deep guttural like a maniac beast, enhancing even more the impact of this excellent Death Metal devastation. Then we have the title-track Harrowing Faith, a brutal havoc played at full speed where Kyle is absolutely on fire, providing more fuel for Ash to thrive with his demonic gnarls. Albeit very technical, it’s still absolutely raw and dark just the way we love in Death Metal, especially the demented sound of guitars the likes of Cannibal Corpse.

shed-the-skin-bandBlackened bells tow in a sensational demonic intro for the next tune, Putrid and Pious, as fast and aggressive as the previous tunes. The growls by Ash get deeper and deeper, with the album’s outstanding production and hints of Doom Metal taking the song’s pugnacity to a whole new level. A somber ambience grows in obscurity in Unbound Revenant, once again venturing through the realms of Doom Metal, in special the slow and steady drumming by Kyle, being perfect for fans of extremely Stygian music. Right after that doomed exhibit, a sick guitar solo kicks off a two-minute feast of sheer Death Metal entitled Warband Under the Baphomet, with highlights to its amazing vibe, fierce beats and a superb job done by both guitarists Ash and Matt as well as bassist Ed Stephens (Ringworn, Vindicator, Charred Walls of the Damned) with their lacerating strings. And the band keeps the album at a very high level of quality with the deranged composition CSUM, where not only guitars and drums are in total sync, but the hints of progressiveness added amidst all savagery also increase the overall quality of such hostile chant.

In Alpha and Omega, guitar noises grow in intensity and are violently joined by all instruments, generating total madness in the form of high-end Death Metal for the delight of diehard fans of the genre; followed by Cambion, where Ash sounds like a demonic ogre on vocals. Furthermore, this song shows that Death Metal doesn’t need to be played at the speed of light to be awesome, being as heavy as hell due to its amazing riffs and bass lines. There’s still more destruction to come, starting with Inhuman Accretion, a solid composition with demented guitar solos and endless savagery where Kyle is a stone crusher on drums as usual. The last regular song of the album, named Innermost Sanctuary, is very melodic and keeps up with the rest of the album in heaviness, but sounding slightly generic compared to the other songs, with the piercing guitars by Ash and Matt being its best element, whereas the hellish outro Execration Divine, showcasing the Phantom of the Opera-inspired organ by Brian Boston and the demonic guitar lines by Ash and Matt, puts an end to this lesson in Death Metal.

If you’re not yet familiar with the works and projects by each of the five Death Metal war dogs behind Shed the Skin, I suggest you go check their Facebook page, and in case you want to purchase this scorching gem of extreme music called Harrowing Faith simply visit the band’s BandCamp page or the Hells Headbangers Records’ BandCamp page. Wherever Mr. Tom Rojack is, I’m certain he’s truly honored with the final result that Kyle, Matt & Co. achieved with Shed the Skin, a tribute to his life and to all things Death Metal.

Best moments of the album: Harrowing Faith, Putrid and Pious and Warband Under the Baphomet.

Worst moments of the album: Innermost Sanctuary.

Released in 2016 Hells Headbangers Records

Track listing
1. Plasmic Flames 2:06
2. Daimonic Adytum 1:55
3. Harrowing Faith 3:10
4. Putrid and Pious 3:39
5. Unbound Revenant 4:05
6. Warband Under the Baphomet 2:01
7. CSUM 3:28
8. Alpha and Omega 4:44
9. Cambion 4:21
10. Inhuman Accretion 2:42
11. Innermost Sanctuary 4:04
12. Execration Divine 2:38

Band members
Ash Thomas – vocals, guitars
Matt Sorg – guitars
Ed Stephens – bass
Brian Boston – keyboards
Kyle Severn – drums