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A mighty metal maelstrom for the ages. - 94%

Empyreal, August 14th, 2009

Twisted Tower Dire is one of the best American bands in ages, with their classic mentality and songwriting and unbeatable pep and fire. It really says something when you can take a style that’s been around for decades and make an album in that style that actually remains relevant, integral and vital to the scene, without deviating too much from the standard formula. Disagree if you might, but you’ll still be naught but another poser for Twisted Tower Dire to annihilate with the giant metal axe of metaphorical nature that is Crest of the Martyrs.

The formula here is nothing new, as I said. It borrows from the classic pool of Iron Maiden and also the original American metal barbarians, Omen and melds them together with a slick Piet Sielck production and a heavy dose of electric energy and commanding riffs for something that is just hugely gratifying. Nothing gets me pumped up quite like this album can. It’s just such an energetic experience, so fueled with metallic passion that I can’t help but love it, even despite its obvious shortcomings in originality.

The band as a whole function excellently, sounding like a pack of sword-wielding knights ready to pillage an enemy castle, take their women and slay the dragon at the end of it all. Tony Taylor has a great voice, sounding every bit the part of the brave crusader with his gritty wail and excellent sense of melody, and the riffs are often crunchy enough to send even the most reserved of metal fans into a fucking frenzy. Damn are they good.

The songs on Crest of the Martyrs are hooky, tough, smart and replayable, powering out with a monster conviction that sounds like the work of pros. “At Night” blazes through the speakers first with a hammering riff and a sing-along chorus that has to be played at max volume to get the full effect, and it’s followed up with awesome slabs of steel like the mid-paced majestic stomper “Axes & Honor” and the absolutely excellent “By My Hand,” both of which have riffs good enough for ten bands. Or how about “Infinitum,” which packs some deliciously good guitar chugging behind the choir-chanted chorus? Just ace. There are some speedy cuts, too, like the Power Metal romp of “To be a Champion” and the sailing “Fight to be Free,” as well as “Some Other Time, Some Other Place,” which ought to be an Iron Savior song, it’s that German. They’re all very good, rest assured.

The second half of the album gets a little more varied, with “Transfixed” being just under three minutes and also having one of the album’s best themes. It’s a mini-epic, a storming-the-gates scorcher that has the dynamic of a longer song fitted into a much shorter mode. Slough Feg are good at it, and it turns out Twisted Tower Dire are, too. I always thought it would be kind of cool to have a band wholly based on this kind of thing; these super-short mini epics. No longer songs at all; just a bunch of one and two-minute scorchers with enough pomp for three or four other songs crammed in. That would be pretty kickass.

“Guardian Bloodline” has some really brilliant hooks and a big chorus that manages to sound totally honest and sincere in its brevity, and then we kick into “The Reflecting Pool,” which is the album’s big epic, with its Maidenesque riff patterns and monster shout along chorus. It’s really a great way to end a great album, even though the album still has some bonus tracks left to bite into - "The Witch's Eyes" is a remake of one of their old songs, and the band even had the good taste to cover Tarot's "Wings of Darkness" with as much gusto as they had on the regular songs. Kickass.

So Twisted Tower Dire smoke. And you'd have to be smoking something to pass this awesome collection of kickass metal anthems up. Go get it.