The last time that much of the general populace heard of Twisted Sister, they had released a Christmas album. Seriously. And something that, by all accounts shouldn’t have worked at all, did.
But then, there’s a very good reason it worked. As much as Twisted Sister is metal and balls-out rock, they’re also a five-man swarm of an infectious great time. Their heaviness has been evident since they first emerged from “Under The Blade”, and their lighter side since the first time Mark Metcalf played the drill-sergeant of a father in the video for “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”
Both sides collide to form a complete package in a show 16 years in the making in the new DVD, Twisted Sister Live At Wacken: The Reunion. As a replacement for Iced Earth at the 2003 festival, the organizers of the Wacken Open Air festival booked a band that was finally ready to return at full power after a decade of being separated by bad blood and six years of taking slow, steady steps toward a reunion. The show was the first proper return for Twisted SIster, and the DVD not only features their triumphant return set, but the journey that led there.
As far as the journey that leads there, there is a CD included with the set. Covering a handful of tracks from 1980 (long before the band went huge) up to the Wacken festival. It’s almost too sparse on the early stuff to be of any note, but it’s still an interesting document to have on hand to see just how down and dirty the band got back in their grittier days.
The DVD itself, however, is much more of a complete piece as far as chronicling history goes. Interspersed with the show itself are several interviews – it could technically be called a documentary, but the roughness of it almost disqualifies it from being seen as such in a proper light – with all five members of the band. Interestingly, though, none of them appear on camera together at any point. Jay Jay French explained their relationship in an interview around the time A Twisted Christmas was released. It’s more of an association between the five rather than a real relationship, but it’s enough of one to keep the band going and more revitalized than, arguably, at any time during its existence.
Rather than tell a complete history of the band (which has been covered several times in several other outlets), the documentary (?) wisely keeps the focus on the reason for the show – the band’s reunion. Starting with the break-up in 1987, the band members separately tell the collective story of how they slowly got back together. Each step – from the Speaks reunion (which involved four out of the five members) to “A Night For Jason” to the New York Steel benefit after the 9/11 incident – is laid out and discussed in detail. The interviews telling the story are one thing, but seeing some of the footage along the way, particularly of the 9/11 New York Steel benefit when it was clear that Twisted Sister knew when to be campy and when to simply explode, go a long way in telling the complete tale.
The reunion show itself, although not shown as a complete, beginning-to-end affair, is when the collision of fun and fury happen. In their first show back, Twisted Sister tear the roof off an open-air venue.
It’s an impressive display to see, after all those years of not playing together as cohesive unit and (at that point) 26 years grand total in the game, the band perform as if they were in their mid-20s again. Snider can still hit every note and work a crowd like he owns the venu–hell with that, the country. Jay Jay French and Eddie Odeja can still run circles around a lot of guitarists and are magnificent to hear in harmony. Mark “The Animal” Mendoza earns his nickname by not just playing the bass, but beating it half to death. And AJ Pero is as good as ever at what he does (highlighted by a great solo during “Burn In Hell”).
The band has plenty of space apart on stage to keep whatever distance they may need to, but they actually look like they don’t need it. There’s an awesome time being had by the guys on stage, but there’s just as much excitement going on in the crowd. It’s a sure sign when Twisted Sister has to re-start “We’re Not Gonna Take It” three times because the crowd won’t stop singing the chorus.
All in all, Twisted Sister Live At Wacken: The Reunion is a great way for casual fans that last saw the gang in a Christmas video on YouTube (or, worse, on VH1 “Behind The Music”) see what the band is up to along with how and why they dominated the ‘80s in the first place. For true fans of the band, it’s a moment to celebrate as one of the most raucous bands in hard rock storms back on stage to take over.