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TNT - All The Way To The Sun
Opener 'A Fix' is in possession of the two coolest hard rock riffs of the year. I'm thinking, all through this classy, sparkling, smart record, "Man, Def Leppard oughta take a listen." Because TNT - and frankly Europe, with that creative and fresh comeback album, Start From The Dark - have written the roadmap on how to stay vital while still rocking. Seriously, if you aren't hooked after the first minute of developments to give the whole record an honest listen, then your mind ain't open. Tony Harnell is prominent and proud as both a singer and a lyricist, his style and his stacking belying a work ethic that is inspiring. The Leps again... I'm thinking, Slang showed the band waking up and re-engineering to the best of their abilities, but TNT put those guys to shame, braver and more talented by triple, almost impossibly locating this hallowed classic rock zone exploding with flowers and fragrance, rather than the rot of guys sneering that it was all done better in the '70s. And my God, you just have to hear Ronni Le Tekro's solo at the two minute mark of 'Too Late' - again, he takes an original concept like shred and sets it on its ear. Poppy ballads are here and there and beautifully rendered, and then something like 'The Letter' is squarely pop, but again alchemically made precious, like Queen, TNT affirming a thought that grows through a listen of the record, this idea of a compact, jumpy hysteria of being excited and wanting to show you what they can do before the door closes. Late in the sequence there's 'Black Butterfly', another metal song that demonstrates brains for miles, again, Le Tekro tearing into an awe-inspiring solo lick at exactly the two minute mark. Unfortunately, this record isn't nearly as heavy as I would have liked, but if you want to hear a bunch of friggin' pros putting on a songwriting and production clinic, step right up. Bloody 'ell.
Annihilator - Schizo Deluxe
Canadian classy thrash legend (classy thrash being a genre I just made up two words ago to describe Megadeth, Eidolon and Annihilator and few others) Jeff Waters has turned in a scorcher of a structured guitar clinic of extreme madness, cackling out loud verve everywhere but also angles and precision - hence classy thrash. Not to crazy about the metaller-than-thou lyrics, or the vocals of Dave Padden, back for a second record, there being a little too much clarity at a low register, allowing for, well, too much exposure to the Exciter-esque words, I suppose. Part of the problem is that highly stratified, slightly Pantera-esque structures like this call for the "complaining" thrash vocal melodies and halting, spitting, rapid fire enunciations indicative of the old school, one of the more badly dating characteristics of extreme metal from '85 to '89. But man, the soloing, the riffs are superlative, Waters finding that cozy spot he often does, between Rust and Countdown, a hard land to locate but gloriously steel-on-steel when accessed. Punchy production, totally accessible but heavy riffs, and then come solo time - look out, Jeff shreds at impossible speeds, fluidly, musically... it's rare that I wait impatiently for the verse to pass so I can hear the first break, but this record's very much like that, Waters' magicianly sleight of hand leaving me stunned.
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