Released: 2011, Cruz Del Sur
Reviewer: Robert Williams
When I opened my mailbox to find a promo for the new Twisted Tower Dire album, all I could hear in my head was an onslaught of sports broadcaster's proclaiming celebratory statements like "He shoots...AND HE SCORES!" or maybe something like "That is a homerun for the ages ladies and gentleman, he hit that one right out of the ballpark!" or perhaps even "GOOOOAAAALLLL!" if you follow world cup soccer. Alongside bands like Manowar, Lizzy Borden and RIOT, I consider Twisted Tower Dire to be one of my absolute favorite American heavy metal bands that can seemingly do no wrong. I will have to admit being a little bit on the fence considering how much I enjoyed the band's older material with former vocalist Tony Taylor (who tragically passed away in a motorcycle accident on February 6, 2010)
Immediately upon hearing the upbeat heavy metal rocker "Mystera" for the first time with it's ultra-catchy chorus and trademark twin melodic guitar leads, I was blown away at how good the new Twisted Tower Dire vocalist Johnny Aune fit the band's latest material. Like a pummeling right jab-left hook combination, the awesomeness of second track "Snow Leopard" hits you square between the eyes before you can properly catch your breath and recover from the ass-kicking that "Mystera" dealt. "Snow Leopard" features some really memorable melodies and a chorus that you'll catch yourself humming all day. "The Stone" is another energetic and fast paced composition that would make for a great opening number in the live setting. "Make It Dark" the album's title track, has a distinctive late seventies/early eighties heavy metal feel, a bit mid-paced throughout it's duration and built upon the strengths of vocalist Johnny Aune who makes every verse, every chorus shine. Johnny's phrasing and over all delivery was either going to make or break the band with this release and I'm happy to report that he successfully delivers! It's difficult to pinpoint or put over how unique of a vocal performance we're left with here, but there are flourishes here and there that make me scratch my head and ponder whether or not he may be a disciple of early John Arch (Fates Warning).
"White Shadow" has single written all over it. This is perhaps my favorite track on the CD with an eerie, melodic graveyard romp and delivery of lyrics like "White Shadow moves under the moonlight" that will have the hairs on the back of your neck standing up. The hard rockin' "Torture, Torture" showcases the band's classic rock influences and is as close to mainstream rotation as this album gets. "Beyond The Gates" however could be the crown jewel of the record and worth price of admission alone. This is epic heavy metal right here in all of it's eight minute glory. I can't quite place it, but I am almost positive that some of these riffs harken back to the band's earlier material, a continuation if you will and a welcomed reminder of what's still to come.
All in all, this is about as satisfied as I could be with a new release from Twisted Tower Dire. It's a one in a million gamble replacing a veteran vocalist as seasoned and talented as Tony Taylor was and few band's have found success in doing so, but rest assured that the band's new material is top notch, over the top and well above that of their peers in the American underground traditional heavy metal genre.