Twisted Tower Dire - Wars in the Unknown

Twisted Tower Dire Wars in the Unknown cover
Twisted Tower Dire
Wars in the Unknown
No Remorse Records
If not for anything else, you have to give it to Twisted Tower Dire for being persistent. While they’ve gone through as many lineup shifts as any band that’s been around for a quarter of a century or so, (some voluntary and some not so, ie the death of Tony Taylor), they have persevered and through thick and thin have kept releasing albums that have been consistent.
The band that at this point shares three members with Walpyrgus seems to be taking turns a bit, with which one is “more” active, I suppose and several years after “Make It Dark” they return with an album that’s consistent with what they’ve been doing in the past decade. Now that album was the debut for Jonny Aune with the band and while some people didn’t like his more gutsy and real vocals he projected, that replaced the constant mixed and falsetto voice of the late Taylor, I did find that album promising.
The band has matured and graduated to a heavier and slightly more contemporary version of their epic, true and lyrical metal, in a way that both stays true to their roots, but also doesn’t sound purposely dated… and in a scene that’s more preoccupied with spandex, the 80s (that most people in it weren’t even born in), than real song and original music, is not only endearing but also very welcome.
Well, we’ve seen an increasing number of “cult” bands that didn’t actually get to release an album in the 80s and in the 90s they released “limited” editions of their demos or unreleased albums, getting the limelight and if we were to be honest, half of them, weren’t much to talk about, to start with. But not these, guys… they’ve soldiered on and this album feels like the culmination of all their years, passionately distilled into some perfectly rockin’ metal!
Opener “The Thundering” just bursts out of the speakers with a confident, heavy riff and despite never pushing the pedal to the metal, it subtly drops a chorus that simply gets you thunder-struck!
“True North” is epic and while it doesn’t properly break into a proper gallop, it has a cool driving rhythm that allow Aune to deliver another epic chorus! Fan-fuckin-tastic.
“Tear You Apart” begins with a savage riff, in the best Omen tradition and also quite reminiscent of stuff that bands like Brocas Helm or Slough Feg would often come up with. Again wasting little time, it drops a simple but effective sing-along of a refrain, with Aune’s measured delivery sounding passionate, but also as heavy and masculine, as it should without turning into a parody, an often occurrence in the given genre.
“Light the Swords on Fire” is an epic sing-along of a song, with a chorus that seems to be going on for quite a bit – relax, did you think I was gonna say forever?! It’s a lot more Walpyrgus-like, but in a way it also reminded me a bit of the epic rocking touch of the scene’s Swedish progenitors Heavy Load, albeit Americanized and a lot more melodic and up-to-date.
“And the Sharks Came Then” arrives with a rather lazy riff and is a little odd, but in its own way, quite what the album needed. It’s even slightly bluesy, without ever abandoning the “epic” mantle, but at the same time invoking the cool rocking of early to mid-era Riot and mixing it perfectly with its own DNA.
You could almost figure it from the title that “Riding the Fortress” was gonna be a galloping, maidenesque – albeit a bit heavier – tune… that while pretty cool, just seems like it would benefit from becoming really unhinged. It staying in the mid tempo territory, with only sharp burst of guitars sounding more frantic, leaves things a little unfinished. It’s nice – slightly prog – for all intends and purposes conclusion heads in the right direction, but arrives a little too slow, too late.
“Eons Beyond” actually doesn’t waste a minute to start and it seems to be closer to what its predecessor should have been… several Whoooa’s later… it again leaves the listener a little unfulfilled. It’s by no means a bad song, it’s along with its precursor, just a small step down from the almost perfect standard of the album, but by no means filler-fodder.
“A Howl in the Wind” starts with a massive epic sounding riff-storm and a mean and dark vocal by Aune... managing to steer the album in the direction it should go in, but again stagnating a bit, tempo wise. If it was a little more mixed up in that regard, I think it would stand as one of the better songs of the album, while now it just misses that boat by a rope’s length.
And the whiner in me seems to get his comeuppance with the much faster “The Beast I Fear”, which is even smartly segmented to create quite a bit suspense. A fine song that maybe would have sounded a little better in the flow of the album a little earlier on… but fine, nonetheless.
“These Ghosts Can Never Leave” closes the album, a little underwhelmingly, relying in the same tricks the band utilizes for most of the album, but with Aune opting to go a little cleaner and higher, for the chorus… that really ex-machina style saves the song from stagnating, along with a pretty epic solo. If done with good measure, this is something he should attempt to do more often.
Spearheaded by half a dozen of ubercool songs and with a handful more that never drop the ball, this is one of the more “well rounded” Twisted Tower Dire releases and what I consider to be metal that’s strong and true, as they’re rarely forging it these days. Easily better than most “epic releases” in the last few years and worth being recognized for what it is. Awesome that is!