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TNT is one of the few bands from the 1980's hair metal movement to make it here onto the Metal Archives, mostly because, I'd assume, Knights of the New Thunder was mostly a straight ahead heavy/power metal release. By its followup Tell No Tales in 1987, though, the band's pop-metal/AOR sound had come to the forefront.
Now, I don't mind AOR or glam metal at all. Sure, it's a style that quickly gets cliched, but if nothing else, it demands quality songwriting and strong performances from the vocalist and guitarist, and it typically comes with appealingly boomy production. Given the soundalike constraints of such a narrowly-framed genre, though, it takes exceptional talent to stand out from the fun-but-tiresome also-rans. With vocalist Tony Harnell and guitarist Ronni Le Tekrø, TNT certainly brought all kinds of talent.
That talent is enough to make TNT stand out on their own--few vocalists in metal history have the upper-register power that Harnell frequently showcases here, and Le Tekrø's approach to guitar is always unique and intriguing, even if it's a bit overly hyper and directionless. Both are in fine form on Tell No Tales, the singer cramming in plenty of his signature power belts against the guitarist's staccato runs. They're always a compelling duo on their own, their talent often transcending the quality of their musical ideas.
And that does get to the dirty secret of both Tell No Tales and its followup--if you look closely enough, you will notice the actual musical ideas here aren't that great. The band seems to be going through the motions a bit on most of the midtempo pop-oriented material here (see the first three tracks), as if they still want to be a heavier band and aren't fully convinced they should be tempering themselves. Verse sections tend to be a bit on the minimalist side. Le Tekrø's guitars are decidedly less metallic than on the prior album, as he breaks out the unusually bouncy tone that would characterize much of his rhythm work from here on. The riffing here is mostly just standard pop-metal fare, though he always brings a somewhat unique sound and approach to it. This effectively shines the spotlight firmly on Harnell, letting him carry the songs to the choruses, which tend to be understandably vocal-centric as well, with giant, wide harmonies. He often sounds a bit bored and faceless on sections where he's not being asked to hit notes with five exclamation points, opting for a fairly generic light croon. Since most of the verses fall into this category, the band often sounds like they're just biding their time until the hook comes in, and while they're reasonable hooks and Harnell sells the hell out of them, they're still a bit tossed-off when you put them under the microscope.
In the end, that actually makes the most effective songs here the ballads "Child's Play" and "Northern Lights," where the light crooning verse/explosive chorus dynamics are much more fitting. "Northern Lights" is especially touching, with a great, emotive Harnell performance and a strong, well-paced set of melodies. There are a couple of heavier songs here as well, as the closing title track seems to try to cram an album's worth of lost speed into two minutes--while enjoyably over the top, it's not exactly thought-out. "Desperate Night" recalls the more straight-ahead sound of the previous album, with more rhythm guitar presence and an aggressive turn from Harnell--the note he holds at the end is worth it on its own. While Le Tekrø's outrageous talent shines through on solos occasionally, they're often a bit directionless if still largely appealing. The one-minute instrumental "Sapphire" is a fittingly blistering showcase that's one of the best examples of a quality short guitar interlude I've ever come across, and his other two interludes (the classical "Smooth Syncopation" and the dramatic "Incipits") are surprisingly enjoyable as well. He also adds an excellent solo to the otherwise unremarkable AOR of "Listen To Your Heart." There's not too much to say about the bass or drums here--they're mostly just genre-standard stuff maybe kicked up a notch. The bass tone is quality and mixed reasonably high, and the drums are appropriately cavernous.
While there definitely are seams showing in much of the material here, the whole thing flies by in half an hour, so as the album is playing, you mostly just notice all the Harnell/Le Tekrø highlights--you're rarely more than a minute away from one. As with much of the pop metal genre, though, much of the appeal here is on that surface, immediate level--digging deeper in reveals more hidden problems than gems. Even so, as long as you don't ask too much of Tell No Tales, it delivers.
It took them three years to follow ‘Knights of the New Thunder,’ and when they did, they clearly had some different aims in mind. So what if it was more commercial? So what if it was even slicker? So what if it was even more melodic than ‘Knights…’? So what??? Everything gelled, and it was the sound of authority. It was the same lineup from the previous album, and it was a band on a very serious mission, coming up with a gem EVERY – SINGLE – SONG. Wow.
If you dig Dokken and Def Leppard, if you like the fiery histrionics of Yngwie Malmsteen’s ‘Trinity’ and ‘Eclipse,’ if you ever liked anything about TNT – and what self-respecting metal fan can’t find something to love about vocalist Tony Harnell and guitarist Ronni Le Tekro – you must add this album to your collection and put it into rotation immediately. This is a totally incredible, elite, beautiful slice of melodic metal mastery. No one has ever done it better. No, not even Dokken…
'Tell No Tales' (T.N.T., geddit?) kicks off on a pristine note, the one-two punch of “Everyone’s a Star” and “10,000 Lovers (in One)” showing a glistening, crystalline TNT emerging from and surpassing the myth-metal direction they could have gone in after the previous album. It’s all love and positive vibes and celestial cleanliness here. Catchy as the flu, too. There’s no denying how they totally own it on these two openers, as well as third track “As Far as the Eye Can See.” Glory. Glory. And more glory.
Then we get into the balladic side of TNT. “Child’s Play” is grandiose, and a rather excellent display of Harnell’s incomparable voice. The song stacks on the lush layers of sound the band were starting to slather on many of their compositions, and the Brian May-esque approach of guitarist Ronni Le Tekro is in keeping with the Queen-like studio approach that TNT display throughout this album. Later ballad “Northern Lights” is the ethereal flipside of “Child’s Play,” a step into pure AOR territory, and it’s undeniably beautiful. My only problem with this album is the appearance of two ballads. Had they held back one of these songs for a single, or the next album, this would qualify as a 100-percenter of an album. Commercial, super-slick, squeaky clean authority comes back with “Listen to Your Heart,” a track of considerable emotional weight.
So is there anything resembling ‘Knights…’-level power metal glory here? Absolutely. “Desperate Night” is dark and brooding, a mid-paced thing of epic stature, something Q5 would have proudly recorded for ‘Steel the Light,’ or something MSG never quite reached, but certainly hinted at many times--if you get my drift. Textured and layered, “Desperate Night” may indeed be the ultimate TNT track if you’re looking for serious epic metal within an unapologetic melodic foundation. Then there’s the title track: melodic speed metal like Dokken’s “Lightnin’ Strikes Again” plus “Til the Livin’ End” then amped up in precision and power. This song smokes. It has to be considered in any serious metal fan’s library of greatness. "Tell No Tales" decapitates with its sharp Le Tekro riffing and insane solo, topped by the incredible command Harnell has of his high pitched wail.
Segues such as the Paginini-on-acid “Sapphire” and haunting “Incipits” underscore the special, individualistic talent of Le Tekro. They also deepen the journey of this very special album. Just try to ignore the cover art. It’s enough to induce a gag reflex even in those of us who don’t mind ‘80s fashions. Its looks just do NOT match up to the superiority of the music itself, and I have to be a traditionalist and admit that I lament the absence of the classic TNT logo, which is relegated only to the back cover (which features more glamor shots of the boyzzz). Hey, it was 1987, what are you gonna do?
Despite that latter cosmetic gripe: this…fucking…rules.
I've heard alot of talk about fellow Norwegian band, TNT on glamrock.com. So I've decided to give them a listen. Since this was their most popular album, I've decided to start off with this album. Man, was I blown away by the awesomeness of this album. This has to be the best glam metal album of all time, or at least from what I've heard so far. It even beats Motley Crue's Shout At the Devil, and that was one hell (haha get it?) of an awesome album. I don't see anything wrong with this album, it's pretty much flawless. That is if you are into the style of course.
First of all, the singer's voice is amazing. He's pretty much the big-haired version of Bruce Dickenson/Rob Halford. He has such high vocal range, and he sounds so emotional as well. He pretty much makes Tony Kakko (Sonanta Arctica) seem emotionless. He's one hell of a singer, and he even pulls of falsetto very well without sounding annoying like the guy from Nitro. The other memebers pull their weight as well. The guitarists can solo like crazy, and they pull off some pretty damn catchy riffs.
The best songs would have to be the hits Everyone's a Star, 10,000 Lovers in One, as well as As Far As the Eye Can See, and especially Listen To your Heart with that emotional yet still fun sounding chorus. Hell, even the two ballads, Child's Play and Northern Lights are pulled off perfectly. Hell, there really isn't a single song on here that isn't worthy of mention. As I said before, this album is pretty much flawless.
If I could compare this band to any two bands, it would have to be Europe meets Poison. It has the emotional feel of Europe, yet also has the fun side of Poison which go together perfectly. I really wouldn't recommend this to anyone who isn't a fan of 80s metal/hard rock, but if you like Poison, Bon Jovi, Motley Crue, Europe, or pretty much any glam metal band form the 80s, you will absolutely love this album. It's a flawless glam metal album, and thus it is certainly worth seeking out. This is an underrated album form an underrated band. Why I didn't know about this band sooner, I'll never know.