Despite eight years of studio silence since 2011’s Make it Dark, Twisted Tower Dire’s take on American power metal is at full force on their sixth full-length. While Wars in the Unknown features its predecessor’s slick production and high-octane style, it puts these elements toward the more epic style that defined their early 2000s heyday. It’s not quite a ‘back to the roots’ affair, but it may be one of the band’s most balanced efforts.
Considering the long gap between efforts, it’s fascinating to note that this album may feature some of the band’s most intense musicianship to date. While the drums consist of the hard-hitting, energetic patterns of albums past, the guitars have a more aggressive edge. Fortunately, there’s still plenty of melody as the leads and harmonies are packed with plenty of that sweet Maiden worship and the vocals fit the theatrical tone without showing off too much.
And with the songs consisting entirely of three to four-minute bangers, it’s fair to say that the writing is the band’s most streamlined ever. Nearly every song goes at an upbeat charging pace with hooks that are as infectious as they are pummeling. “The Thundering” starts things off on a commanding note that is gracefully sustained on “True North.” “Light the Swords on Fire” is also as gloriously ridiculous as such a title would indicate.
Of course, such tightened focus might’ve been benefitted from more variety. While mid-tempo tracks like “And the Sharks Came Then” (that title though) and “A Howl in the Wind” keep things from feeling too one-dimensional, I find myself wondering if the inclusion of a ballad or a longer song could’ve worked in the album’s favor. But considering how the album’s substance is conveyed just fine in the hooks and performances, such speculation is mere nitpicking.
Overall, Wars in the Unknown is easily the best Twisted Tower Dire album since 2003’s Crest of the Martyrs. In addition to successfully returning to their established power metal style, the band puts in some energetic performances and catchy songwriting. It’s a true symbiosis as the strongest songs come out even stronger and the lesser tracks have enough oomph to make them enjoyable. Fans of all things classic metal are strongly advised to check this one out and I really hope the band is able to strike while the iron’s hot.
“Light the Swords on Fire”
“And the Sharks Came Then”
“A Howl in the Wind”