"In Your Face" (Divebomb; 1984 / 2008)

Reviewed by Metal Mark

I have had this album for years on vinyl and the release date of 1984 had me thinking that it was recorded that year. Although a good album,  my thoughts were that TKO had indeed been influenced by bands who had released albums before that date. However, now with this re-issue (the first time this album has been "officially" released on CD, by the way) the liner notes inform me that this material was actually written in 1980 and recorded in 1981 with a different line-up than the one pictured on the old record jacket. Now those three years change a lot because doing this kind of stuff in 1981 puts them ahead of a lot other hard rock bands because the real explosion was still a couple of years away. So this new knowledge knocks "In Your Face" up half a peg or so in the whole scheme of things.

Vocalist Brad Sinsel was the only member left over from the "Let It Roll" line-up and they had wisely decided to drop the keyboardist and go down to being a four piece. This line-up included a rhythm section of bassist Evan Sheely, drummer Gary Thompson (both would later be in Q5) and guitarist Adam "Bomb" Brenner. Some of the new members were more into metal and the band obviously saw the tide turning so they went that way as well. What we get is some rough hard rock with gritty vocals from Sinsel. 

I wouldn't say TKO sounded exactly like any one other band, but I would say that fans of Y&T, 80s KISS, Twisted Sister and Black n' Blue would like this. It's a shame for these guys that this album had to sit on the shelf before Combat records picked them up in 1984 because -- instead of spending those three crucial years moving ahead -- Sinsel saw members come and go as the album sat collecting dust. 

This re-issue also includes ten bonus tracks and the booklet has lyrics and a background on the album. 

"Let It Roll" (Divebomb; 1979 / 2008)

Reviewed by Metal Mark

I've heard TKO's efforts from the 1980s before and they fell very much in the style of hard rock that was popular in that decade. Their debut was new to me, largely because it just didn't seem to be easy to find. Now, I get to hear the re-issue and it's quite a different sound. Vocalist Brad Sinsel is the only member from this line-up who was still with them in the 80s. 

The sounds here are very much entrenched in 1970s hard rock and even what we now refer to as classic rock because I hear parts of the Who, the Stones, early Boston and maybe even some mid-70s Alice Cooper. The keyboards actually make it sound maybe slightly older than its release year of 1979. It's a slightly stripped down approach but, by and large, most of the songs work due to some solid vocals and a steady (if not overwhelming) approach to the music. 

I was shocked by this sound because it has arena rock written all over it. When I first heard it, it wasn't at all what I was expecting from a band whose other albums were far more along the lines of a hair metal sound. However, after this release, their label ran into troubles, members left and vocalist Sinsel ended up recruiting a new line-up with new ideas for the next album. Despite the obvious differences in style between this and the sophomore album, "In Your Face," I can honestly say that the band sounds comfortable with both sounds. I suppose this was just due to the members playing off their influences and the two different line-ups led to two different bands. 

TKO did get to tour with the Kinks, Cheap Trick and Heart back around the time this album came out, but their prospects were soon going to change due to label problems. "Let It Roll" was a fine debut even though the band would eventually follow a different avenue. 

The re-issue includes nine bonus tracks recorded at a radio session in 1978 plus a booklet with lyrics and some history on the band.

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright 2008  by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 18 Sep 2023 21:51:20 -0400.