On To the Hilt, Golden Earring fully gives themselves over to the prog rock tendencies that they had toyed with throughout the 1970s. The resulting album has a strong prog feel but lacks the characteristic sound and the solid material that defined the group's best efforts to that point. The band puts in a typically energetic and thunderous performance, but their strong instrumental chops can't overcome the self-indulgent nature of much of the album's material: "Why Me?" and "Latin Lightning" are a few of the potentially interesting songs on To the Hilt that are undercut by dull, overlong sections of jamming. Said songs also lack the tight arrangements and the sudden, surprising instrumental twists that made the group's past epics so interesting. The album's rigorous pursuit of a full-blooded art rock sound results in this album lacking the distinctive, easily identifiable sound that infused Golden Earring classics like "Radar Love" or "She Flies on Strange Wings." Despite these problems, some good songs shine through. The album's best songs tend to be the shortest ones: "Facedancer" is a strong rocker built on an interesting blend of synthesizer and acoustic guitar and the title track pursues a galloping country-rock groove that made it a favorite in concert. However, high points like these are separated by long stretches of complex but faceless jamming that makes To the Hilt a chore to get through. As a result, this album is virtually guaranteed to leave the casual listener cold and can only be recommended to the most hardcore of Golden Earring fans.
AllMusic Review by Donald A. Guarisco