Twisted Tower Dire
Crest of the Martyrs
Twisted Tower Dire - Crest of the Martyrs - 2003 - Reviewed by Agent of Steel
|Track Listing1. At Night|
2. Some Other Time, Some Other Place
3. Axes & Honor
4. To Be a Champion
6. Fight to Be Free
8. By My Hand
9. Guardian Bloodline
10. The Reflecting Pool
11. The Witch's Eye 2003 (Bonus Digipak)
Twisted Tower Dire is a band that is no stranger to change. With that in mind, their third installment, "Crest of the Martyrs", alters into another direction. This time opting for a more slick, modern, and European sound (mainly thanks to Piet Sielck of Iron Savior fame). Twisted Tower Dire venture yet again into unmarked territory. One may also notice that the change in album covers, as the well renowned Derek Riggs (Iron Maiden, of course) strikes forth a more modern, computer generated piece. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a fan of Riggs' later work, but this is the best TTD album cover yet and it came out surprisingly fitting.
"Crest of the Martyrs" opens with the very powerful "At Night" which is just what your ears yearn for within a TTD recording, transporting you into the fantasy world that's been created. Replacing Mike Engel's short stint, Jim Hunter (Revelation/While Heaven Wept/October 31) more than fulfills bass duties as apparent on "Some Other Time, Some Other Place", a song that really takes this new direction/production to its' greatest advantage, upbeat and extremely catchy, you just won't find it within yourself to not sing along at least once. The debut single, "Axes & Honor", begins on a more doom-like note, bringing you back to the days of "The Curse of Twisted Tower". That doesn't last long however, being one of the most straight-forward songs on this release, ending with an Iron Maiden induced twin guitar harmony that you've come to expect from Dave Boyd and Scott Waldrop (who have really been eating their spinach in the guitar lead department, with some of their best yet throughout this album) . At this point it seems that all skepticism can be put aside, but you'll soon learn that you've been mistaken. Filling (how fitting) the middle of "Crest of the Martyrs" is three songs that really bug me. "To Be a Champion" is both aggressive and catchy, "Fight to be Free" has some good guitar harmonies, and well, "Infinitum" is just kind of there.
While these songs aren't horrible by any means, being more in favor of something from Gamma Ray or even Iron Savior, of course. They just don't embrace the originality and conviction that Twisted Tower Dire has proven to produce in the past. Even though Marc Stauffer seems to be at the top of his game and the drum sound is INCREDIBLE (a first for a Twisted Tower Dire album) the double bass/snare/high hat beat doesn't fit well at all for TTD and just ends up leaving me with a foul taste in my mouth. Especially for complainers of "Ride the Night" from "The Isle of Hydra" (which by the way, was a great song, I thought). Those songs take that accessibility a much bigger step forward.
Thankfully, everything past "Fight to be Free" is a breathe of much needed fresh air. "Transfixed", "By My Hand", and "Guardian Bloodline" are some of the catchiest, forged in true Metal fashion tracks on "Crest of the Martyrs", although the real treasure awaits you closing out this release. "The Reflecting Pool" is worth the price of admission on its' own (and is my favorite track) as Tony Taylor's melodic voice soars over this epic/fantasy tale that reminds you of how simply outstanding Twisted Tower Dire can be! Fans that act now can also score the Digi-pak release that includes a revamped for 2003 version of "The Witch's Eye" from their debut full-length.
At first listen you may find yourself in disbelief, or perhaps shock that a cult/underground band that carries the moniker "Triumphing True Metal" would take such a chance with this new production. "Crest of the Martyrs" is an album that can draw a more modern/European crowd as their current fans still hold on (while perhaps losing the more close-minded fans). Hopefully that query will soon fade after repeated listens to "Crest of the Martyrs". Buried underneath layers of vocal and guitar tracks, is yet another triumphant return from America's leaders of epic/fantasy Heavy Metal, Twisted Tower Dire. Where will they go next? Only time will tell. Until then, they've left us with three full-lengths, while being much different from one another; can still stand on their own individually. Hail Northern Virginia!
--Agent of Steel 9.24.03