German metallers Accept have been around, in various forms, since the early seventies. They didn’t hit their stride until 1982’s momentous Restless and Wild opus, an album that synthesised traditional (read:Priestesque) metal with an ear for the coming trends of harder faster. The album’s opener, Fast as a Shark, is, to this day, credited as being one of the first speed metal anthems to grace the world’s ears - to create what is still one of the quintessential albums of all time in the metal genre. Being German certainly held them back a little – Anglophone critics often scoffed at the rather confused nature of their lyrics. Their follow up album, 1983’s excellent Balls to the Wall achieved success in the US on a far smaller scale than had it been recorded by an English-speaking band, despite the stentorian grandeur of its songs.
Balls to the Wall was Accept’s high water mark, commercially, but the band soldiered on for another ten years, acquainting itself with the law of diminishing returns each time it released a new album.
Vocalist Udo Dirkschneider, whose idiosyncratic vocal style for many defined the appeal of the band, had bailed out in 1988 for a successful solo career (as U.D.O.) that essentially involved his albums sounding more like Accept than the real thing, whilst the band soldiered on with American replacement David Reece. Reece stuck around for the Eat the Heat album - critically mauled in all quarters - before being jettisoned in favour of an eventual reformation with Dirkschneider. However the band’s creative spark was dying, and the albums they recorded with Udo back in the band again failed to stimulate widespread interest, leading, seemingly finally, to the band disbanding after 1996’s lacklustre Predator.
Which brings us to today.
The band again reformed for a short tour of festivals in Europe in 2005, finding metal's nostalgic abroad in the new millennium more to their liking. However they were performing a strictly 'greatest hits' set; when it was suggested to Dirkschneider that it would be exciting for the fans to hear some new Accept music, the notion was dismissed out of hand. Longstanding guitarist Wolf Hoffmann, however, had other ideas, and he and bassist Peter Baltes, still warm from the exhilaration of the reformation shows, set about penning new material over a series of writing sessions in Hoffman’s US abode. The engineer for these sessions, as keen as Hoffmann and Baltes that these ideas should reach fully-recorded fruition, facilitated a meeting between ‘Accept’ and unemployed vocalist Mark Tornillo.
Tornillo, as it goes, was once vocalist with eighties metallers TT Quick, a band frequently derided for being little more than post-Balls to the Wall Accept copyists. There was merit in this accusation, as their best song, Child of Sin, was the winner of 1986’s I Can’t Believe it’s Not Accept awards.
I’m joking of course. There’s merit in Tornillo’s selection to front this new version of the band. He sings his pipes off throughout Accept’s comeback record, Blood of the Nations, and, quite frankly, makes the band something rather beyond a mere other nostalgic eighties cash in.
Of course, if the songs weren’t any good, what we’d have on our hands here would essentially be a new TT Quick album, but that ain’t the case. Put simply, this is Accept sounding fresher than at any time since the mid eighties, when 1985’s Metal Heart saw them bidding farewll to the big time. A lot of the credit here goes to producer Andy Sneap, whose obvious love for the glory days of the band has given him the tools required to capture the band absolutely perfectly. Opener Beat the Bastards is, thankfully, not a cover version of UK punk ‘legends’ The Exploited’s track of the same name; rather, it’s a crushing, riff driven monster in the best Accept tradition. However this merely lays the foundations for what is to come.
What is to come is, frankly, astounding.
Teutonic Terror is the absolute apotheosis of ‘trad metal’. Riding in on a high cruising speed this is the sort of music that Manowar in their prime cornered the market in. Highly reminiscent of the sort of Viking Metal today peddled by the likes of Grand Magus, this surely is what the young people have been missing all these years. Utterly astonishing – and that’s just the peerless axework of Hoffmann and his returning cohort (26 years out of the band! Yet locked in like he’s never been away!), Herman Frank.
This quality is reinforced elsewhere by the stirringly martial dynamics of the title track, a full-on gang-vocalled extravaganza of gargantuan proportions that somehow links Saxon and Hammerfall without becoming a laughing stock, or the double-kick propulsion unit that is Locked and Loaded. Rollin’ Thunder sounds like, well, rolling thunder, actually, whilst Pandemic, despite opening with the most over-used riff of all time simply flamethrowers the trenches of derision with it’s heady blend of bloody minded heaviosity and commitment to the cause. ‘IT’S A PANDEMIC’ chant the band. “It’s a metal disease!’ howls Tornillo in response. He may well be right. And I for one don’t need no doctor to administer a cure.
Hands down, this is the best pure metal release of the year.
Accept's Blood of the Nations is out now on Nuclear Blast/Riot.