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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.