Herman Frank has been slinging the axe for seminal metallers Accept throughout most of their storied career. He’s been there for the good, the bad and the ugly times and fortunately for him, he’s stuck around long enough to see them hit a kind of second life with the Blood of the Nations and Stalingrad albums. Before they got back on top with Blood of the Nations, he used his down time to release his first solo effort, Loyal to None in 2009. I was quite impressed by that album’s strong sense of melody and ability to blend aggressive Accept-like metal with hooks and catchy-as-hell choruses (“Heal Me” is a big favorite of mine). Naturally, I was pretty stoked to see Herman at it again, and Right in the Guts is pretty much in the same wheeelhouse as Loyal to None. It has strong Accept and Grave Digger references, but leans closer to melodic hard rock than his main outfit ever did. Sometimes there’s a nod toward Whitesnake and even the latest Spiritual Beggars. It works well and there’s a nice balance between ballsy, guitar-driven metal and tuneful, catchy rock. Even the switch from Jioti Parcharidis on vocals (who I loved) to Rick Altzi (Thunderstone, At Vance) doesn’t hurt things, just changes the complexion a bit. This is another quality solo effort from the Hermster with loads of nifty guitar playing and memorable songs and should serve as a good tide over for those Accept fans getting all restless and wild for new material.
Since Herman is totally in control of his solo output, he gets to sample both the bread and butter metal he’s known for and also explore his softer side. Songs like opener “Roaring Thunder” sound as if they were originally penned for Blood of the Nations and they storm along in that classic Accept style. Rick Altzi and Herman push the pace with muscular vocals and heavy riffing and you have your fist in the air before you even realize it. They even toss in those “ohhhhhh-ohhhhhh-ohhhhhh” backing vocals Accept is known for. There’s also some really tasty solo work from Mr. Frank. “Ivory Gate” sounds like amped-up Deep Purple with Tony Martin on vocals and it’s pretty damn cool and powerful. “Vengeance” is another rough-and-tumble rocker with Accept overtones, but with a vocal performance straight out of hard rock world. It isn’t until “Falling to Pieces” that Herman lets loose with the AOR influences and allows his melodic side to truly spill forth. This sounds like something that should accompany a cheesy music video from 1987 with Tawny Kitaen crawling seductively all over a fancy car. Yeah, it’s extremely Whitesnake-y, but it works really well and it WILL hook you like a big mouth bass during spawning season (Altzi pulls off that David Coverdale thing scarily well).
The balance of Right in the Guts sticks closer to Herm’s “metal” side with anthem after rousing metal anthem, all catchy and fun. Highlights include “Waiting” (nice chorus), the mega-Accept-y “Hell Isn’t Far” (fun riffing and solos) and the epic flavored “King’s Call.” Even with the emphasis on the harder side of things, a subtle hard rock vibe creeps into every song and gives it a slightly more catchy character than you would expect. Almost like what Accept would sound like with David Coverdale on vox doing his best to radio-ready the material. It’s a pretty cool style and there’s some solid, catchy writing on display throughout (thirteen out of thirteen songs are worthwhile and none smack of filler).
Although this is Herman’s project, it’s Rick Altzi’s vocals that really shine and make things click as well as they do. His Coverdale meets Tony Martin performance is really impressive and powerful. He’s raspy and commanding, but also pure, hard rock class. Song after song left me impressed with his pipes, which surprised me, since I wasn’t blown away by his last outing with Thunderstone. Naturally, Herman’s slick fret-work is a huge factor too and the man throws down a lot of satisfying, foot-on-amp solos that sound tailored for arena rock. Don’t worry though, he also pummels you with a goodly amount of aggressive, edgy riffing to keep things all metal and mean.
Production-wise, Right in the Guts sounds almost exactly like the past two Accept albums. It’s the traditional metal album mix through and through. The guitars are upfront and dominate along with the vocals and it works just fine. The guitar tone is very much the typical Accept tone as well.
Not a deep, complex album by any means, but this is a well-written, energetic, hooky album full of hard rock influenced metal. It’s perfect for drinking beers with the boys (or girls), driving at unsafe speeds or just banging around the home. It’s actually better than the last Accept album, but hopefully his band mates won’t hold that against good ole’ Herm. The man can’t help it if he’s got a metal heart that beats fast as a shark.