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Just as I did way back when the Van Halen versus ‘Van Hagar’ battle raged on or when Fish era Marillion fans were up in arms against the Hogarth hordes, so I’ve come to view TNT as not just a band with separate eras, but almost a band that’s existed as entirely different entities. The fans basically all hark back to the Norwegian’s early days, Knights Of The New Thunder, Tell No Tales and Intuition still held up as fret-fuelled melodic rock perfection, where the guitar work of Ronnie Le Tekro and high octane vocals from Tony Harnell encapsulated an individual style that still slotted neatly into the 80s rock market. The band split after one more record, but reformed in 1996 and went on to release four albums that increasingly confused through their refusal to simply play to the strengths of old, before Harnell quit and ex-Shy man Tony Mills took on the glass shattering role behind the mic. In fairness to Mills, his three album tenure with the band, The New Territory, Atlantis and A Farewell To Arms saw songwriter in chief, Le Tekro stay true to his ideals and offer up a scattergun approach to his songwriting that fired out eclecticism at such a rate of knots that fans simply stopped trying to keep up. Anniversary gigs came and went, original vocalist Dag Ingebrigtsen and Harnell taking the stage alongside Mills to celebrate the music of the band from across the years.

Unsurprisingly these events led to a completely predictable clamour for Le Tekro and Harnell to get back together and revisit the glory days. Which is exactly what happened; Mills left the band and the much in demand duo tested the water with some live shows before a new album featuring the pair was announced. Considering that TNT are now onto singer number four, Spain’s Baol Bardot Bulsara, will tell you how all that worked out. Although some of the songs featured on the resultant album, XIII, do have co-writes between Le Tekro and Harnell, so it is a reunion of sorts, just not the fully fledged one many were hoping for.

So far, so TNT, this outfit feeling much more like a soap opera than it has a band for many a year now and with XIII so their weird and wacky journey continues. Released early in June 2018, fans have already flooded the internet with disparaging reviews, scathing remarks and dismissive opinions. However, if any of these people truly listened to the Mills era albums, did they expect anything other than the unfocused fare that XIII serves up? Coming to Bulsara first, he’s a capable chap with a likeable voice, part Harnell, part Mills, part Freddie Mercury, part teen pop star. He’s not the most charismatic voice you’ll ever come across but then considering the back catalogue the guy will have to handle live, there’s no doubt that it was a ‘certain type’ of singer Le Tekro simply had to find to continue the legacy.

Where the focus really has to turn is on the songs. Le Tekro believes his hugely eclectic solo opus, Extra Strong String is the album that illustrates his powers at their strongest. Something that maybe explains best why his more recent TNT work hopes to cover so much ground; undoubtedly in places, too much so. Proceedings kick into gear here through “We’re Gonna Make It”, a bright, breezy piece of pop rock that offers a simple good time vibe and allows Bulsara to ease himself into view. “Not Feeling Anything” follows, cranking up the guitar and adding a stronger, if atmospheric pulse. It also possesses a chorus that at least tries to hark back to TNT of old as vocals reach up and down the scales and the biting riff and harmony solos look to gnaw into your mind. Does it stand up to classic TNT? Not on your nelly, but I don’t think that was ever really the point.

“Fair Warning” reels and rocks without ever really laying anchor, while the likes of “Get Ready For Some Hard Rock” is just as dumb and daft as that name suggests. Tone down the guitars and any two bit glam act could have given this a shot and probably infused more life into its bones. “People Come Together” flexes its fret muscles a little more overtly, while “Catch A Wave” looks to be the album’s lighter waver without ever really threatening to take hold. “Sunshine” however, is more like it, the easy vibe a much more convincing slice of emotional motion, but the jagged riff and off kilter vocal of “17th Of May” is just horrible, the chorus clunking in quite spectacular fashion.

XIII isn’t TNT as they were, but in truth even with Harnell in place, this band haven’t sounded like that for decades anyway. So much so that Le Tekro almost seems to resent the legacy his outfit built up in the beginning. That said, neither is XIII the horrible release that many out there who are stuck in the past insist it is. Instead this album is a continuation of TNT part two (maybe part three, or four, who knows?), where little nuggets of brilliance are weighed down by some thoroughly misguided attempts to update the band’s sound and satisfy the guy writing the tunes. If Ronnie LeTekro really has such a problem with people saying that TNT don’t sound like TNT any more, then maybe he needs to release his new music under a different name, such as Definitely Not TNT? Or maybe, just maybe, the fans of old need to let go of the past and look to embrace what obviously makes their hero happier these days.

Neither is likely to happen, so it looks like we’re stuck with more of the halfway house that’s been served up on the last four or five TNT albums, so we better get used to it… or move on.

Track Listing
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
12. Sunshine

Added: June 27th 2018
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: XIII @ Frontiers Records
Hits: 1535
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Posted by Butch Jones, SoT Staff Writer on 2018-06-27 17:17:56
My Score:

The thirteenth studio album by the famed Norwegian Hard Rocker's, TNT, is aptly titled XIII and finds guitar wizard Ronni LeTekro and company with yet another new lead singer. New to the microphone is Spanish lead singer, Baol Bardot Bulsara, who fills in nicely with those high soaring vocals that have become a staple within the TNT sound. 12 new tracks of Melodic Rock that falls a little lighter on the Hard Rock scale then their last release, A Farewell To Arms which was much heavier, but LeTekro never really disappoints.

XIII starts out on an odd note with the tame and poppy album opener, "We're Gonna Make It". Neither hard rockin' nor uplifting, this seems like a weird choice to start off the record. It's a mid paced, radio friendly song and quite catchy, but a very docile and unassuming start to this album. "Not Feeling Anything" is more upbeat but also has a verse riff that reminds me of "Born To Be Wild", but the chorus saves it and then Ronni LeTekro throws in one of his patented "machine gun" hyper picked guitar solos and everything is right with the world. "Fair Warning" has a classic TNT/LeTekro rocker riff and then another insane LeTekro solo explodes in your face. New vocalist Baol Bardot Bulsara sounds very much like the classic TNT type of singer, he resembles the classic vocals of former singer, Tony Harnell, but definitely has his own tonality. If you are a TNT fan, Bulsara doesn't miss a beat and completely fits in.

"People Come Together" and "17th Of May" are the heaviest tunes of the lot, with dark, chugging and angry riffs and Bulsara's vocals are spot on while Ronni LeTekro again shows why he has been so highly regarded (and too long underrated) guitar slinger for decades. "Tears In My Eyes" sounds like the Intuition or Realized Fantasies era, with its searing polished vocal lines and slick commercial songwriting with more excellent musicianship.

Overall, XIII is another quality TNT release that falls within the Tell No Tales to Realized Fantasies period of their history, so this record has a familiarity to it. Gone are the days of the heavy Knights of the New Thunder days, but the mature songwriting of Ronni LeTekro on songs like "Catch A Wave" are a great showcase of his songwriting talent and his love for the great U.K. band, City Boy from the 70's, continues to shine through on more than a couple of songs on this thirteenth studio record. TNT is a still a great band and in their maturity songs have become more polished but Ronni LeTekro's guitar pyrotechnics have not changed at all since 1984 and that's a GREAT thing!

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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