“Lovekillers marks Tony Harnell’s return to the soaring vocals and Melodic Hard Rock sound of the 80’s TNT albums. It is an over-the-top and straight ahead way to embrace the classic 80’s sound and bring it back with passion and the amazing vocal register that only Harnell can deliver.” This is an outtake from this album’s press release. They also mentioned then albums Tell No Tales (1987) and Intuition (1989). Now, I’m a fan of TNT – but I am a HUGE fan of those two albums. Could this album actually be something similar to those records – both in quality and in sound? Sounds too good to be true, if you ask me. The thing is, neither Harnell or TNT has brought us any masterpieces without each other and I truly believe that the only way for the two parties to create anything that shakes my world is to create music together. But after what, three, four splits, those chances are slim – and then some!
Even though I love Tony Harnell as a singer, his solo stuff has failed to impress me much when it comes to the music. Westworld – that also featured bassist Bruno Ravel (Danger Danger) and guitarist Marke Reale (Riot) – had a few pretty good songs, but the Magnus Karlsson written albums by Metal act Starbreaker never grabbed me at all. Then there are outfits like Morning Wood, The Mercury Train and The Wildflowers feat. Bumblefoot plus two solo records which I have heard little to nothing from so this album was the album that brought my hopes up – and my expectations because of said press-release.
The opening pop-rocker “Alive Again” proves that the song writers and producers here are trying really hard to live up the expectations of the press-release. It’s a very smooth and melodic rocker with its feet in 1989. With a killer riff and a slick keyboard sound the slightly quieter verses takes us to a huge refrain which is on the catchy and hook-laden side. It brings TNT to mind for sure – albeit not as awesome – and Tony shows us that his pipes are still with him. Good one. “Hurricane” comes on with a riff shamelessly borrowed from “Intuition”. With a more laid-back verse and a much more straight-forward and in-your-face chorus that holds a big AOR melody, the song do belong in the 80’s. It’s a good and catchy tune but despite the TNT-like riff and Harnell’s voice, most of the song sounds more like just another Frontiers Records project. It’s a pretty good song without being overly impressive.
Third single “Ball And Chain” is total 80’s AOR-rock complete with a 1986 sounding synth sound which makes the whole tune smooth, slick and pink n’ fluffy and even though it’s impossible not to get caught by its intense catchiness, the song is also one of those middle-of-the-road tunes that we’ve heard so many times on other Frontiers projects. It’s ok but really not that special. The ballad “Who Can We Run To” opens with a Journey influenced piano melody and then continues atmospheric and levitating over a floating rhythm. The smoothness of the song is made less obvious by the darker atmosphere and emotional twist in Harnell’s singing – it’s a smooth ballad yet not sugary or cheesy. Very good.
Second single “Higher Again” is a slick AOR-rocker that is carried upon an upbeat rhythm. With sticky melodies, poppy arrangements and a smooth but catchy chorus, I understand why it’s a single because it sticks really fast and had it been 1989 – that’s where the song belongs – I’m sure it would have ruled MTV. I really should dig this hard but even though it’s not a bad song, it’s way too standard and Harnell’s voice is the only thing that makes it stand out at least some. Slick and silky, the mid-paced, 80’s sounding half-ballad “Across The Ocean” sports a somewhat laid-back yet massively catchy chorus that sticks right away. It also breaks the AOR mould with a crunchy guitar solo that suits the song brilliantly when the sound is actually wrong for the tune – and also some weird synth sounds that brings Gregorian chants to mind. To me, this is the finest piece on the album – very good.
“Bring Me Back” is another ballad but not the usual 80’s power balladry one might expect from an album like this. This one is slow, melancholic and mixes the pop-laden melodies with some jazziness. The song also holds a big sound-scape with synth strings and a gorgeous melody arrangement. It’s a mellow track but also very hook-laden and the chorus is nothing but stellar – great stuff. Leading single “Now Or Never” is an uptempo AOR rocker that brings on at least a small TNT vibe in the vocal melodies – but that’s where the TNT references end. The style here is mostly standard AOR/Pop/Rock, very slick but still a very good song with another monster-chorus, catchy as damn. I get why it was chosen as the first single. Me likee.
Yet another ballad comes along in “Heavily Broken”, a mellow and fragile power ballad, cut the way they did things back in the late 80’s. Now, I’m a sucker for a good power ballad, I’ll admit that in a heartbeat, but that doesn’t mean I love all of them. This one, however, connects with my sugary vein – good melodies, hooks and an intense and catchy refrain makes me surrender all the time – and this song has got all of that. Very good. “No More Love” is slow, slightly orchestrated with a twist of both Beatles and Queen. While there are pompy stuff here, the tune takes a more AOR/Melodic Rock route when the more uptempo refrain comes along. The Queen influences gives it a bit of TNT touch, but not much. It’s an ok tune although the verses are stronger than the chorus. The album rounds off with the latest single, the slow ballad “Set Me Free”. This one could actually be an 80’s TNT ballad. What we get here is a slightly Queen influenced power ballad, laid-back but with a big sound scape and a massive chorus that grabs a hold right away. Great!
First of all, let’s make one thing clear – this album has nothing, zero, nada to do with the TNT albums mentioned above. Ok, a riff here, a melody-line there but my guess is nobody would have noticed that, hadn’t Harnell – the only real TNT connection here – sung on the record. This album is merely just another one of those star-singer projects that Frontiers is so keen on releasing. The songs sport no real identity and sounds exactly the way most of those projects do. Also on the minus-side – five ballads on an 11-track Rock album? On the good side, there are some damn good tracks on here and Tony Harnell still has a set of pipes that more than delivers the goods time and again, a voice that saves the mediocre and underwhelming songs – because there’s a bunch of those as well.
Production wise, it sounds just like most AOR projects by this label – slick, safe and clean but on here the production gets muddy and fudgy at times as well. It’s not a bad sounding album but I miss the punch and the crunch. With neither TNT or Harnell having released anything that blows my mind in many years, the only right thing to do is to bury the hatchet and get together to write and record that album that they were planning to when Harnell split for the last (?) time because this album just isn’t the album I had hoped for. AOR purists might love the combination of AOR tunes sung by a fantastic singer like Harnell but to me there are too much left to be desired here. It’s pretty good but not even remotely close to the old TNT records.
1. Alive Again
3. Ball And Chain
4. Who Can We Run To
5. Higher Again
6. Across The Oceans
7. Bring Me Back
8. Now Or Never
9. Heavily Broken
10. No More Love
11. Set Me Free