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"Ahead of the pack - never look back"
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German Heavy Metal. Do these three words strike fear into the deepest dells of your heart? Or would you rather associate them with something like that crappy 'Winds Of Change' song? The choice is yours. But whatever be, it's hard to deny that Germany produced some damn grizzly metal music in the past twenty-five years, and I'm no big metal historian. Accept were one of the first German metal bands, at least, one of the first to gain international recognition, and for a brief period in the early Eighties, were one of the best metal outfits in the world (now there goes my personal opinion).While I'm definitely nowhere near a "metalhead", I do likes me some violent headbanging from time to time. And when falling upon a metal band, one of my main criteria is: just how tough these guys really are? One thing a heavy metal band should never allow itself to do, in my humble opinion, is to compromise. The line between tough, steel-cutting heavy metal and toothless, forgettable barroom rock is not as thick as one could think; in fact, history has witnessed it being crossed many a thousand times. One minute you're The Beast, driving everybody wild with your meticulous, sharp, edgy, and memorable riffs, and then, the next minute you're The Slouch, tiredly rehashing a series of lame power chords that everybody and his grandmother knew by heart in grade school, while your vocalist wastes his breath on singing some cliched misogynist nonsense about bitches in ditches or being ready to blow with a goofy operatic vibrato. Accept had every chance of going that way and joining many of their brethren in the Hair Metal movement. They never did. "In spirit", they were much closer to the thrash movement of the early Eighties, particularly to Metallica; "compromise" was pretty much out of the question. They boasted two talented guitarists who rarely, if ever, resorted to brainless flash-up-and-down-the-scale solos and tuneless one-note riffs played at five hundred notes per second; instead, "in form" they took their cue from bands like AC/DC and Black Sabbath, but perfected their styles by adding a touch of technical perfection to the proceedings. To this must be added the supreme vocal cords of Udo Dirkschneider - sort of an even more overdriven version of AC/DC's Brian Johnson, who, however, managed to preserve the mega power of his sonic instrument till the very end, unlike his less lucky British colleague. This all came together in the form of a bunch of totally kickass heavy metal records that should definitely be placed up there with the very best of the genre. Never mind that, in all seriousness, Accept never invented any "personal formula"; their music was more of a clever amalgamation of influences than a true "home brew". They took the ass-kicking of AC/DC, the darkness of Sabbath, the new approach to riffage introduced by Judas Priest, and at times added a bit of the 'classical touch' as pioneered by Rainbow and perfected by Iron Maiden - and it worked. Of course, Accept were never too complex. They didn't have much use for lengthy multi-part suites, and once a song started, you could more or less predict the exact way it would end. They took the groove and ran it into the ground - not that there's anything wrong with that, eh? Perhaps the best thing about Accept is their amazing consistency. Like I said, they wouldn't "compromise"; this means that even their worst material (at least, when we're talking about the pre-reunion period) is usually listenable, and that even if you won't be able to memorize a certain song, you'll definitely be able to get the required adrenaline rush while it's on. On the other hand, they were good friends with the pop hook - many of their songs could formally be called "pop metal" because of their catchy choruses, but don't let that confuse you: no matter how 'pop' they are, they're only 'pop' in that it's easier to memorize them than most of the stuff that, for instance, Metallica has to offer. Heck, Black Sabbath are "pop metal" too. In a way. Weren't they influenced by the Beatles and all? They weren't sworn enemies to the concept of the power ballad either, but, unlike some, they rarely overdid the stuff; most Accept albums don't include more than one or two of these, and some have none. Besides, even with power ballads they occasionally tried to do something interesting - a Herculean task for sure, but they were talented enough to sometimes pull it off. Other than that, it's crushing rocker after crushing rocker, which is Accept's main forte and at the same time their main flaw: by 1985 or so, it was obvious that they had become Slaves to the Formula, and there was no easy way out. They took it the hard way. The "classic period" (most fans would probably have that one lasting from about 1981 to about 1985, and that's more or less what I think, too) ended with a personality clash - the band members split into those who wanted to commercialize the sound and those who wanted to go on being hardcore. The latter camp, lead by Udo, eventually lost, and Accept made the biggest mistake of their career, reforming the band with the Sammy Hagar-like David Reece on vocals. This was a predictable disaster, and, although the band seemed to realize that and quickly got Udo (who, by that time, had a pretty respectable solo career going on) back, their glory days were obviously over. Some of their Nineties' albums are more listenable (Death Row) than others (Predator), but the huge period between 1986 and 1993 during which Accept were either non-existent or only existed in shit form pretty much ruined the band anyway, and the 'comeback' turned out to be only half-successful. Which probably caused the band's final demise in 1997. That said, everybody has problems, and nobody judges a band by their "comeback" efforts. The fact remains that every Accept album between 1980 and 1986 is eminently listenable and enjoyable, and some of them are fuckin' metal chef-d'oeuvres, recommendable for everybody. If you happen to be an American and are amazed to hear all these good words spoken about a band you ain't never heard of, let me emphasize that Accept are much more well-known and respected in Europe - no surprise here, because it's kinda hard for a German band to get popular recognition in the States unless it is Rammstein or somebody like that. Even so, Accept did crack the US charts open once, with their 1984 album Balls To The Wall, and that should be saying something. If you're a metal fan and you have not heard Accept, correct this mistake now. Lineup: Udo Dirkschneider - vocals; Wolf Hoffman - guitars; Jorg Fischer - guitars; Peter Baltes - bass; Frank Friedrich - drums. Friedrich replaced by Stefen Kaufmann, 1980 (the "classic" lineup). Band came to a halt in 1987, then reformed without Dirkschneider and Fischer, replacing them with David Reece (vocals) and Jim Stacey (guitars), 1989. This lineup only lasted for about a year. The "classic" lineup, but without Fischer, reformed in 1992; Kaufmann quit for 1996's Predator, replaced by Michael Cartellone. The band split for good next year.
Listenability: 3/5. It
takes time to get used to the Monster Attack, particularly Udo's, err,
Resonance: 3/5. They rock dang hard. Not that they can do much else.
Originality: 2/5. The "elements" are mostly borrowed, but the overall style is still their own. And they did thrash before thrash!
Adequacy: 4/5. Minus one point for some bad, bad shit like 'No Time To Lose', etc., but mostly, they do exactly what they set out to do.
Diversity: 1/5. Well, I could count their feeble attempts on their "comeback" records... nah.
Overall: 2.6 = C on the rating scale.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1979Record rating = 7
The most distinguishable feature here is the equation of the chainsaw with a female penis, but it sure ain't the worst Seventies' metal album either.Best song: HELLDRIVER
Track listing: 1) Lady Lou; 2) Tired Of Me; 3) Seawinds; 4) Take Him In My Heart; 5) Sounds Of War; 6) Free Me Now; 7) Glad To Be Alone; 8) That's Rock'n'Roll; 9) Helldriver; 10) Street Fighter.
Derivative, but eatable. Actually, for a German metal band Accept had a pretty poppy sound for their first few albums, but then again, let's not forget their debut came out in 1979 and thrash/speed/death metal as a full-fledged genre, or collection of slightly different genres, hadn't yet developed by then (not to mention that particular brand of Germanic metal that praises cold-blooded brutality over everything else). Well, then again, let's not forget that for all of their career, Accept had nothing to do with that stuff. Anyway, in 1979 Accept, led by vocal titan Udo Dirkschneider and the explosive guitar duo of Jan Kommet and Wolf Hoffman, came out on the scene and started sounding like the Scorpions.Wait though! They actually sounded better than the Scorpions! Better melodies, cooler vocals, and just one power ballad - 'Seawinds' is certainly not a particularly good song, but so far I haven't been able to detect any traces of vomit on my keyboard, so I'm gonna have to assume there is something redeeming in the song. Maybe it's the chorus, the one that goes 'in the night, the seawinds are calling...', which is pretty folksy and convincing. I could even insert a comma there: 'pretty, folksy, and convincing'. And speaking of winds, it's certainly a worthier candidate for "classic metal ballad" than 'Winds Of Change' and all that crap. I would even dare to shyly suggest that the guitar solo out there in the middle is melodic, uncliched, and memorable, but don't hold me to my word. But, of course, to heck with the ballads. This album, like, has a lady with a chainsaw on the front cover! And you thought Accept were a Bread clone or anything? This is certainly balls-to-the-wall cock-rock in essence, but cock-rock that's pretty catchy and professional, and doesn't really ride on blues or metal cliches that most other acts would prefer. Okay, so it does, but there are cliches and cliches, and the feeling I get from this album is that for every song they're at least trying to think of a special riff instead of just playing whatever bunch of textbook metallic phrases they have learned while practicing their art. Also, an absolute majority of the songs on here have solid vocal hooks rooted in them - 'Lady Lou', for instance, begins the record on a cheerful note of passion, just like any normal boozy blues-rock band would do ("won't you co-o-o-o-me to me, my love - LADY LOU!!"), only it has some REAL crunchy guitarwork, and, of course, those eerie (at the time) echoey metal riffs that would soon be expropriated by just about any trend-following Eighties' act from metalheads to popsters. Here, they work, though. It's all kinda dumb and kinda cheap, but it also kinda works. The highlight, for me, would probably have to be 'Helldriver', whose chorus is monotonous but catchy in an almost Sixtiesque way - you can almost translate the song into the language of your average ass-kickin' garage rock band; Udo's hysteric screaming on the song might actually annoy some, but hey, I actually think Brian Johnson is a great singer, so why should I complain about Dirkschneider? The primary difference is that the lyrics of Accept aren't as painstakingly brainless and sexist as the ones in AC/DC - they even display a touch of intelligence and lyrical wit at times, but that also makes Udo's singing somewhat inadequate: he screams his head off in total paranoia as if he were exaggerating, when in fact, he is not. Still, on most other tracks he's pretty reasonable. 'That's Rock'n'Roll', for instance, is one of the most reckless and fast anthems to the Devil's music that had ever been recorded up to that time - check out the weird complex drumming rhythm of Stefan Kaufman, by the way, as it's anything but primitive monotonous pounding; the guy has technique, in the grand tradition of Jaki Liebezeit (the wondrous drummer for Can). The only other band that was openly playing like that at the time that I can think of are Motorhead, and, in fact, I could easily see Lemmy taking lead vocals on that track, although Accept's sound was polished and clean from the very beginning, much more so than Motorhead's brand of pompous ear-destructive sludge. 'Street Fighter', on the other hand, gets all pissed-off and angry, picturing street rebellion in a convincing and truly hellish manner: Udo and the boys shout 'hate you, hate you, leave us alone man, keep your stuff and stay where you are' with direct punkish abandon, and what's up with that bassline? Real 'motorcycle bassline', but you'll have to listen close for that one. That said, I'm not gonna argue about Accept being a great album or anything - chances are that it could be the heaviest album of 1979, or one-of, at least, but by 1979, heaviness in itself didn't matter as much, and while there are numerous little teensy-weensy original ideas and approaches that flutter around the tracks, on the whole, Accept hadn't yet materialised into the rip-roarin' riff-laden bone-crunchin' monster-thumpin' machine they would eventually become, all the same not losing the melodic edge. So I'd say that even to a trained metal ear unlike mine, this stuff might seem kinda boring and sameish-sounding. Still, a bunch of good pop-metal tunes and that 'seawinds are calling' line really make the album, eh, well, accept-able. Har har har! "Hey little woman, accept tonight", and it definitely did not deserve one puny star from the Allmusic Guide. But then again, I doubt anybody at AMG has really heard anything by Accept except for Balls To The Wall.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1980Record rating = 8
In which we learn that these guys are really clever and don't mind clever pop hooks in their metal tunes, with a couple turds thrown in for good measure.Best song: I'M A REBEL
Track listing: 1) I'm A Rebel; 2) Save Us; 3) No Time To Lose; 4) Thunder & Lightning; 5) China Lady; 6) I Wanna Be No Hero; 7) The King; 8) Do It.
Look, they're really getting better on this one, even if the debut wasn't no piece of poop either, contrary to what SOME would have you believe, hah hah. This is probably as high as unambitious pop-metal can go; a little stupid, a little angry, seriously professional and not really at all demanding. Heck, this isn't even seriously metallic; I'd say that Udo's insane high-pitched shrieking is by far the most "off-putting" thing about the album, otherwise I could recommend it to just about anybody who's not running for the bombshelter at the first mention of the word "DISTORTION!". However, I've grown quite accustomed to Udo, too. And he has grown accustomed to his style - and he gets even higher than he did on the debut. At times that style actually comes close to Brian Johnson, so mayhaps it's no coincidence I'm A Rebel came out the same year Back In Black did.However, these guys aren't at all taking AC/DC as their basic model. Sure, they like to scream and they like to have a twin guitar mojo, but they're not taking this to the extreme. It's serious rock'n'roll, and serious rock'n'roll done well; ooh, it's a real pleasure to bang your head along to a rocker as jovial and hot-blooded as 'Save Us', for instance. It further seduces me by adding a wah-wah solo to its already well-constructed double-guitar riff; it's not often that you meet a heavy metal player who really understands the charms of the wah-wah, you know. Not AC/DC, that's for sure. Of course, AC/DC would never have risked to add a falsetto middle-eight to the song, but let us not forget this was still, in a way, the disco age - and so the bassline to the song is pure disco, but who cares? In my mind, it speaks high of disco potential rather than speaks low of the song - apparently, a disco basis can serve as the foundation of any song, no matter how musically complex or innovative. (Well, hell, then again, didn't 'A Fifth Of Beethoven' prove that a long time ago already?) It's pretty funny, though, to see how the band occasionally falls under the influence of the disco trend so much it "stoops" low enough to record an almost "pure" dance number. 'I Wanna Be No Hero' is obvious disco-metal, and furthermore, one that certainly reveals a KISS influence; if the way Udo sings 'I can't give you nothing but love babe' doesn't remind you of 'I can't get enough of you baby', you just probably never heard the, uhm, original. However, 'I Was Made For Lovin' You', to be fairly honest with you, wasn't among the worst songs that Kiss had the misfortune to write, and since Udo's vocal is at least ten times less irritatingly macho than Stanley's (and the lyrics are a notch above "totally dumb" as well), 'I Wanna Be No Hero' comes across as a mildly acceptable piece of decent dance-metal. I am a bit more concerned with the two ballads, after all, this is "power" stuff and all. 'No Time To Lose' seems to be a rather obvious filler codpiece, just to give you a moment's relaxation in between the ass-kicking - pretty primitive melody, if you ask me. Leave that stuff to the Scorpions, brothers. However, the second milder piece, 'The King', which is written strictly in the "medieval fantasy" vein, is actually quite decent, you know? It was a surprise to me, too. The introductory part, played with just an acoustic, is unusually quiet and non-anthemic for the formula, and you don't really notice it much until it goes into the chorus of 'down, down, the king lost his crown', and that one is actually nicely structured. There is still a whiff of formulaic cheese around, but you know, if you're in a heavy metal band, you just HAVE to have a song about kings and dragons. You HAVE to. Consider it mandatory homework. And by 1979, chances were ninety to ten at least, that your homework would stink - so it's pretty damn nice that Accept's homework doesn't. No great shakes either, but definitely not a stinker. And the heavy numbers, hoo boy. 'Save Us' I've already mentioned, but there's plenty more. 'China Lady', for instance, features some really effort-demanding vocal gymnastics from Udo; he wails at his highest pitch throughout almost the entire song, verses and choruses and all, not even something that Brian Johnson could have easily pulled off at his best, and the riff is no slouch either. 'Thunder And Lightning' is perhaps the most generic title for a cock-metal song as possible (see Thin Lizzy for further reference), but who really cares? It's fun, even if the melody is power-chord-based instead of the usual classy riffage; these guys are way too smart to have their best material driven by a bunch of "Kaboom! Kaboom!" chords which even Johnny Ramone wouldn't play cuz they're so boring. No, but a great vocal hook and a cool speedy solo save the song. The title track does look a bit ridiculous, though. I mean, when you're doing a "rebellious" anthem, you don't usually insert a Queen-esque pop pop pop chorus; when the backing vocals go 'I'm a rebel, rebel, don't you just know it', there's not the slightest ounce of menace in that. In fact, it sounds oddly like a regiment of soldiers singing a hefty heigh-ho chorus. Like the State Orchestra of the Soviet Army or something, and thus even more at odds with Udo's wails. On the other hand, there's sort of an ironic message out there - 'I'm a rebel... they're all laughing at me!', so in the end the atmosphere comes out just all right. And whatever be the case, you can't deny the song's fun factor, nor the entire album's. Totally inoffensive and, like, friendly even, and yet kicks plenty of ass when you want it. Nothing jaw dropping, and not the band's absolute peak yet, but very nice pop-metal easy listening. I'm not too sure why the drumming isn't as exciting as last time around, either (somewhat more steady, though - oh, gotcha, it had to do something with their getting a new drummer, didn't it?), but must we always be looking for perfection? In that case, look no further than Mariah Carey's Glitter.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1981Record rating = 10
"Back In Black" who want it even crunchier, if maybe a little bit more filler-diluted.Best song: STARLIGHT
Track listing: 1) Starlight; 2) Breaker; 3) Run If You Can; 4) Can't Stand The Night; 5) Son Of A Bitch; 6) Burning; 7) Feelings; 8) Midnight Highway; 9) Breaking Up Again; 10) Down And Out.
Shitty album title (I mean, if you rip off Judas Priest, you gotta be more inventive than that!), but the album itself is simply astounding. It still did not bring Accept any really significant international success, but creative-wise, it certainly pushed AC/DC out of the ballpark. If you're a metalhead and don't have this, you're not really a metalhead. You're just a tin soldier man!Boy, the songs on here are just amazing. Some of the best, most tastefully arranged and creative metal I've ever heard. Well, okay, dump "creative", because it's not like there's too much innovation on here. And how much innovative can you be within the general metal framework anyway, unless you read a lot of Ayn Rand or burn Christian churches for breakfast? But somehow, third time around Accept just found that wonderful middle ground (triple rhyme! whoopee! I'm so inspired tonight!) - not going off too far to become a goofy grotesquery like AC/DC and at the same time creating some of the absolutely MOST kick-ass music I've ever heard. Udo has never shrieked better, the band has never played tighter, and no more of those poppy 'I'm a rebel, rebel, don't you just know it' refrains on here. This is rock'n'roll baby, rock'n'roll in a way no German ever dreamt before (or after, for that matter, because Rammstein definitely don't count as true rock'n'roll to me). The opening riff to 'Starlight' pushes new life into rock'n'roll! Yes, there are wonderful, catchy, and evocative riffs that haven't been used before in this world! And they're played by one of the world's best metal guitar pairings. And it ain't no goddamn AC/DC mid-tempo. It's fast! It rips! It ain't exactly thrash either, in fact, it ain't thrash at all. It's just good old classic metal that doesn't take any chances. You gotta listen to the guitarists soloing in unison, one in each speaker, playing the same complex, but emotionally hitting solo - it'll blow you off your feet. And Udo yelling 'STAAAAARRRLIGHT'? Knocks Brian Johnson into the ground, lungs, throat, jaws, cap and all. The next few songs are all highlights as well. The title track is even faster, with the guitarists playing another fantastiwastic riff with even more precision... this time there certainly are thrash connotations, but they're good connotations. The 'icicle brains, bicycle chains' refrain might be questionable (although from a pure phonetic stance, it ain't half bad, is it?), but the lyrics actually employ the classic "metal lyrical trick" dating to the days of Black Sabbath: sing something really gruesome in such a way that reading the lyrics would make one understand the band protests against these thing, but hearing the lyrics would make one think the band actually upholds 'em. Ah well, we all need to let the beast within take a free walk sometimes. Accept are masters of that. 'Run If You Can' slows things down a tad, and wouldn't have sounded out of place on a classic Judas Priest album, but as much respect as I have towards Master He-Of-The-Ugly-Powerful-Vocal Halford, when it comes to bellowing at the top of your lungs, I'll take Udo over the guy any time of day. I'm pretty sure some will protest against the supposed dumbness of 'Son Of A Bitch', essentially an excuse for Udo to unleash some vicious namecalling against an imaginary enemy. But I'll be darned if he doesn't do that in a great way. Considering that English ain't his native language, I'm pretty sure no German has ever been able to roar out "YOU ASSHOLE!" in a more menacing manner. I have no idea who the tune is referring to, but somehow I think it should have had a real true protagonist. And dumb it may be, but in a matter of moments it has become my favourite song to put on when you wanna vent your frustrations against somebody in particular. Like that Japanese dummy for beating up your imaginary boss. The riffs are top notch too, don't forget that. Finally, if that wasn't enough, 'Burning' will just get your ass going in a way no other tune from the early Eighties can. No thrash here, no complex riffs, just a wild updated Fifties send-up for you to bang your head to. Judging by the applause, it was probably recorded live (if not, it should have been - it's the perfect crowd-pleaser if there ever was one), and it features everybody at the top of their game. The absolute top. Lightning-speed riffage, but with Chuck Berry-esque chords as the main inventory, including the solo. You probably ain't never heard it, but you probably did hear AC/DC's insane guitar breaks on 'Whole Lotta Rosie'; this is similar, only kicks even more ass. Well, okay, that last phrase is subjective - screw it. But I gotta also screw their heads off for fading the track out just as they begin playing the second solo. Aaaargh. So many false endings and only one solo? Unfortunately, the album ain't quite perfect. A couple slower rockers on the second side aren't bad but just can't match up to the head-spinning fury of the faster ones, and the two ballads are, well, uhm, two ballads from the German band Accept (which means they aren't bad either, but heck Paul McCartney this ain't - the best thing I can say about them is that I consider the acoustic fade out at the end of 'Breaking Up Again' a real gesture of good taste, and that Udo's wild wild wild screaming on 'Can't Stand The Night' almost makes up for the fromage-de-luxe appeal of the tune). At least 'Down And Out' is a really terrifying way to end the record - now here's a gruesome, uncompromising, smash-yer-face kind of tune ("WE! AIN'T! DOWN AND OUT!") that could probably only come out of a German head (which is sorta scary once you apply the classic stereotype, but hey, we're not talking nationalism here, are we?). But filler or no filler, the good material on here is SO GODDAMN GOOD I just can't give this anything less than a near-perfect rating. No metal/hard rock fan should be without this one - too bad it falls on the band's "commercially unsuccessful" phase and is not so easily available. Trust me, it kicks so much more ass than Balls To The Wall I have no choice but to add this case to my already swelling collection of "commercial misunderstandings". Correct it if you can!
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1983Record rating = 10
Like sort of a supah-cool Slayer meets supah-cool AC/DC meets supah-cool Judas Priest, man.Best song: FAST AS A SHARK
Track listing: 1) Fast As A Shark; 2) Restless And Wild; 3) Ahead Of The Pack; 4) Shake Your Heads; 5) Neon Nights; 6) Get Ready; 7) Demon's Night; 8) Flash Rockin' Man; 9) Don't Go Stealing My Soul Away; 10) Princess Of The Dawn.
They were really on a roll with those albums. Now granted, out of all the music genres I somehow think that heavy metal is the easiest one to keep consistent: when you think about it, good heavy metal/hard rock bands who were willing to stick to the formula, like AC/DC, or Nazareth, or Motorhead, or Judas Priest, or Accept, had those long long long strings of ass-kicking records that had the misfortune of sounding the same but at least had different riffs going for them to keep the story on its feet. (It's when the bands started to experiment - like Led Zep or Deep Purple in the mid-Seventies, or to yield to commercialism - like Nazareth, that trouble came). This is the cause of all those high ratings on those pages. That doesn't actually mean I veneer these bands more like those that were willing to take risks and resulted in as many excellent highs as there were frustrating lows, though; formula is formula, and sticking to the same pair of guns for all of your life isn't that hard an affair. But then again, there is something to be said about consistency, isn't there?Back to the album. This was the egg that finally splattered some Accept yolk all over the planet, and for damn good reason - the melodies aren't really stronger than on Breaker, but the sound has been tightened up to unprecedented levels. The German spirit awakens once more and sees to it that the band has all the precision and meticulousness of the best Krautrock bands, and all the harsh cruel atmospherics of your average metal band as well. The German metal scene is notorious, of course, but I have yet to hear a German metal band that would beat 'Fast As A Shark'. The opening is classic: a cracked old Thirties (Twenties?) German pop record initiates the proceedings for about fifteen seconds (fans reel back in horror), then the needle spins and wheezes, and Udo's most distinctive blood-curdling scream introduces the band's fastest song so far. This is prime thrash metal, fast as Motorhead but a million times more precise - it's been said that Accept actually paved the way for Metallica, and that's a pretty accurate statement because I really can't see any band that'd approach Metallica's classic thrash sound closer than Accept were doing at this point, and Accept actually came earlier. And I'm not even mentioning early Slayer (okay, now I actually did it), because it's one thing to just go chugga-chugga-chugga and another thing to actually mould it into something resembling a real guitar melody, which is exactly what these lads do on here. The 'fast as a shark, he'll cut out of the dark' chorus might sound a bit ridiculously poppy for such a monster of a song (yeah, it's about a serial killer, of course, what else would you expect?), but that is certainly redeemed by the robotic precision of the song, the melodic sequence of guitar solos (first a power-chord-a-thon, then a lightning-speed sequence of arpeggios) and jagged ending. And while 'Fast As A Shark' is perhaps the most adrenaline-raising number on the album, it's far from the only classic. 'Restless And Wild' springs along like a rhinoceros in heat, with Udo's voice going from a low growl that reminds of both Lemmy and David Lee Roth at this time to his trademark high-pitched scream, and the 'restle-e-e-e-e-e-ess! - RESTLESS AND WILD!' chorus will blow your head off. Then there's the weird chuggin' guitar intro to 'Ahead Of The Pack', another instant classic from everybody's beloved bunch of Teutonic metalheads (yeah, well, eat your sell-out hearts out, Scorpions!). And it's... ah well, everything on here is great. 'Flash Rockin' Man' is one of my favourites on the second side... how the hell can Udo do that awesome vibrato? I mean, anybody can do vibratos, but it really takes a lot of technique to keep 'em that high: Brian Johnson, who out of all the metal singers had probably the closest pitch to Udo's, could never have mastered that. A couple slower songs like 'Shake Your Heads' again prevent the album from reaching perfection, but on the other hand they also act as relative breathers in between all the hammering. Oh yeah, I almost forgot! This is the first Accept album to not feature any sissyass power ballads! Not that Accept really sucked at the art (see some of the actual comments above), but still a metal power ballad is a metal power ballad. Well, I guess the closest thing to a power ballad here is 'Neon Nights', but even that one, after starting with a gentle acoustic introduction, suddenly goes into this ultra-heavy "post-Sabbath" earth-rumbling guitar passage, after which it certainly cannot already emerge in a pure "ballad" form - more like your average basic slow rocker. Essentially not a highlight. However, the album's second 'mood track' certainly is: 'Princess Of The Dawn' is a terrific way to end the album, and only Accept could have turned six minutes of monotonous riffing into a masterpiece - it's like a classic "medievalistic" Rainbow rocker without the cheesy synthesizers, just a steady doomy bassline and a steady unnerving evil riff and a couple distorted lead lines along the way, and a magnificent guitar solo, and a hilarious Celtic quote at the end that seems to me to be played upon a mandolin, no less. I get so excited I don't even notice all the cheesy generic lyrics which seem to milk every D&D cliche ever made (the moors, holy shore, mystery, shadows, guardians of God, pawns, the Holy Grail, Satan, testament, raging fire, Beauty and the Beast, crypts, dragons, vestal virgins, dust, kings and bishops, heaven and earth, Lady in White, Iron Horse, priests, spirits, sacrifice... wait a minute, now these guys can't be serious. This HAS to be taken tongue-in-cheek, RIGHT??). Aw gosh, anyway. This should be one of the books of the Holy Bible of Eighties metal, along with Back In Black and Rod Stewart's Camouflage. [What do you mean, Camouflage ain't heavy metal? Buddy, has nobody taught you that 'heavy metal' is a totally subjective term?] You could argue it's way too derivative and all, and I'll agree with you (cf. the tagline), but when has that ever been a problem for the realm of metal? Never. The problem was that you had to sound totally-absolutely-fully off-the-goddamn-edge - more loud, more aggressive, with catchier and at the same time sharper and much less compromised songs than anyone, and in 1983, Accept easily outdid all competition. I don't know if this one's better than Breaker or not, and don't even wanna know. What I do know for sure is they never ever really topped this one. Never!
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1984Record rating = 8
Slower, but with just as many hooks and a snarl to end all snarls.Best song: BALLS TO THE WALL
Track listing: 1) Balls To The Wall; 2) London Leatherboys; 3) Fight It Back; 4) Head Over Heels; 5) Losing More Than You Ever Had; 6) Love Child; 7) Turn Me On; 8) Losers And Winners; 9) Guardian Of The Night; 10) Winter Dreams.
Ehhh... not quite nearly as good, you see. Still pretty solid, and actually, the title track managed to break them big in America for a short while if I'm not mistaken, so chances are Balls To The Wall is the most perspective Accept buy you'll ever see in one of your goddamn Yankee stores, and pretty much the only Accept album you'll see heartily recommended to you by your local retailer, er, reviewer, I mean. I don't qualify anyway. BUT!Too much of this album sounds like for some reason Udo and the boys became totally content with the title of "best AC/DC imitators in the world". How many truly fast, 'Flash Rockin' Man'-like bolts of lightning are there on the album? One? Two? Don't get me wrong: they can do some great mid-tempo heavy metal, not any worse than AC/DC or anybody else, but dammit, they lose their exclusiveness in that manner. It's as if they saw Metallica and Slayer and all those other thrash bands and said to themselves, 'hey, there's no way we are going to play that fast, so fuck it, we'll play slow instead'. (Even if I have no doubt they could have played that fast if they really wanted to - and with better results to boot, see 'Fast As A Shark' for proof). So as a result, Balls To The Wall is a retread back to the level of, say, I'm A Rebel; maybe the guitar tones are still somewhat meaner than before, and Udo's singing only keeps getting better with time, but overall, it's a bit of a disappointment for me. But then again, everything is relative, and besides, a peak is a peak - you can't stay on a peak forever, you have to get down to the other side. Of course, when the songs are good, they are good. The title track is this band's 'Hell's Bells': a mean, mean, mean, merciless and cruel pounding riff, slow steady crushing drumbeats, and a melody that slowly rises from the 'muffled' verse to the ecstatic middle-eight to the totally Satanic chorus: that 'YOU GET YOUR BALLS TO THE WALL - MAAAN!' has to be heard to be believed. And since the apocalyptic lyrics are nowhere near as cartoonish as the ones AC/DC used to write, there's a certain creepiness about the song that I really can't shake off. And what's up with the moody Gregorian chant in the instrumental section? Ah, the unshakable German flavour... Goes without saying that one man's creepiness is another man's cheesiness, and it's true, at times I get the urge rather to chuckle at the over-the-top "brutality" of the song than to cower at it, but hey, that's goddamn ambiguity for ya. Even if it is cheese, it's doggone healthy cheese. As for the rest of the songs, well, normally the faster they are the better they come off. 'Fight It Back' is a personal favourite of mine, for the memorable riffs, the speed and Udo's hilarious shrieks flying from speaker to speaker after the chorus. And of course, it's the song that features Udo's most piercing scream of all time, right in the middle before the solo. Bruce Dickinson, eat your heart out. On the second side, though, also only one of the songs matches the nice-speed criterion, 'Losers And Winners', which isn't really deserving a separate description (not that it's bad, I just can't come up with any particularly enlightening things to write about it) but for some reason has the band chanting 'Hans Sachs, Hans Sachs' at the end. There's little to say about the rest of the album either - all mid-tempo, all crunchy, all featuring great singing, none of them really aspiring to be immortal chef-d'oeuvres of hard'n'heavy rock'n'roll, but pretty much all of them immaculately crafted anyway. You can occasionally get a nice bass intro (like in 'Head Over Heels'), but overall it's all the same. A particular thing that bothers me are those annoying Eighties pop overtones that crop up more and more often; for instance, the chorus of 'Turn Me On' for some reason always reminds me of crappy synth-pop, and not even the prototypical metal riffage of the song can save it. Well, we all know that Accept are "pop metal", and essentially I'm only welcoming pop hooks in their songs, but you know the drift - every once in a while, you stumble across a pop hook that makes you retch. Maybe it's too crowd-pleasing or something. There's only one ballad-type song, too, which is the closing 'Winter Dreams'. It features a mystical foggy atmosphere similar to 'Princess Of The Dawn' on the previous album, but isn't nearly as catchy and doesn't feature a kick-ass guitar solo. More like an average power ballad, more tasteful than most because of nice acoustic guitarwork, but not a very successful conclusion to the album - an album which is still extremely good but overall announces the beginning of Accept's downfall. I dunno, I guess it's pretty hard to concentrate your efforts on being fast, ferocious, and precise at the same time for more than a couple albums, unless you're somebody like Slayer and you don't let petty concerns of "taste" or "artistic growth" or "commercial success" enter your head. Even so, no "taster" or "growth" or "success" considerations can excuse the sudden need this band had felt to lapse into generic - albeit well-performed and still hellraising - mid-tempo metal. And at least if all the songs on here had the same impact as 'Balls To The Wall', but no, they do not. Don't believe people who claim this album to be the pinnacle of Accept; get Breaker and Restless & Wild to see what really makes these guys so unique, instead of getting the picture of them as an AC/DC clone with more serious lyrics and more metallic guitar tones. And what's up with the album cover? I'd much prefer to see another chick with a chainsaw instead of a dirty crotch, you know. Too obvious a nod to Judas Priest, which makes me nervous.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1985Record rating = 8
They never really let go, do they? Grind after grind after grind...Best song: UP TO THE LIMIT
Track listing: 1) Metal Heart; 2) Midnight Mover; 3) Up To The Limit; 4) Wrong Is Right; 5) Screaming For A Love Bite; 6) Too High To Get It Right; 7) Dogs On Leads; 8) Teach Us To Survive; 9) Living For Tonight; 10) Bound To Fail.
Isn't it ironic that the album that's universally acclaimed as Accept's first true "pop-metal" offering, softening up their gruff attack and making more emphasis on melody than ever before, is also their first one to not feature even a single ballad? That's true folks, Metal Heart is fairly "hardcore" in that respect; not even a little dreamy starry-eyed 'Princess Of The Dawn' kind of song on here. And I like that! Down with 'em sissies! Rock and roll all the way!Now seriously, this is where tension started to flow, and as it often is, tension started to flow over the commercial future of the band. Balls To The Wall nearly cracked the American market for the guys, and the instrumental forces of the band, primarily Wolf Hoffman, having tasted the sweet smell of you-know-what, started arguing in favor of slower, more melodic, maybe more stadium-rock oriented anthemic songs, while our good old Udo Dickscreamer severely resisted any attempts at selling out. So I guess Metal Heart is kind of a compromised record. Not too compromised, though; actually, I don't even think it was that much of a sellout compared to the previous album. Like I already said, there are no ballads on here, and all the numbers rock pretty hard - once you get grabbed by the balls, the band never lets go, not for one tiny second; and most certainly this has nothing to do with generic power-chord based pretentious hair metal of the time, either. Yes, the band's really gruff, really ass-kicking days are over, it seems, but look, a little bit of melodicity never hurt a metallic rocker if it was inventive enough. Yes, the title track does begin with a pompous quasi-operatic intro replete with spooky Gothic chanting... but when the main melody breaks through at around 1:30 into the song, it's classic Accept, only a little slower than you'd like it to be. And wait until you get around to the solo - gotta love that little Beethoven quotation they dump on there, eh? Following in Ritchie's footsteps and all? Something else, that solo. What a weird way of selling out. No more obviously recognizable classical quotes (for me, at least), but lots of decent-to-good-to-great songs anyway, with a tiny bunch of filler tossed in to ensure the album can't get a higher rating than Balls To The Wall. Still, 'Midnight Mover' is catchy beyond words; pop-metal? go for it, guys! you sure do it better than anybody else at the time. (Which reminds me that Accept always had the pop-metal streak in them, now go and tell me that the chorus of 'Fast As A Shark' isn't poppy, you pathetic swindler). And the bass-heavy 'Up To The Limit' is one of the band's most concise and grinding "moderately fast" songs - their 'Shoot To Thrill' if you wish, only without the dumb sexism, with far more grit and oh that goddamn bass. Just a one-note bassline or so, but mixed so that it seems to be coming out of your very brain when you get the headphones on, like these filthy Germans only recorded the guitars and you add up that dark foundation yourself. Sellout my ass - 'Up To The Limit' kicks the bowels out of every single member of Poison to have ever walked this planet. The thrashy roots of Accept show up only once, on the speedy, but not that speedy 'Wrong Is Right', which pales next to 'Shark', but it still boasts a non-recycled vocal melody, at least. The mystical roots of Accept only show up once on the magnificent 'Dogs On Leads', which builds up the tension admirably, so that, you know, sometimes I actually wonder if Udo's actually better when he's mumbling and murmuring in a subtle menacing way than when he's actually screaming at full throttle. Again, the chorus is an obvious nod to AC/DC ("DOGS - ON - LEADS!", chanted in the exact same way that the Young band does with 'T-N-T!' or, to think of it, the exact same way Accept themselves do with 'BALLS TO THE WALL!!'), but since we've long established that Accept are a more "serious" band, 'Dogs On Leads' naturally sounds scarier than any given AC/DC song. Hey, AC/DC never gave the bass guitar so much power! In general, though, the second side is a bit weaker; they're starting to repeat themselves, and some of the songs seriously lack in the hook department. I do count the chorus of 'Living For Tonite' as a positive element, though, and the subtle jazz stylizations of 'Teach Us To Survive' are also a hoot (just don't forget to concentrate on the song when it comes by - its slight differences didn't really catch my ear the first time around); but perhaps 'Bound To Fail' is way too true a title for that song, overlong and much too anthemic and crowd-pleasing to satisfy the conventions for good taste (at least, as evident to yours truly). But to be totally honest with you, the SOUND of that song - as well as the album in general - is pretty much impeccable. This is real gritty heavy metal, not a phoney inoffensive impersonation of the thing, and if it didn't break Accept big in the States, that's understood: this album may be a tiny bit compromised, but it's still the real stuff. It's not watered down or anything. It's still dark, heavy, and essentially inspired heavy metal with a melodic underpinning. Keep this in mind and you won't be disappointed, buck-o. Actually, rethinking what I've just said, the main flaw of Metal Heart is it's way too even. All the songs are so uniform and so, well, formulaic, that there are no real outstanding classics (like 'Balls To The Wall', or 'Fast As A Shark', or 'Son Of A Bitch', you get the drift). So the songs just sort of blend together after a while, and this is not so good: the main aim, I think, of a good heavy metal album is to give as many songs as possible a unique identity. For a band like the Beatles, this task is understood and can't be considered as "problem number one", but when you deal with a genre as "technically limited" as metal (I don't apply "limited" to actual playing technique, of course - more like, in the "mood set-up" sense), the very fact of a diverse approach to your material is already a great asset. Metal Heart is the first Accept album (well, serious signs of it were already seen on Balls To The Wall) where the whole affair starts seriously reeking of a conveyer line. That's why I would hesitate before recommending the record to a non-fan - although if heavy metal is your life, this stuff will definitely make your day. It did make some of mine.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1986Record rating = 8
Rule # 1: you never mention Russia in your album titles. That's a sure sign of decline.Best song: MONSTERMAN
Track listing: 1) TV War; 2) Monsterman; 3) Russian Roulette; 4) It's Hard To Find A Way; 5) Aiming High; 6) Heaven Is Hell; 7) Another Second To Be; 8) Walking In The Shadow; 9) Man Enough To Cry; 10) Stand Tight.
With a sound as stable as these guys used to have, it's hard to say exactly where "decline" or "stagnation" sets in. I mean, it's friggin' formula. When is a formula "fresh" and when does it start to get "rotten"? Doesn't it primarily depend on how much you enjoy the formula? The more it clicks with you, the more sets of identically sounding LPs you can easily digest without fear of liquidification (is that a word?) of the contents of your bowels. The less it does, well, you know.Basically, it's still a good album. It sounds like Metal Heart Vol. 2, essentially, but, despite the flying tensions in the band and the fact that Udo would call it quits soon afterwards, one thing you can't say about the band is that they dropped the energy level. 'TV War' opens the record with a monstrous speed-rocker in the best traditions of 'Fast As A Shark' - one of their fastest ever, indeed, and the catchy poppy chorus makes it as memorable as the best of 'em. You can't say, or shouldn't say, one bad word about the follow-up, either: 'Monsterman' is funny, threatening, and inventive, with Udo not losing a thing as he follows each chorus line with a gruffy 'dead or alive, dead or alive' that will scare the shit out of any particularly impressive listener. What is it they're singing anyway: 'I am the monsterman' or 'I am no monsterman'? My lyrics sheet gives the version with 'no', and it is much more interesting that way, but my ears don't exactly confirm this. Then there's the title track which slows things down a bit, but that allows us to memorize the actual riff - and also allows for the classic Accept-style 'tension mount': yes, by all means, the song follows the 'Balls To The Wall' formula to a tee, but it's still got a different melody, and doesn't the grim 'WARGAMES! SHANGHAI'D!' chorus sound scary? The friggin' unbelievable thing is, it does. You'd think by this time I could be so well adjusted I'd see this as naught but a fuckin' caricature, but I swear to God they still manage to sound convincing and 'genuine', despite having done the same thing many many times before. Well, they didn't insert no tick-tock o' the clock before. They have now. It fits. It really fits. It's a good song. It's not until we fall upon the power ballad 'It's Hard To Find A Way' that I can breathe a sigh of relief and say: "Okay. This is a BAD song". And it is. It's a bad power ballad, and not even Udo's vocal gymnastics can save it from sucking. But it's not like it's totally unpredictable. Accept have done power ballads before, including bad power ballads ('No Time To Lose', anyone?), and it was only a matter of time before they'd start doing bad power ballads again. Maybe it was some sort of "compromise" from Mr Dirkschneider for his more mainstream-oriented buddies (or maybe vice versa - I don't have any credible information on that one). A misstep. Well, did you expect perfection? On the other hand, 'Aiming High' fully redeems for this misstep - another fast metal rocker, another nice catchy one, if not particularly fresh (about half of the songs on Metal Heart could have been used as prototypes). 'Heaven Is Hell' is Accept striving for an epic sound, and almost succeeding: almost, because the song is way too similar to the title track (and thus, structurally, to 'Balls To The Wall' as well), but it's still friggin' good. I dunno, I really, really like this style. Maybe what makes this formula so good is the fact that every note is in its right place. I like how they develop the quiet midsection, with the slowly "mounting" organ, the ominous percussion, the power chords gradually taking over, the vocal harmonies becoming louder and louder, and Udo's threatening mumbling finally transforming into the trademark goblin scream. Man I really like this style. Listen to AC/DC's 'Hell's Bells' first, then listen to 'Heaven Is Hell'. The Young brothers might have written a better melody, but they sure as hell have written nothing more than a goof - these guys manage to be serious, but not so deadly serious as to be even more laughable than AC/DC. I mean, did I ever mention the lyrics of Accept? I probably did, but let me reiterate - they're worth taking a look at just to understand that, in fact, they do not suck. They're somewhat banal, of course, but not really preachy or all that cliched. Again, the second side of the album is slightly spoiled by the way-too-poppy 'Man Enough To Cry' (the chorus, for some reason, sounds to me like it belongs more in a disco throwaway than a good metal song, although that's somewhat hyper-ultra-subjective), but this is well compensated by more slickly crafted tunes like 'Walking In The Shadow', whose corny chorus will never leave your head once it actually entered there. I guess you could say that this contrasting of Udo's "goblin roar" with the band's "Goth chorus" they insert in almost every song may get on one's nerves eventually, and it will - for those who aren't in favour of such a contrasting in the first place, but those who like it, well, I don't see 'em tiring of "Accept vocal dynamics" too soon. So, to put it short, Russian Roulette does suffer from the same "formula excess" that is obvious on Metal Heart, and there are a few tiny punchholes in the songwriting this time around, and, like I already mentioned, you don't have to use the word 'Russian' in your album title, and this sure ain't no masterpiece, but no Accept fan or lover of good old heavy metal should pass this stuff by anyway. It was maligned by critics, sure, but this had more to do with the objective circumstances in the band at the time than with the music itself. I mean, it was the frickin' "breakup album", right? Why do bands "break up"? Because they start to stink, unless they're the Beatles which was a long time ago anyway. Well, don't believe it. There's nothing particularly stinky here. Solid, intelligently made, enjoyable heavy metal it is. Headbangers rejoice, you got opportunities-a-plenty.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1989Record rating = 4
Rule # 2: you never pose as a generic poodle metal band when you essentially aren't one. That's one sure sign of GOING NUTS.Best song: whatever.
Track listing: 1) X-T-C; 2) Prisoner; 3) Love Sensation; 4) Chain Reaction; 5) D-Train; 6) Generation Clash; 7) Turn The Wheel; 8) Mistreated; 9) Stand 4 What U R; 10) Hellhammer; 11) Break The Ice.
Once upon a time, in a galaxy far far away, there lived a very good heavy metal band. They were making good heavy metal albums, living a good heavy metal life and never really getting in the way of good taste. But then their frontman left, leaving them with no choice but to find a replacement. And they found this replacement, and this was......SAMMY HAGAR. Yeah, you all know that story - didn't your evil elder brother tell you that one late in the evening so that you could crawl under your sheets and shake all over like a fuckin' leaf? You remember that, of course you do. Well, have I got news for you: history repeats itself. It's not like Udo Dirkschneider really got kicked out or anything, but he had been enjoying a couple of years of his solo career and wasn't too hot about returning to bicker with his old bandmates, so they put a hex on him and hired this guy instead. By "this guy" I mean David Reece. Apparently, Accept were really big by that time so they could afford having an "authentic" Anglo-Saxon singer for their music, but if you ask me, this guy ain't worth one hair off Mr Dirkschneider's male organ. All of a sudden, Accept just aren't Accept any more. I don't accept this Accept because they just don't happen to be acceptable, unless, of course, you like g-e-n-e-r-i-c as generic as it comes. Sure, these are the same guys that wrote the music, but now that good ol' Udo's gone, it's clearly seen the chemistry just doesn't happen without the little whacky screamin' guy. The riffs are more or less the same as before, but actually, I think the last time these Hoffman riffs really wooed me over on their own was around the time of Restless & Wild. Since then, it always took Udo to weave his funny little vocal melodies around 'em and, of course, deliver them as sharply and schizophrenically as possible. As such, I could even dig such obvious 'Balls To The Wall' re-writes as 'Russian Roulette' and 'Heaven Is Hell' off that last album. But this crap is different. It's not like David Reece is particularly bad. He's nowhere near as cock-rockingly obnoxious as Dave Coverdale, nor - God help me! - operatically-melodramatic as Glenn Hughues or (shiver) that Uriah Heep guy. He's just a professional screamer. Sorta like something in between Sammy Hagar and Lou Gramm. Just a guy with a voice that's powerful enough to outshout the distortion. That's it. Nothing else. No personality. No stunning idiosyncrasies. No bombs over Baghdad. Nothing. Pretty much everybody in every single metal band in the Eighties had to have a guy like this - without a guy like this, it was like being an acoustic guitarist caught in a trash band. Accept got themselves one. And what's the result? SPLAT. Fifty-four minutes of my time and I can't remember anything except the naggin' feeling of having heard all this before performed in a much better way. One particular song stands out as a particular horror in my mind: a seven-year, er, I mean, seven-minute long tune called 'Mistreated' (no shit!). It was a power ballad, conforming to all the expected cliches of power ballads: a long echoey acoustic intro, an "emotional" vocal delivery, a "crash boom bang" transition into the hard section and then power-yer-chord and tear-yer-lung a-plenty. Honestly, last time I heard something closely resembling this disjointed, rambling, 'soulful' mess was, I think, on Tony Iommi's Seventh Star album, the biggest pile of dogshit this side of God's personal doggie walk. Fortunately, it was the only ballad on the album, or else I'm not sure I could have had the patience of sitting through it even once. The rest of the songs pretend to be in classic Accept style: mid-tempo rock (occasionally fast rock) with riffs and solos and pseudo-catchy choruses, you know the drill. At least they had enough taste not to introduce synthesizers. But it's pretty much rotten to the core. I mean, what do you expect from an album where you look at the titles and see something like: 3) 'Love Sensation'; 4) 'Chain Reaction'? Or a song called 'Hellhammer' (actually, I guess it is the best - at least, the most driving - number on the record, but it is still spoiled by a totally unnecessary slow mid-section)? And why the anti-spelling on 'Stand 4 What U R'? What are you boys, Prince? The Wu-Tang Clan? But even without the spelling, this is a happy poppy "crowd-pleaser" that never really suits the Accept moniker. They also have one of these 'social critique' bits inserted ('Generation Clash'), which basically rechews what has already been chewed a million times, and when it's not Udo who rechews it, thanks guys, I don't need it. Some of the other songs, like the opening brainstormer 'X-T-C' (no, Andy Partridge is not guest starring on the track) or the fastest number on here, 'D-Train', I think, could have been really good when given to Udo, but Reece just makes them so non-special I have no interest in ever hearing them again. Despite the tagline, it's not quite true that they're sounding like a generic poodle metal band: it would be more correct to say that Reece's delivery brings them much closer to poodle metal than they would probably like to be brought themselves. It's like all the evil and all the irony have been sucked out, and the band is simply left without a purpose, and without a good reason to exist. So it's a happy thing this unfortunate marriage never lasted long, and that fate has been kind enough to only subjugate us to one album like this. (It has been much more cruel when it comes to bands like Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, to be fair). Naturally, it sank like a stone, and naturally, if the band were to save face, they had to salvage their reputation with a move that couldn't go wrong...
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1990Record rating = 9
Rule # 3: when at the end of your rope, release a live album. Even better, release it FROM THE VAULTS!Best song: they're all equally excellent.
Track listing: 1) Metal Heart; 2) Breaker; 3) Screaming For A Love Bite; 4) Up To The Limit; 5) Living For Tonight; 6) Princess Of The Dawn; 7) Guitar Solo Wolf; 8) Restless & Wild; 9) Son Of A Bitch; 10) London Leatherboys; 11) Love Child; 12) Flash Rockin' Man; 13) Dogs On Leads; 14) Fast As A Shark; 15) Balls To The Wall.
Accept minus Udo Dirkschneider = Reject. Which means that for every live album with an Udo at the front I'd happily give fifteen studio albums with a David Reece. And this album was released from arguably the best period of Accept's live career: the recordings are all culled from a series of Japanese concerts they gave on the Metal Heart tour. (Curiously enough, their only previous live offering was a currently out-of-print EP also recorded in Japan, Kaizoku-Ban. Is there something in Japanese atmosphere that's particularly healthy for metalheads or what?).Predictably, it's seventy-five minutes of non-stop excitement. No real heavy metal band can let their reputation down by poor live playing, and the only question is: can Accept raise the excitement level on a live record when it was so goddamn high in the studio already? Answer: yep, they can. I wouldn't say these live performances kick the shit out of the originals; we are, after all, long past the Seventies when top metal bands would deliberately tone down the excitement on their studio records in order for people to "feel the difference" between studio output and live performing. But I definitely would say that as far as concentrated, balls-to-the-wall energy goes, Staying A Life as a whole really delivers the goods. There's not a single fuckin' ballad among the selections, for one thing. The closest thing to a ballad is 'Princess Of The Dawn', and that's not at all a ballad. As expected, it kicks ass all over the place, although I sort of preferred the unexpected ending of the original to the pompous classical-influenced coda on this recording. (Granted, giving out unexpected endings hardly fits in with the concept of an arena rock show. Where, however, I've sort of noticed that the quality of the band can often be established in reverse proportion to the average length of the coda to any of its given songs. I personally like the ending short and sweet. You?) Other than that, it's grinding rocker after grinding rocker after grinding rocker, and since Accept grind so fast and so furious and so precise, I don't think anybody with at least a trifle of a penchant for heavy metal will begin to get bored. The usual downside is that the "audience interaction" bits can get on your nerves a bit, but Herr Dirkschneider can actually insert a subtle humor bit here and there. For instance, when the band comes out for the encore to do 'Fast As A Shark', Udo toys with the audience by making them shout back his 'Yeaahs' to him, with each new 'Yeaah' becoming more and more complex. Finally he screams out a particularly high-pitched and complex 'Yeaaaaah', and as the audience masters itself and actually manages to reproduce it somehow, he responds with such a tremendously high-pitched battle cry that no ordinary throat can reproduce - and as the humbled spectators sort of stand there thinking this guy's probably mocking them, the song kicks in: of course, it was the famous introductory wail that launches the Restless & Wild classic. Gotta love that bit. I mean, I dunno, I really love that stuff. Sixty-five minutes into the CD and they come out with the second encore and there's a pompous introduction to 'Balls To The Wall' and Hoffman does his tremolos and arpeggios and what-not and it's like, you know, generic "metalfare" - and yet you feel that tension growing and as they finally rip out the magnificent intro riff to the song, the audiences go totally wild and I definitely understand why. Smells like AC/DC, but hell it ain't AC/DC. It's better than AC/DC. I mean, not everything on here is better than AC/DC, but the highest points on this album reach out to Metal Nirvana the way AC/DC could never really reach. I am a wee bit disappointed that the setlist includes too much "secondary" stuff from Metal Heart (I mean, isn't it a bit dangerous to put 'Dogs On Leads' and 'Balls To The Wall' so close together considering they're more or less the same song?), but still, any stuff with Udo on it is OK by me. Wolf does a solo guitar number somewhere out there in the middle, which doesn't exactly show his uniqueness as far as the world of metal guitarists is concerned, but is pretty good anyway. Sure it's self-indulgence all over the place, but if it makes me happy (not to mention them - the listeners, that is), why complain? And he throws in a bit from 'The Hall Of The Mountain King' at the end which makes me double happy because I thought that tune was exclusive property of the art-rock movement, but apparently it's not and it has survived into the late Eighties at least. But, of course, Udo is the primary hero. Listen to him going on 'Flash Rockin' Man'. Before I heard it, I thought: "Can he do the tremolo effect on his voice in the chorus? That'd be too much to expect in a live setting". And then he didn't do it for the first time, or, rather, he did it, but for a very short period. I was sad. I thought: "Fuck live albums anyway". Then he did it the second time, and I heard he didn't do it either, but there was an 'echo' that 'prolonged' the scream for him. I was even sadder. I thought: "Fuck live albums real hard. This is doctored shit. Who needs a doctored heavy metal live album?" Then he did it the third and fourth time, and it was the same all over again. But then he did it the fifth and the sixth time, and then he really did it. This wasn't no doctored stuff! This was a real tremolo effect, for several seconds at least! And it restored my faith in live albums, humanity, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. In short, one of the greatest heavy metal albums ever. Gets denied a 13 only for one single reason: the studio albums aren't necessarily worse, and if you're not opting for a one-in-all big punch effect, you might want to save your money. But if you only want one Accept album, this one's a reasonable buy. After Breaker, of course. And Restless & Wild. Which apparently means you cannot wish for only one Accept album. That's sort of out of the question.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1993Record rating = 7
Rule # 4: if you don't make a successful comeback, people start looking at you funny.Best song: OBJECTION OVERRULED
Track listing: 1) Objection Overruled; 2) I Don't Wanna Be Like You; 3) Protectors Of Terror; 4) Slaves To Metal; 5) All Or Nothing; 6) Bulletproof; 7) Amamos La Vida; 8) Sick Dirty And Mean; 9) Donation; 10) Just By My Own; 11) This One's For You.
Yep, it is a fuckin' total comeback. Stylistically, at least. Udo is back, and so is the fun. There ain't a single new idea, of course, but better no new ideas than those new ideas that we heard from Mr Reece. The crunchy metal paradise is back! Fast rip-roaring tunes, energizing guitar duels, and on top of that, the usual banshee wail. Aiyeeeeeeee!One thing, though. One thing that doesn't particularly please me. These guys must have taken AC/DC's Razor's Edge as a more-than-direct indication for the proceedings: I mean, AC/DC were perceived as a washed-up outfit in the late Eighties, and their 1990 release sort of rejuvenated them in the public's eye, so Accept take their cue from there and as a result, Objection Overruled sounds more like an AC/DC tribute album than anything else in the band's catalog. Yeah, so they were always similar, but there had always been differences: like, for instance, the one of Accept being a more "heavy metal" band, with emphasis on "metal", with an occasional classical influence and an occasional power ballad and generally more complex and less bluesy guitar parts and all. Or the one of Accept being a trifle "smarter", not so obviously over-the-top and parodic as AC/DC, with lyrics that actually made a bit more sense and an emotional approach that actually resembled an emotional approach rather than a goofball interpretation of an emotional approach. I mean, you could actually imagine 'Balls To The Wall' as a protest song. Could you do that with AC/DC? Uh... But not here. And I don't even mean direct quotations from AC/DC - how about, for instance, the 'walls can be shaking, the earth could be quaking' line from 'I Don't Wanna Be Like You', sung in the exact same manner as Brian Johnson does in 'You Shook Me All Night Long'? I mean the general feel of the album. When you get around to songs like 'Donation', it will take a real real good expert to understand that this is Accept and not AC/DC. For one thing, there are sexist lyrics on here - and the only sex these guys ever sang about before was gay sex. (Didn't I mention that already? Well, why don't you look up the album cover to Balls To The Wall one more time?). That's total news for Accept. For another, when two juxtaposed songs are entitled 'Protectors Of Terror' and 'Slaves To Metal', it's definitely hard to take the efforts in question seriously. Not that it's a serious objection, mind you. I mean, don't go getting ideas that I could ever think of Accept as a "serious", "thought-provoking" band or that it's the very idea of their "dumbing down" their image on this comeback record that's hurting me. Nope. Rather it's just the realisation that I've always liked these guys because they were similar to AC/DC, yet actually had an identity of their own - and now they're intentionally nullifying this difference. I really don't need another AC/DC, considering I've already got plenty of their albums. That's what makes me rate this record as Accept's weakest studio offering yet (Eat The Heat doesn't count because it's more like classic era KISS meets Sammy Hagar-era Van Halen), bar maybe the insecure and water-treading debut. But it's still a hell of a lot of fun! And the fun factor hits the hardest during the first two or three tracks. When the fast, sharp punch of the title track kicks in, you are immediately reminded of what makes the Accept sound so classy: they're actually playing more-than-one-note riffs at that speed, and not only that, it's a good, memorable riff, too. Then 'I Don't Wanna Be Like You' comes along with a slower pace and an equally decent riff and, unless my memory fails me, the first use of a wah-wah on an Accept record? No, I'm probably delirious, they must have had the effect on some of their earlier songs, but only on this one does it hit right home. Catchy chorus, too (even with the AC/DC quote, although, come to think of it, it only makes it more catchy). It's later on that some of the songs start passing by unnoticed and the atmosphere gets a bit stale and too derivative, but even under that threat, every once in a while they break up the mold and offer us something really ass-kicking, like the (seemingly) anti-drug tune 'Bulletproof', which is one true Accept-spirit tune on here, proven to me by the fact that I get the familiar spine-shiver every time I hear the 'HE WASN'T BULLETPROOF!' chorus. On the other hand, for every outstanding tune likke that there is something really unnecessary, like the generic rotten power ballad 'Amamos La Vida' and the already mentioned 'Donation' - why, Udo, why? That's not your turf! One more unnecessary, if not entirely rote, composition is the instrumental 'Just By My Own', one of those big dumb ANTHEMS that's supposed to have the stadium start dropping lighters down each other's backs. It's not "objectively bad" or something like that, but it's just totally not my style and I do seriously think that stuff like that should be left to the Scorpions or to Bon Jovi. And whatever one says, it just doesn't belong on a supposedly "hardcore" heavy metal album. It just feels totally out of place between the sexist 'Donation' and the album closer 'This One's For You', another grinding thrasher that says goodbye to you on the very same note that 'Objection Overruled' welcomed you with. So there you are - flawed and inconsistent, but, on the positive side, showing that the flame hasn't died down one single bit. And if anything, I think it should be explicitly stated that Udo's vocal cords are in perfect form, not worn down by a half-tone after a decade and a half of gruesome exploitation. At least that's one thing AC/DC could definitely envy their less successful competitors. I don't know how he managed to do this, frankly. Maybe he doesn't smoke? Doesn't seem realistic.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1995Record rating = 7
Rule # 5: if you DO make a successful comeback, be sure to stay in the same rut until the end of your days.Best song: DEATH ROW
Track listing: 1) Death Row; 2) Sodom & Gomorra; 3) The Beast Inside; 4) Dead On!; 5) Guns 'R' Us; 6) Like A Loaded Gun; 7) What Else; 8) Stone Evil; 9) Bad Habits Die Hard; 10) Prejudice; 11) Bad Religion; 12) Generation Clash II; 13) Writing On The Wall; 14) Drifting Away; 15) Pomp And Circumstances.
Boy, is this a long and exhausting album. In fact, I was gonna start, follow, and end this review with the usual "Fuck the CD age" diatribe, but just as I was licking my tongue in anticipation, it suddenly dawned on me that the problem's not as serious as I was gonna put it! The thing is: the final four tracks on this album can (and in fact, should) easily be taken as "bonuses". 'Generation Clash II' is exactly what it bills itself as: a "remake" of an Eat This Shit song, with a new (but similar) set of lyrics and, guess what, a better vocalist. It's still a remake, and a pointless one, almost as if they were saying, "hey, we repent of our 1989 debacle, so here's one good song off that pile-o'-crap done better and forget about the rest". Whew, fantastic. 'Writing On The Wall' is a quiet acoustic eco-ballad that, as is usual with Accept, doesn't induce unpleasant physiological processes, but will hardly raise any interest (besides, if you're eco-bothered, go buy a George Harrison album instead).Then, 'Drifting Away' is a grandiose-, but not exactly adequate-sounding Big Pompous Instrumental that could be used in a soundtrack to a really cheesy D&D flick, and 'Pomp And Circumstance' is... why, it's pretty much the same thing as 'Drifting Away'. So, whoopla, cut these four out - or don't even bother, just stop the CD before they come on - and instead of a seventy-plus minute sprawling monster of an album, you got yourself a compact, precisely-hitting set of eleven metal tunes of the highest quality. Well, maybe not exactly "highest". In fact, as far as basic songwriting goes, most of these are rewrites and minor variations on older treasures. But let's be honest, who would expect anything else in these circumstances? You can't expect them suddenly turning into Opeth or Dream Theater, especially considering that there already is an Opeth and a Dream Theater in existence. And as far as competent rewrites go, Accept know their stuff well, and when they're set to stun - that is, concentrate on writing a no-prisoners-taken, no-holds-barred, lots-of-dash-connected-epithet-embellished rocker - they simply can't go wrong. I've yet to hear them go WRONG on that. Get a little boring and generic, maybe. But write a song that would set out to get your blood boiling and basically fail at that? No goddamn way! Yeah, I've heard these melodies before, but that doesn't stop me from headbanging to these awesome choruses. I mean, how can you resist: 'BAD HABITS! BAD HABITS DIE HARD!' You can't. It's impossible. Or: 'I'VE GOT THE BEAST INSIDE!' Provided you do have the beast inside, the beast will awaken at these calls. (Of course, if you don't, there's nothing I can do except to ask you for the proper way to salvation, saint father). It should also be mentioned that, as tough as Objection Overruled was, this one's even tougher: no attempts to 'poppify' the sound at all, and also, thank God, not one more direct AC/DC imitation. They're back to mock-apocalyptic imagery and that leaves no space for missteps like the misogynist 'Donation'. In fact, in a way this might be their heaviest album up to date. Not that it's always pleasant. The sonic assault on 'What Else', for instance, is so relentlessly brutal that it was one of the very few songs - if not the only one - I've ever heard that I've seriously experienced physical pain from: the low distorted tone of the rhythm guitar hits so hard there's hardly a second's moment of "peace", and the emitted sonic wave crushes everything in its path in prime Black Sabbath tradition, even harder because the riff is faster than the average Sabbath track. That said, there's a certain masochistic pleasure you can get from an experience like that, can you not? Ain't rock music SUPPOSED to give you a headache? You and your grandmother? Elsewhere, it looks like they're having a few mildly experimental romps. If I didn't know for sure that the "nu-metal" movement was only starting to wake up at the time, I could have said they're taking some of their newer cues from there, but since I do know that for sure, I'll say instead that there's a slight influence of funk-metal and "rap-metal" as pioneered by, say, Faith No More, on some of the tracks. The title track, in particular, sounds like nothing else Accept did earlier, with a very moderate, but still obvious funky touch (and funk was absolutely out of the question for classic Accept), and that hilarious chorus - 'DEATH ROW! I'm-a-ready to go!' could easily fit into your local hip-hop groove. This influence only concerns maybe a couple tracks at most, but it's still nice to see them trying at least a little something different from time to time. Special mention might be given to the cleverly titled 'Guns 'R' Us' - as you probably have already guessed, a "gimme gimme gun control" type of song, although, of course, plenty of people could take the 'shoot your brothers, shoot your sisters' lines seriously, and, of course, psychologically the song is not so much a "warning against the evils of the world" as it is a great vent for one's frustration. So in case you're a very very stupid teenage kid with a particular disdain for "peeling off the layers", vent your frustration instead of somebody's skull, you hear me? There, that's my big contribution to the fund of moral propaganda. Now do I get an Honourary PMRC Membership? Dunno what else is there to be said. Their drummer produced it, and there were complaints about the production being too sterile. Well, boil me in an iron cauldron and feed me to the dogs, I don't hear no sterile production here. All the songs kick ass as required. They don't do much else, but, like I said, I didn't expect them to. Rock on!
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1996Record rating = 5
They seem lost and confused here, therefore, the album can't help but suck.Best song: PRIMITIVE
Track listing: 1) Hard Attack; 2) Crossroads; 3) Making Me Scream; 4) Diggin' In The Dirt; 5) Lay It Down; 6) It Ain't Over Yet; 7) Predator; 8) Crucified; 9) Take Out The Crime; 10) Don't Give A Damn; 11) Run Through The Night; 12) Primitive.
No. Wrong move. Granted, this is nowhere near as bad as Eat The Heat. But that's mainly because it's bad in a different way. Listening to this one over and over again, I can't help but thinking: "The mighty have slipped." And slipped is the word, because this album doesn't have them radically changing their style - like doing reggae or jungle or anything like that. It's just... lax. If somebody complained about the production on Death Row, that complaint should have rang out even louder and clearer on this occasion. The guitars sound weirdly flat and sterile, and Udo's roar almost gets lost in the mix - and there's one too many vocal harmonies on here that prevent him from confirming his status of Metal Vocal God.Even worse is the realization that there's too much sludge on the album. Maybe the "Proto-Nu-Metal" influences get stronger, or something, but too many of these songs are slow, lumbering, lazybones-like behemoths that boast only a tenth part of the required Accept energy. 'Diggin' In The Dirt', for instance, has a very evil guitar tone to it, but what's up with that riff? It's cumbersome and unmemorable! The aural equivalent of a thick stream of shit slowly and leisurely trickling out of an open manhole. Put this stuff next to the apocalyptic rumble of, say, 'Balls To The Wall', and the change will be clear for all to see. Fuckin' grunge, ruined a good band finally. True, on some of the tracks they try - once more - to recapture the Accept-ability of old. 'Hard Attack' opens the album by implicitly proclaiming that it wants us to remember all those formulaic, but still extremely enjoyable anthemic bashers on Metal Heart. 'I WANNA BE YOUR HARD ATTACK!' You're supposed to ready the nearest wall and bash your head against it while belting out the message. But why, oh why don't I feel the urge? Is it the poor mixing of Udo's voice? Or maybe he's finally starting to give way and that's why they mask it a bit? But that's not the only problem. Why are the guitars "ringing" during the chorus? They should be out there kicking ass, not just providing a background. This stuff really reminds me of mediocre AC/DC tracks, right down to the guitar tones. It doesn't help that for the entire first half of the album, there ain't one bloody fast song anywhere in sight; it's all the same sludgey mid-tempo. Always based on melodic ideas that, for some reason, Accept considered worthy of our interest, but which don't move me in the least. Simplistic brutal riffage reminiscent of the ear-splitting mess of 'What Else' off the last record haunts me on both 'Crossroads' and 'Making Me Scream'. Alice In Chains already did that stuff, and did it much better, because in the context of a desperate, drug-soaked grunge album this brutality comes off as thoroughly more sincere and emotional. Here, it's just a pain in the neck. So, by the time the album actually picks up steam with faster songs like 'Crucified', it's already too late: the impression has been spoiled. The only song that really gets a rise of me is 'Don't Give A Damn': I think it's the most successful imitation of the older style they managed to get out of their systems on here, even if the guitars are still "ringing" as if it were 1964 we're talking about, not 1996. But at least they ring with a punch, and the chorus rings with a punch. But you gotta understand: even an album like Metal Heart, hardly the brightest star in this band's catalog, was chockfull of songs like 'Don't Give A Damn'. Back then, they could write this stuff as easily as taking a shit. In 1996, it's a friggin' highlight! The only real 'surprise' of the album comes at the very end. It's a track called 'Primitive', which probably represents the culmination of Accept's whole "What We Learned From The Nineties" lesson. Let's see: electronic percussion, funky bassline, a jerky rhythm not unlike the one used by the Police on 'Demolition Man', electronically encoded vocals, weirdass lead guitar parts that are one-third industrial, one-third avantgarde, one-third metal, and a robotic chorus that goes: 'PRIMITIVE! I WAN-NA BE PRI-MI-TIVE!' The only way you could tell it was an Accept song are the guitar tones (pure metal) and the "martial" vocal harmonies. Otherwise, it's easily the least typical song of their entire career, and it's especially odd to see it as the last studio track they offered us. Not that it's a masterpiece or anything, but, taken on its own, it's harmless, fun, and memorable. On the whole, though, Predator is depressing as a hole in the stocking. It's dark, but hardly gloomy; heavy, but hardly brutal; not exactly slow, and yet not exactly fast either. It really gives the impression of a band that knows the only way it can still make anybody listen to it is to preserve the old formula, and yet desperately wants to find some new ways to do it simply because it would be too boring for them otherwise. But they can't go too far. They can lose all their veteran audience if they make the entire album sound like 'Primitive'. They're pretty much experiencing the same crisis that AC/DC nearly had, and fortunately (for them, at least) managed to overcome in the late Eighties - by cornering their remorses in a dark alley and plugging them down with several charges of the 'Thunderstruck' riff. But in this case, the crisis was obviously more serious, and the band didn't survive it. Well, that's not a tragedy, considering they all have nice happy shiny solo careers going on. The tragedy is, I don't like when bands make shitty swansongs. Even Death Row would have been a better parting gift. So let's pretend this album doesn't exist. However, just for fun, find this 'Primitive' song somewhere and download it. It's a guilty pleasure if there ever was one.
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