Herman Frank made his metal bones by playing guitar alongside Wolf Hoffman on Accept‘s early and influential albums like Restless and Wild and Balls to the Wall. He then took a decades-long hiatus, returning for the band’s first few post-Udo albums before decamping once again to helm his eponymous project. His solo output hasn’t fallen far from the Accept tree, but always steered closer to classic hard rock ideas and formulas. This rock influence became more prominent on 2016s The Devil Rides Out, and the trend continues on fourth outing, Fight the Fear. At its core, this is an album full of bluesy rock with a chrome overcoating, sounding like a hybrid of Accept, Judas Priest and Jørn Lande’s solo work. It’s simple, uncomplicated, unpretentious blue-collar metal that strives for a rowdy, pugnacious flair. Unfortunately, this time it winds up surprisingly dull and uninspired due to sub-par writing.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy the style of music Herman Frank delivers, because I do and always have. But with this specific kind of rock/metal hybrid, you really need to write punchy, catchy and fun songs or it all goes off the skids in a hurry. Things kick off well enough with the exuberant “Until the End,” riding simple, aggressive riffing and counting on Rick Altzi’s cheap whiskey and bargain bin cigarette-powered vocals to provide the confrontational edge and grit. It’s a decent example of the style and the chorus works well enough. It’s not going to blow anyone’s socks off, but as such things go, it works. From this respectable beginning gears start slipping almost immediately. Although followup cuts “Fear” and “Terror” are serviceable, neither screams for replay or offers especially meaningful hooks. And then begins a reign of truly pedestrian selections that never ends over the album’s ridiculously overlong 68 minutes. 68. Minutes.
Tracks like “Sinners,” “Hatred” and “Hitman” just aren’t interesting, and have nothing that would cause the average listener to want more. Things eventually become so bogged down in filler, that even a truly average song like “Hail and Row” seems to standout because it’s a bit different, adopting a sound vaguely reminiscent of Black Sabbath‘s “Headless Cross” for what appears to be an anthem for college crew teams worldwide. This is not a good thing. The band tries to kick up the energy quotient on the album’s final third with the decent zip of “Wings of Destiny,” but it’s too little too late, and you wind up with an album that’s 90% filler, 10% semi-sorta-killer. I don’t like those odds, and neither will you.
The band is made up of grizzled veterans and all have talent. The issue here is the lackluster song writing. Herman Frank and Heiko Schröder throw out some decent riffs and fun, bluesy solos, and at times manage to inject a good amount of driving, propulsive energy into the mix, but most of the songs fall flat despite their efforts. Rick Altzi made a career for himself as the poor man’s Jørn, having replaced him in Masterplan. He has the same kind of raw throated, raspy roar, but lacks Jørn’s range, versatility and copious charisma. Over the course of this interminably long album, his delivery starts to feel very tedious and one-note, which is probably more of an indictment of the album’s length and material than his actual ability.
If Fight the Fear was blasting at my gym I wouldn’t complain and might even enjoy it as background noise for a good work out. I wouldn’t ask the front desk guy who it was though, or seek it out for my personal collection. In a nutshell, this is a collection of songs that sound like outtakes from the band’s superior back-catalog. Said back-catalog itself has seen a continual degradation since the debut, so something needs to give. If you like metal with a hard rock influence, there are plenty of other acts doing this shtick and doing it better than Herman Frank does it here, sad to say.