Twisted Tower Dire

Crest of the Martyrs

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Twisted Tower Dire's third album, Crest of the Martyrs, once again finds them worshiping unapologetically at the altar of classic heavy metal: big guitars, big drums, big choruses, big concepts...little budget, but very big hearts. As such, standout offerings like "At Night," "Infinitum," and "Transfixed" are virtually timeless in nature, standing in stylistic league with everyone from ancient warhorses Iron Maiden and Dio to early Queensr├┐che and Savatage, and laced with stellar twin-guitar harmonies and solos to boot. The irrepressible "Axes & Honors" really says it all, urging fans to join the band's crusade in shamelessly overblown fashion, while "The Reflecting Pool" manages to pull off one of those "acoustic intro-into-galloping metal stomp" transitions to perfection. Less effective are those numbers ("Some Other Time, Some Other Place," "To Be a Champion," "Fight to Be Free," "Guardian Bloodline") pushing the thrash envelope toward Euro-power metal cheese, and the disproportionate doses of camp excess that inevitably come with it -- oh well, it's not perfect. And if the album's overall production isn't quite as slick and flawless as most other heavy metal bands (and certainly most power metal bands) out there, this trait actually helps set apart Twisted Tower Dire's music with a rawer, earthier, more honest-sounding edge than any pretty-boy metal bands. Overall, Crest of the Martyrs amounts to a surprisingly solid listen from start to finish, never rewriting the heavy metal handbook, but respecting its maxims and exploiting their merits to a fault.

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