Twisted Tower Dire // Make It Dark
Rating: 3.5/5.0 —80s cheese designed to please!
Label: Cruz Del Sur Records
Websites: twistedtowerdire.com | myspace.com/twistedtowerdire
Release Dates: EU: 2011.05.13 | US: 05.03.2011
C’mon, more old school 80s metal? When is enough enough? For folks like Angry Metal Guy, enough came six minutes after the first 80s retro album appeared [It was at least 12 or 14 minutes – AMG]. But Steel Druhm says as long as it’s good, keep it coming and add the cheese! That brings us to the Virginia crew Twisted Tower Dire. These stalwart gents have been plying their vintage early 80’s style since 1995 and Make It Dark is their fifth old school crusade. Taking their main cues from Iron Maiden and merging it with old Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy and Diamond Head, Twisted Tower‘s sound has evolved over the years into something akin to Slough Feg or Pharaoh. Working in their favor over their career was a determination to continually hone and refine their sound and songwriting chops. Make It Dark keeps that evolution headed in the right direction and this is their strongest effort to date. Loaded with vibrant, energetic, guitar driven metal with the true spirit of the 80s present in every note, this is a helluva lot of fun to play and play loud!
The big reservation I had prior to spinning this was the absence of seminal front man Tony Taylor, who tragically passed away last year. His vocals were a huge part of Twisted Tower‘s appeal and he had a real understanding of how classic metal vocals should sound. Stepping into those big shoes is Johnny Aune and happily, he does a great job and brings a lot of the same skill and swagger that Mr. Taylor did, although Aune is more of rock type singer. Aside from successful filling the vocal spot, Twisted Tower clearly used the time since 2007’s Netherworlds to craft some high quality songs and it’s the song craft that makes this such a pleasure to rock along to (with one glaring exception to be discussed). Starting off with “Mystera,” you get heaping helping of Maiden-esque trilling, galloping riffs, vintage metal soloing and soaring, melodic vocals. As fun as the song is, it pales in comparison to the album highpoint “Snow Leopard” which gets the listener’s attention on first spin and gets better every time thereafter. It simply doesn’t get more 80’s than this. The wailing leads accentuating the vocals, the cheesy but somehow serious lyrics and that super catchy riffing style (one of the riffs has been stuck in my head for days). Great old school metal here!
From there its more quality classic metal and tracks like “Make It Dark,” “White Shadow” and “The Only Way” are all excellent and loaded with great guitar work and hooky, melodic vocals. Then, out of nowhere, you get blindsided by a majorly crappy song that stops the album flow cold. Yes, “Torture Torture” is a cosmically bad cock-rock-gone-sour number that takes their basic sound and defiles it. Why the band didn’t see this can’t be explained or wished away. To get the idea how out of place it is, imagine a Justin Bieber song dropped in the middle of an Opeth album. Yes, that bad. This would have gotten a 4.0 but for this little nugget. In better news, they recover somehow and the extra long closer “Beyond the Gate” helps partially scrub the misery and shame away.
Like most 80s retro metal releases, the guitars do most of the heavy lifting and Scott Waldrop and Dave Boyd bring the goods. Most of the songs are graced with very memorable, raise-the-horns worthy riff patterns and some great and at times gleefully excessive soloing. Highlights are the aforementioned “Snow Leopard,” the excellent “White Shadow” and the epic “Beyond the Gate.”
If every retro metal album was this much fun and so damn 80s, I’d be one happy camper. If you love the sound of bands like Iron Maiden and Grim Reaper or the even the new breed like Slough Feg and Pharaoh, this should hit the spot. It’s good enough to recover from a serious misstep and still score a 3.5. Check this out and have the air guitar ready to go!