As a veteran of several eighties Monsters of Rock Donington festivals, the odd Reading Festival, and a myriad of lesser gigs at Hammersmith Odeon, The Astoria, Dominion, Brixton, The Town and Country Club (now renamed as tonight’s venue, The Forum), et al, I have reached the point (or perhaps “age” is a better word) where there are very few eighties hard rock and heavy metal bands of any substance that I haven’t seen. There are certainly plenty I wished I hadn’t. However, Germany’s Accept are one such band that until now, I would have liked to have seen, but for one reason or another never got to.
This was an error on my part. Because Accept have a fair claim to have pioneered not one but two genres of heavy rock. Whilst speed and thrash metal’s roots go back to Motorhead’s “Overkill” from 1979 with its double kick drum technique, Accept’s Fast as a Shark, released three years later on their “Restless and Wild” album in October 1982, took that blueprint, added a little early Judas Priest, and ran with it a little more.
Make no mistake. Accept’s “Fast As A Shark” was, on its release in 1982, the Fastest and Heaviest Song In The World, Ever. It didn’t relinquish that crown until Metallica and Slayer emerged a year or two later. “Fast As A Shark” is to Accept and speed metal what “Stairway…” Is to Led Zeppelin and classic rock, what “Paranoid” is to Black Sabbath and heavy rock and what “Reach For The Stars” is to S Club 7.
Not only did Accept pioneer thrash metal, they also kicked off Power metal – that uniquely European brand of sing-a-long rock with hymn like choruses that just beg to be enjoyed exclusively with a beer or two in hand.
As a teenager, Accept albums such as “Metal Heart”, “Kaizuko Ban” and “Russian Roulette” were as much loved as any in the collection, and when lead singer Udo Dirkschneider left the band in the late eighties to form U.D.O. there was, as a more biblical person than I might put it, much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Although that might just have been Udo’s vocals. Dirkscheider’s voice was a remarkable thing, resembling as it did that of a man who had spent too long gargling razor blades than was good for him.
But Udo has long gone, and when Accept re-formed in 2009 after more than a decade of “hiatus”, they brought along an American, Mark Tornillo to take his place. Three of the classic Accept line up remain, in Wolf Hoffmann (guitar and Bruce Willis impersonations), Herman Frank (guitar), and Peter Baltes (bass and Viv Savage of Spinal Tap impersonations) *.
Now three albums into the comeback, this is no short-lived cash-in. Accept’s latest album “Blind Rage” reached the top of the album charts in their home country and is genuinely as good as anything the band has released before. Like AC/DC, Accept have stuck to what they are good at. There’s no attempt at a change of direction – this is genre-music, and all the better for it. So what we get is an album that has great fast riffing, some trademark twin guitar soloing, growl-y vocals and almost hymn-like choruses. It isn’t for everyone, but that isn’t important. What Accept does, it does very well indeed.**
In fact Accept are that rarest of bands, one that has reformed after many years and is every bit as good as they were twenty five years before.
There is something really joyous about tonight’s show, right from opening number “Stampede”. That’s an odd statement coming from a band that plays the most ferocious music and encores with signature song “Balls To The Wall”. There’s a moment when Tornillo is singing “It’s a pandemic / it’s a metal disease” and you’re not sure whether to laugh or admire the sheer brilliance of the thing. But you only need to see the smiles on Hoffman’s face throughout the show, his “guitar face” when playing his solos, Baltes’ “Machine gun” shapes on his bass and the sheer energy shown by a band who must all have seen their fiftieth birthdays many moons ago.
Third song in, “Last of a Dying Breed” from “Blind Rage” is an homage to the metal bands that have come before, and it’s clear that Accept would be right up there on the podium even if they were a new band three albums into their career rather than the thirty-odd year veterans that they really are. Indeed, it’s not until the sixth song that we hear an old classic, and what is good about the show is that the old material fits in with the new, rather than the other way round.
Of the older material, “Princess of the Dawn” receives a warm reception, no-one should ever go through life without hearing “Restless and Wild” in a live environment, the mosh pits are frenzied at “Fast As A Shark” which has lost none of its shock and awe, whilst “Metal Heart” is a wonderful encore. In the meantime, the bulk of the set comprises of strong material from those last three albums.
So many metal bands lose their energy after a few albums. Accept are one of the few that has retained theirs, and on this showing, they deserve every success that comes their way.
* The line up is completed by Stefan Schwarzmann on drums.
** They have also done what a number of metal bands have done as they have got older, and replaced their drummer for a different model. I have a theory that in metal, drumming is a young man’s (or to be more precise, a fit man’s) game. The energy provided by a younger drummer has given a few bands a new lease of life – see Judas Priest, Black Sabbath – and see Iron Maiden as an example of what happens when a band doesn’t replace the drummer (ie a surfeit of mid tempo numbers).
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