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Oh, yeah. Another fine heavy power metal release for 2003. It seems like the United States bands are really dominating the top of my list so far this year with Cage, Agent Steel, The Lord Weird Slough Feg, and now Twisted Tower Dire coming along with some of their best work to date.
Formed in 1995, it was 4 years before the band cut their debut full-length, CURSE OF THE TWISTED TOWER for Miskatonic Records, with the follow-up, THE ISLE OF HYDRA coming two years later. CREST OF THE MARTYRS is the third release by the Virginia-based US Power Metallers, and their first with their new label, Remedy Records.
When I finally got my hands on this eagerly anticipated release by one of the best USPM bands, I first notice 3 things:
1).The old Twisted Tower Dire “Tree” logo is gone, replaced by straightforward lettering. Why, oh why did you do this? The old TTD logo was among the best ever, IMO.
2). Artwork done by Derek Riggs. Oh hell yes.
3). Produced by Iron Savior mastermind Piet Sielck. You really can’t go wrong with that, either.
Forgoing any form of gratuitous introductory track (almost a refreshing change of pace anymore), “At Night” runs right over with a blast of classic traditional metal in the Priest/Saxon/Maiden school. Oh, yeah...I’m digging this already. The production has really stepped up since the previous album. In fact, I’m finding it almost too glossy in some places, though this is not a huge issue. Vocalist Tony Taylor must have been training his voice, improving both his power and range. This, too, fits the clearer production, lthough his performance is still very good, I personally prefer an untrained style with more of an edge.
Piet Sielck’s interventions with the album are really apparent on the next track, “Some Other Time, Some Other Place.” This one is a total speed metal ripper; a quick 3-minute track with some cool basslines by Jim Hunter and a total over-the-top Iron Savior-ish chorus. Did I mention that Piet also contributed backing vocals to the album? “Axes and Honor” is exactly what I imagine when I think of Twisted Tower Dire. Mid-paced USPM with a marching lead riff and an epic middle instrumental passage. “To be a Champion” is one of my favourites on the entire album. More speed metal here, but with a bit of Euro flair that Hammerfall hasn’t had since GLORY TO THE BRAVE. I love the solo around the 2:15 mark that carries for nearly 20 seconds. Speaking of Hammerfall, Tony Taylor should have been picked by Bill Tsamis to record the last Warlord album instead of Joacim.
Well, we’re almost halfway through the album, and we’re 4 for 4 with great tunes. My only complaint so far is the overuse of “Iron Savior Backing Vocals” on nearly every track so far. It’s good for Iron Savior, and it’s cool used occasionally, but GIVE IT A REST already! Personally, I think it sounds more like artificial filler than an integral part of the sound.
The last half of the album easily as strong as the first, if not better. Twisted Tower Dire settles down a bit from the speed metal into their own familiar USPM style. We’ve got some TTD classics here, like “Fight to be Free,” “By My Hand,” and “Guardian Bloodline.” Closing out the album is the 7-minute “The Reflecting Pool,” and damn does this one rule. Easily the best on the album, it starts off almost as a ballad before laying down the force. Yup, this rules!
Oh, yeah, we also get a bonus track with a new recording of “The Witch’s Eyes,” from TTD’s cult first album, THE CURSE OF THE TWISTED TOWER. The original version is my favourite Twisted Tower Dire song, and the new version absolutely destroys. This one’s definitely a winner!
Twisted Tower Dire return with a third effort that I feel is their best work to date. This one will certainly end up ranking high on my top 10 list come year’s end. True metal fans do not miss this gem from one of the best underground United States Power Metal bands.
(originally written by me for www.metal-rules.com, August, 2003)