Accept - Stalingrad (Nuclear Blast)

Stalingrad was one of the German Army's greatest defeats; it's also one of German metal's greatest triumphs!
Release Date: 
5 Apr 2012 - 11:30pm

The very thought that Stalingrad, the second album from rejuvenated metal icons Accept with vocalist Mark Tornillo, would be anything other than excellent is, of course, a silly one. But, given that the band’s ‘debut’, 2010’s incredibly well-received Blood of the Nations, was such a stormer, it was reasonable to question whether the band would be able to maintain the momentum they gathered from that release.

Opening track Hung Drawn and Quartered explodes any worries you may have had. A classic uptempo Accept album opener, it sets the pulse racing and the blood coursing through the veins in spectacular style. Tornillo handles the manic vocal fantastically whilst Herman Frank and Wolf Hoffmann mesh in adamantine fashion with some spectacular harmony lead work. Accept are back. By God they’re back.

Next up is the title track, a suitably martial stomp through the battlegrounds of  the winter of 1942-43. There’s obviously something Fawltyishly comedic about a bunch of Germans singing about World War II, but once you’ve got all those connotations out of your mind you are left with a smashing piece of Maidenesque storytelling replete with massed Russian choirs on the chorus and some splendid axework all over the place; Hoffmann even throws in a slab of the Russian National Anthem for good measure. Against all the odds, this track is a spectacular success.

Hellfire slow things down a smidge, though Stefan Schwarzmann’s double kick work still manages to pick the pace up come chorus time; the rest of the band is content to grind out another tale of war and misery replete with yet more excellent interplay from Frank and Hermann. There’s a real air of classic Judas Priest about this track (Priest always being a big, big influence on Accept), though the track never descends to mimicry. So far so good.

If Hellfire slammed the anchors on the album, then its successor, Flash to Bang Time, sends us tumbling headlong back into the red zone. Tornillo unleashes some superb screams on the chorus as the band hurtle through a real speed metal headbanger as only they can. Remember, Accept came up with the blueprint for this kind of stuff with 1982’s Fast as a Shark, though Flash… is no mere rehash of past glories. Its all over far too quickly of course, but that’s a function of getting older I’m told…

Shadow Soldiers
picks up the war theme again, a melancholy lament for those fallen in battle, and once again we’re standing on the couch in the MaF office punching the air in time to the mid-paced gallop (more of a trot, actually, if I’m to get the equine analogy spot on) as we chant along to another anthemic Tornillo-led chorus. Tornillo’s performance on Blood… was one of that album’s highlights and its good to report that that was no flash in the pan. Clearly more comfortable with his role within the band now, he does a deal more singing on Stalingrad, proving himself to be a talented and versatile vocalist.

Revolution opens with more ghostly Slavic chanting, immediately bringing to mind the privations of 1917 Russia, but that’s a furphy as the band launch into a bile spitting rant about being skint and not taking it anymore. Compared to what’s gone before Revolution comes off as a little throwaway, though that’s not to say it isn't enjoyable; Accept at this level of operation is still streets ahead of most of the opposition, and the track is an enjoyable enough romp on its own terms. As you live with the album over time, however, you might find yourself skipping over Revolution.

Against the World ups the ante again with a suitably gonzo gang chant of ‘Us against the World!’ ramming home the message of the song – that’s right, its an international brotherhood of metal call to arms anthem, but it’s a good ‘un, replete with yet more excellent riffage from Frank and Hoffmann and a stirring final scream from Tornillo.

Twist of Fate
is a real surprise, bringing to mind Accept’s lost ‘hard rock’ album from 1989, Eat the Heat. That’s a good thing in this reviewer’s books, though some may find the melodic nature of the song takes them by surprise. Whatever, it's an utter monster of a song, successfully melding every aspect of the band’s thirteen album past into a handily digestible five and a half minute nugget. Tornillo revels in the chance to tell a story at less than warp speed, whilst the rest of the band pull together in fine style for what is undoubtedly Stalingrad’s finest track.

The Quick and the Dead
, as its title suggests, returns us to more uptempo melodic waters, Schwarzmann turning up the kick drum heat for another storming assault on the senses, Hoffmann and Frank unfurling some old school solo-trading nirvana along the way. Bassist Peter Baltes even throws in a few tasty licks by way of a bottom end bonus, the sum of which showboating leaves the listener salivating and gagging for more. If you’re heading out to see the band live this year, don’t find yourself stuck at the bar or in the merch queue when they play this…

And then almost before you know it we’re wading through final track The Galley, a seven and a half minute epic of Ben Hur proportions as the band tell a tale of seafaring woe that’ll once again have you punching the air and singing along almost without knowing it.

So there you have it. Accept surprised many with the quality of Blood of the Nations; they might surprise a few more with the fact that in Stalingrad they’ve come up with an album that always matches and sometimes surpasses that marvellous comeback. This is an essential purchase for anyone who calls themselves a fan of heavy metal.