Twisted Tower Dire are a band with a very special place in the annals of US power metal. They formed in 1995 and released a majority of their material in the early 2000s. This was a time in which the majority of bands were shying away from more traditional styles of heavy metal, but Twisted Tower Dire were one of the few exceptions who held the flag high. They’re a band known for their fast paced, dual guitars and heavy use of singalong choruses. Before they really established this iconic style of catchy, but riff-centric power metal, they released a couple of unique demos that are unlike the rest of their discography.
Hail Northern Virginia (1995)
Hail Northern Virginia is Twisted Tower Dire’s very first recording and it gives us a glimpse into a much different band than what they eventually became. It’s just 10 minutes of demo-quality music across two tracks, but this 10 minutes is captivating in its own ways. The songs are dynamic and range from doom laden, mid-tempo sections to absolutely frantic and urgent riffing. It’s a bit rough around the edges, but both tracks are excellently written and demonstrate a band with incredible musicianship.
Although the songs are excellent, the line-up of the band was much different then and that plays a huge factor in why it sounds so familiar, but distinctly different. For most of Twisted Tower Dire’s career, it was either Tony Taylor (RIP) or Jonny Aune handling vocal duties, but here we have Tom Philips, known for his work in While Heaven Wept, handling vocal duties. Tom is a great vocalist and he gives the songs a different, more emotive and less triumphant feeling than his successors. Also absent on Hail Northern Virginia is guitarist Dave Boyd – the dynamic duo of Scott Waldrop and Dave Boyd has been a fixture on every single Twisted Tower Dire full length.
Triumphing True Metal (1997)
Twisted Tower Dire’s next recording would come just a year after with the Triumphing True Metal demo, their most unique offering. This demo features re-recordings of both “Rue of the Forsaken Sleepkeeper” and “Mourner in the Nethermists” from Hail Northern Virgnia, but this time we also have the inclusion of an 8+ minute epic titled “Beyond the Gate”. With that said, the biggest differentiator between the two demos is the inclusion of the incredible Janet Rubin, who took over vocal duties after Tom Philips left the band. She’s a very passionate and talented vocalist and her approach to the melodies added a bit of melancholy and drama to Twisted Tower Dire’s sound that we don’t get from any other release in their catalog, including the previous demo. Her unique vocal performance combined with the band’s songwriting prowess elevates this demo to incredible heights and simply put this is personally one of my favorite and most re-visited traditional metal demos of all time.
In addition to Janet being an incredible vocalist, “Beyond the Gate” also just happens to be one of Twisted Tower Dire’s best songs. It’s an epic, but highly intricate track that never gets boring for a single second. “Beyond the Gate” has been re-recorded and included as a bonus track multiple times with both Tony Taylor (RIP) and Jonny handling the vocals. While they’re both excellent vocalists, I firmly believe that no one else can deliver it in the same way Janet Ruben did. Sadly, this would be her only stint with the band, but what a recording it is.
If you’re going to take anything away at all from this write-up, please give “Beyond the Gate” a listen – you won’t be disappointed.