Hard Rock / Metal soap operas can be very entertaining but they can also get old after a while. These soap operas have been quite common throughout the years and in later years, Queensrÿche and Ratt comes to mind. And Norwegian melodic rockers TNT – I have lost count on how many times singer Tony Harnell has left and come back to the band now. TNT – Harnell, guitarist Ronni LeTekro, bassist Morty Black and drummer Diesel Dahl – recorded a bunch of really good albums in the 80’s but called it quits in 1992 after the failure of the very underrated Realized Fantasies only to return in 1997 as a trio. But the band disbanded once again in 1999 – only to resurface once again in 2004 again only for two albums before Harnell jumped the ship in 2006. As a replacement another Tony with the last name Mills was chosen. Mills was once the singer for British AOR / Melodic Rock act Shy and had a range reminiscent of Harnell’s which should have fitted the band like a charm.
But it was a turbulent time for TNT and the three albums they made with Mills – The New Territory (2007), Atlantis (2008) and A Farewell To Arms (2010) – were confused and unfocused outings that showed a band that seemed unsure of which leg to stand upon and more importantly, a band that had forgotten the importance of great song writing. The albums made very few fans happy and in 2013 Mills announced that he had left the band and at the same time Harnell was back in. But that would only last for two years before he quit again, he joined Skid Row for 6 months, only to return again in 2016. At that time it was said that a new album was in the works and everybody hoped for the best but already in 2017 he left again – for good. At least it looks like that now. LeTekro and Dahl, together with bass player Ove Husemoen hired Spanish singer Baol Bardot Bulsara. And by that, it’s actually time for a new TNT album, their first in eight years.
Album # 13, hence the album’s title, open on a soft note, much softer than I had expected – “We’re Gonna Make It” is very close to a ballad which makes it not an optimal album opener. It’s a very smooth and slick tune but still very much classic TNT sounding – it’s pretty obvious that Intuition (1989) was what the band was looking at when they wrote it. It’s a damn good tune but again, it shouldn’t have been the opener. “Not Feeling Anything” is a more uptempo Melodic Rock song where Tell No Tales (1987) seems to be the base. It’s a very direct song with a catchy refrain but it’s just over two minutes which makes it a bit too short. It’s a good song, though. “Fair Warning” comes with a heavier groove and a tough rhythm – more Hard Rock and less AOR than the previous tunes. A fine song, good without being spectacular – but it do catches on.
“It’s Electric” is a Pop / Pomp Rock groover with clear Queen influences but it also sports the classic mid to late 80’s TNT style. It’s a very memorable song without being aimed at radio at all. Very good. “Where You Belong” is the big ballad of the album, think TNT classics like “Northern Lights”, “End Of The Line” and “Lionheart” but with a bigger Queen influence. I have always loved TNT’s ballads and this is no exception – a brilliant slowie. “Can’t Breathe Anymore” is a pure Pop song, a bit on the glammish side, that just screams 1987. Big on synthesizers, it’s a text-book example of how to write a mid 80’s Pop tune as a Hard Rock band. But a catchy chorus and a memorable main melody brings the song home – very good. The first time I heard “Get Ready For Some Hard Rock” I really didn’t know what to think. It’s an Arena Rock bouncer with a head-bang-friendly rhythm that’s total 1989. Lyrically, it’s so cheesy I cringe, this is Spinal Tap meets Steel Panther but without the humour. It’s really quite a good tune but the lyrics makes me wanna crawl through my skin.
“People Come Together” is faster, heavier and more raunchy and the Hard Rock punch is very much needed after a quite soft and poppy start. The tune has all the elements of a classic sounding TNT track and all should be fine if it wasn’t for the song being only ok. The weakest track so far. “Tears In My Eyes” brings on some classic LeTekro riffing under a very catchy Pop / AOR tune and style wise, they’re back to Intuition again. The smooth and silky sounds of the song that stands with one foot in ballad-land and the extremely catchy melodies that are TNT all the way, tells me this could have been a hit back in 1987. Yes, I really like it – very good song. “17th Of May” – that’s Norway’s National Day, folks – is a more rowdy Hard Rock tune with some progressive undertones that sounds like classic TNT meets Vagabond, the band LeTekro and Black had with singer Jorn Lande in the 90’s. It contains a ballsy rhythm and a memorable chorus – a good tune.
“Catch A Wave” is again a commercial laden Hard Rock tune with a whole lot of AOR influences and there’s more Queen to find here. It’s a relaxing, happy-go-lucky tune that holds a very strong refrain and a having-a-beer-in-the-sun vibe. Very good. Closing track “Sunshine” is a slow, floating and soft ballad that starts out with only acoustic guitar, strings and vocals but it soon turns into a more uptempo ballad. The whole tune is just so silky, smooth, pink n fluffy – and it sounds like classic TNT all the way. TNT could always bring on a ballad like this without coming across as buttery and apparently they still know how to do it. A Very good song and it works great as a closer.
First up, new singer Bulsara (if the Queen influences on this album wasn’t enough, that’s also Freddie Mercury’s real last name…), what’s he like and did he pull this off? Well, for starters, it’s stands very clear that the guys wanted a Harnell soundalike in the band because at times, Bulsara sounds so much alike Harnell it’s scary. A clone? Not quite but he sometimes comes very close. Nothing wrong with that, I mean Journey brought in a Steve Perry soundalike, so… And yes, he did pull it off, Bulsara is obviously a very good singer – at least in the studio, so all is well there. Song wise, TNT has learned their lesson from the Mills days and written some really good songs here but the production is another matter. Fact is, this album sounds pretty close to awful. The fact is that Intuition is the template for the production here, but that’s not a good thing – Intuition is a great album that sounds horrible – thin, sterile and bottomless, just like many albums did in the 80’s. That’s why it wasn’t a good idea to try to replicate that sound. And what’s up with Ronni’s guitar sound? How could he let that slip? It sounds like a rushed demo. To bring back the style of Intuition and/or Tell No Tales is one thing – and I embrace that, but the sound? It’s 2018 now, not 1987. So, for the sound – thumbs down, for the songs – thumbs up!
More TNT reviews:
1. We’re Gonna Make It
2. Not Feeling Anything
3. Fair Warning
4. It’s Electric
5. Where You Belong
6. Can’t Breathe Anymore
7. Get Ready For Some Hard Rock
8. People Come Together
9. Tears In My Eyes
10. 17th Of May
11. Catch A Wave