Anytime someone mentions the word supergroup, I automatically get images of overblown bad jokes like Rock Star: Supernova, Audioslave, or Zwan springing to mind. Excessive, bloated, overly vaunted – the groups rarely live up to their potential, and the cynic in me screams “Ca$h-in!”
But then unsung drum god Richard Christy announced his new project Charred Walls of the Damned last year, and a lot of metalheads held it high in anticipation. The lineup’s there and it reads like a Who’s-who of metal (¾ of it a Who’s-who of Iced Earth): veteran Steve DiGiorgio on bass, “Ripper” Owens on vocals, hot-shit producer Jason Suecof on guitar, and Christy on drums – instant masterpiece, right?
Well, it’s a hell of a debut, for sure. Christy’s topnotch drumwork has always been jaw-dropping, that’s no different here; and yes, since joining The Howard Stern Show in 2004, we knew the guy knew his way around prank phone calls (the name of the band is an in-joke reference to an on-air prank call Christy made to a Christian radio call-in show) – but who knew he was such a strong songwriter as well? Every track stands on its own as a memorable piece of power-thrash, with a healthy flavour of old-school trad thrown in for good measure. It’s no secret the guy’s a big King Diamond fan, so the tracks are reminiscent of the King’s finest work, but it’s subtle and honorific, and the album ultimately stands on its own.
”Ghost Town” opens the disc with a classic Christy spaz-fill (it’s really his track), and the disc never lets off from there. But it’s the guitar work of Jason Suecof and the vocals of Ripper Owens that particularly shine through on the rest of the disc – especially evident on “From the Abyss” – and “Blood on Wood”, with its anthemic chorus, really, really spotlights Ripper’s mighty vocal talents. It’s nice to finally see him in a band situation where his talents aren’t automatically held up against the singers who were in the band before him. DiGiorgio holds the whole bottom end tightly together like the seasoned journeyman he is, though they could have mixed his bass in a little higher – the work he’s doing gets a little lost in places.
If I have one complaint about the record, it’s a minor one, and it’s that, at thirty-five minutes, the disc is over just as I’m starting to really get into it. Here’s hoping that on the next disc, the band gets to stretch out a bit more and offers up an album that’s a little longer. All in all, Charred Walls… is a solid piece of all-out metal from a seasoned group of players who fit really, really well together.
(Metal Blade Records)