Accept - Wacken Open Air, Germany, 31/07/14

Peerless.

When I told MaF editor Scott Adams I’d be at Wacken doing a bit of work, he immediately sent the following signal via the telegraphic wires: ‘+ REVIEW ACCEPT STOP +’.

So what’s a man to do? I mean, I liked the band in the early eighties when I was a young thrasher – who wouldn’t, or couldn’t, like the band that had released Fast as a Shark if they liked things fast n’furious? But I lost interest shortly after the Metal Heart album came out, and haven’t heard a lot since to rekindle the fire of interest. Still we’re all professionals here at Metal as Fuck so I took my place front and centre in the throng to deliver this despatch from the front for you all – apologies if my knowledge ain’t up to scratch in places…

After warming up with new song Stampede and getting a few sound glitches out of the war, the stomping Stalingrad truly gets the band into the groove, with Wolf Hoffmann doing his best Rudolf Schenker impression during his solo. It’s a lumbering beast, much like the massive German tanks the song doubtless mentions in the lyrics, but it still leaves this reviewer a little on the cold side if truth be told.

An excellent and energised Losers and Winners is next, vocalist Mark Tornillo coming into his own for the first time in the set, whilst the Inclusion of Monsterman lets the punters – and it has to be said the entirety of Wacken’s large-town-sized population seems to have turned out for this performance – know that this set is going to feature material from just about every bit of the band’s now nearly forty-year long career.

London Leatherboys still rips off Judas Priest’s Killing Machine, but in the middle of a live set with the beer flowing and heads banging, it’s almost impossible to not just throw your lot in with the madness unfolding around you in the crowd. Second guitarist Herman Frank might not be interested in getting involved in any synchronised choreography on stage but out here where it matters most we’re all swaying backwards and forwards, banging our heads with air guitars set to stun.

A fantastic version of Breaker follows, and ya know what? Much to my surprise, I’m not missing he-who-must-not-be-mentioned at all; Tornillo has none of the raw, gutwrenching power of Udo Dirkschneider (what happened to not mentioning him?- confused Ed), but he’s got a great, gritty and melodic tone to his voice that fits these songs perfectly. Our commander in chief maintains that Tornillo out Udos Udo on TT Quick (the band from whence he came to save the day fro Accept when Udo decided he didn’t want to play anymore)’s album Metal of Honor, and whilst from what I’m hearing tonight I wouldn’t go that far, he’s a pretty good fit. 

Shadow Soldiers is solid, and features some nice, classically-tinged work from Hoffmann, but it comes over as a bit perfunctory, and Tornillo strains to hit his high notes in a couple of places.  Still, a truly thunderous Restless and Wild gets things back on track – I can’t remember seeing a ‘senior’ metal crowd going off quite as enthusiastically as when that galloping riff takes off – and that’s followed by an excellent take on Ahead of the Pack. ‘We’re diggin’ deep!’ says a clearly enthused Tornillo, and then the band is knee deep in the best rendition of Flash Rockin’ Man I’ve ever heard. Immaculately paced and pitched just perfectly for the diminutive American’s range, it’s the highlight of the set so far – and Frank and Hoffmann are hunched together at the front of the stage at last!

Did I mention highlights? How about an epic eight and a bit minute version of Princess of the Dawn for starters? Wacken fell under the hypnotic spell of that chugging riff, but then all hell broke loose when, you guessed it, the stage lights went dim and the familiar ‘hi-de-hi-do hi da’ refrain crackled forth from the PA stacks. Three and a half minutes later every man, woman and child in my part of Wacken is spent, thoroughly consumed by what has to be one of the classic heavy metal songs of all time. At this point I should probably be giving props to drummer Stefan Schwarzmann, who propels this gargantuan piece of speed metal like an absolute machine in cahoots with the ever-gleeful bassist Peter Baltes. The pair of them are never less than excellent, but on this track they are positively transcendent. 

Starlight takes us back to Breaker, but to be frank I’m still shouting out the chorus to Fast as a Shark and the monent’s kinda lost. However the more recent Pandemic has me thinking what a fool I’ve been to ignore this new-era Accept; Another chugfest that’s easily the equal of anything on Balls to the Wall, it’s classic rabble-rousing stadium metal, and Tornillo gives another great performance, backed by some truly gonzoid chants of IT’S A PANDEMIC! from his three fellow front-of-house ringmasters. It’s a metal disease they say… and it’s hard to disagree when you see everyone around you punching the air and singing along like nutcases.

Metal Heart adds a bit of Tchaikovsky and Beethoven to the usual mix of Tipton and Downing, and Hoffmann has a little bit of an extended noodle to remind us just how good he is before Tornillo leads a bit of community whoah-whoahing. A large group of Germans chanting in unison? Nobody does it better it has to be said, and the hairs are standing to attention on the back of old Micky’s neck when the band thunders back in to take the song home. 

Teutonic Terror and Balls to the Wall stick the boot into our tired throats and necks again, the former a strident battle cry, the latter a nostalgic-drunken-bumping-into-one-another brofest; both are utterly faultless in their own way. 

And that’s it, nearly. There’s just time for a bit of Status Quo worship in the form of the boogie blitz that is Burning, and then it’s over.  A ninety minute journey covering thirty three years of heavy metal history is finished, and already becoming a fabulous memory as we head back to our tents, nightliners, hotels or the nearest ditch. Accept are peerless in this form of heavy metal, and tonight they reminded the world of that fact.