Accept (and Grave Digger) are Germany’s grand contribution to the Pantheon of Unkillable Cockroaches of Metal. Decade after decade they continue releasing albums brimming with the same traditional metal ideas, slightly rejiggered and reformed, but always recognizable and predictable. Even after the loss of the diminutive but iconic Udo Dirkschneider, the boys from Berlin just kept right on rolling and the two post-Udo platters were their liveliest in forever. Here they come yet again with Blind Rage and it’s comforting as always that nothing much has changed. Fronted by newish voice Mark Tornillo, Accept still seems buoyed with a new lease on life and the writing continues to rock pretty hard and ride fairly free. All the classic Accept-isms are here, from the trademark riffs to the Ooooh-ooooh-oooh chanting and of course, vocals that alternate between a gargled on glass and Drano rasp to angry eight year old screams. Ah, that’s metal, and that my friends, is Accept.
Things open with “Stampede,” which is the kind of typically zippy ripper Accept could write in their sleep, and maybe they did. It’s aggressive, in-your-face old school fury with lots of crunchy riffing and rough, angry vocals and it’ll get your blood pumping and head thumping. Much better is the ode to all things classic metal that is “Dying Breed,” where the band drops many a name of songs that influenced them in their formative years (1456 – 1979). While the concept has been done to death and it’s plenty silly, the song itself is solid and catchy with a nifty vocal performance by Mr. Tornilla. Better still is the very Helix-esque throwback ditty “Dark Side of My Heart,” which could have been a radio/MTV hit in 1983 as it injects just enough Great White style hard rock and hair metal flair to really stick in your craw.
Other highpoints include the fast-paced and action-packed “Trail of Tears,” which has a wagonload of attitude and some first-rate soloing, and the preachy but poigniant “Wanna Be Free,” which puts a dark spin on the usual quasi-power ballad. The stand out for me is the mega-radio friendly anthem “From the Ashes We Arise” which borrows a lot from latter period AC/DC for a greasy, hooky hard rock outing meant to be remembered after just one spin. This baby is just begging to be used with an ESPN highlight reel and it’s a winning concoction.
On the less stellar side of the ledger, “Fall of the Empire” is a bit too restrained though it does have moments of coolness, and closer “Final Journey” is nondescript and doesn’t have the same oomph as the rest of the album.
It’s hard to argue with the guitar tandem of Wolf Hoffman and Herman Frank from a pure metal standpoint. They’re right there with Downing/Tipton and Murray/Smith in the big twosomes of all time and the guys play exceptionally well with and off each other. They can get plenty noodly, but almost all their playing retains that “arena metal” sense of fun and bombast we all love in our old style music. They’re a pleasure to hear and their style greatly elevates the material. When you add in the metal-as-hell vocals of Tornillo, you’ve got a near unscrewupable recipe for rocking good times. Though he bases himself around the classic Udo snarl, he also imparts a healthy dose of Brian Johnson and unlike either of those guys, he can actually sing when the material calls for it. He’s added a lot of chutzpah to the band’s classic style and makes them sound reinvigorated and refreshed.
As is all too common these days, Blind Rage is about three songs too long at 58 minutes. Take the three weakest tracks away and you have an excellent metal album. With them included, it’s reduced to a very good one.
I’m fully enjoying this very late career resurgence by one of the oldest names in the game. Three albums in from Udo’s Waterloo and things still sound rock solid and ready to rumble. I’d notch this a bit above Stalingrad, and that ain’t bad. Keep those balls against the wall and keep reaching for the stars, you old bastards.