4/21/2004 - Review by: Eric Compton
TNA - Branded 2004 Kivel Records - Reviewed by: EC
For the longest time I have been focusing my metal purchase money on the newly revamped hard rock scene, enjoying wonderful debuts from talented acts like Vicious Mary, Wycked Synn, Wicked Sensation, and terrific new releases from seasoned veterans like Pink Cream 69, Shakra, and Victory. NEH Records (www.nehrecords.com) had the new album from TNA listed on their site, so I thought I would take a shot at it. I'm really glad I did, as TNA offers up the same great hard rock attitude of the above bands, but takes the music in a slightly more "light hearted" direction, kind of like a modern day Boston.
Sometimes even the most hardcore metal fans need a little light hearted touch. Lets face it, black and death metal fans have Opeth. Power metal fans have Doro and Nightwish. Prog fans have Dream Theater and Geoff Tate solo albums (haha!), so why not give the hard rock fans a little variety in the softer light? TNA provide that light, a shining beacon from the heavens that is a much needed spotlight for this grizzled metal veteran.
"Branded" marks the band's second release, a follow-up to the critically acclaimed debut "Finger On The Trigger". This new album is billed as a more modern approach to 80s hard rock. I can see that point of view very clearly, as TNA move late-70s and mid-80s hard rock into the new century, with moving, powerful rock statements like the Lillian Axe modeled "Lies, Guns, & Violence" and the Van Halen like string work of "Walk Before You Crawl", with both tracks incorporating a wonderful sense of 80s nostalgia, but adding to that a modern flare that doesn't seem off balance at all. I really like the variation that TNA bring to this album.
Tracks like "Feel It" and "Do You Remember" bring old fashioned rock and roll into the modern playing fields, almost sounding like early Candlebox meets Jaded Heart, a combination that really suits the fine, smooth voice of frontman Mike McManamon, a voice that just simply soars with melody and range, even bringing the perfect amount of stripped down blues to down and dirty tracks like "Scream". My favorite cuts here are "The Sound", with its "thunder & lightning" ode to Thin Lizzy, and the innovative rock & sock bite of "Kill Your Idols".
TNA prove they are a fine leader for this type of genre, which at this point I don't believe has a title. Think of the really commercial aspects of Lillian Axe and Boston, with the modern touches of Creed and Papa Roach (minus the rap-core and the Seattle grunge garbage). This type of album reminds me of the first Sick Speed demo, or even the original takes by spoof metal act Fozzy. This is really innovative stuff and at this point there really isn't anyone out there doing this. This type of album is what Lillian Axe made famous in the 90s, when nobody was playing melodic hard rockk, instead focusing all efforts and attention on poppy, big haired acts like Poison and Extreme. Lillian Axe never made it on the success radar, but lets hope the same won't be said for TNA. They deserve so much more.
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