Published on December 10th, 2016 | by Justin G.
TKO: Below the Belt
Originally released in 1986, Below the Belt was the third (and sadly final) album from Seattle-based hard rockers TKO. The band, despite releasing two very strong albums in Let it Roll (1979) and In Your Face (1984), was plagued by label woes and lineup turnover, so at this point only vocalist Brad Sinsel remained from the original TKO lineup. He was joined here by guitarist Kjartan Kristoffersen and bassist Scott Earl (both from Culprit) and drummer Michael Alexich.
Below the Belt came fairly quickly after In Your Face, so there wasn’t the kind of major style change like we saw from the debut to the second TKO album. This is the same kind of melodic, metal-edged hard rock that made In Your Face such a good album. It’s a little bit Quiet Riot, a little bit Kix and a little bit Ratt, with bluesy hard rockers, straight-up heavy metal songs and the occasional power ballad.
Standout tracks on Below the Belt are “Beware the Hunter,” “Fallin’ to Pieces” and “Sticks n’ Stones,” but the album is pretty much filler-free and enjoyable start to finish.
Despite being an almost textbook example of what made the mid ‘80s hard rock sound so memorable, Below the Belt failed to secure TKO the commercial success they deserved. It’s still a very enjoyable, very rocking album that fans of the ‘80s hard rock sound – especially bands like Quiet Riot, Kix, Ratt, Y&T and Helix – really need to check out, especially now that we have a proper reissue of Below the Belt.
Reissue Notes: Rock Candy reissued Below the Belt in 2016, just in time for the album’s 30th anniversary. They also reissued the first two TKO albums. The reissue of Below the Belt features digitally remastered audio, the bonus track “One of the Boys” (an Ian Hunter cover) and expanded liner notes featuring vintage photos and a new band essay/interview. It’s your typical Rock Candy reissue, meaning it’s top shelf all the way.
Summary: It's way past time we got a proper reissue of this one.