||JONATHAN CHURCHILL: DEFENDING OUR ISLAND
ACCEPT, HIGHBURY GARAGE
21st March 2011
It's Thursday night and German metal legends Accept are in town. I've been planning to write a column on their brilliant new album 'Blood Of The Nations' and so tonight is a chance to hear some live tracks from this metal masterpiece.
'Blood Of The Nations' was 2010's stand-out Metal album, bringing Accept back from the abyss and introducing new vocalist and former TT Quick singer, Mark Tornillo. Produced by Andy Sneap and packing a punch like a battalion of Panzers crossing Poland this album is just phenomenal.
Tonight we're squeezed into the sweaty Relentless Garage in Highbury, with support act Wolf (named after Accept's lead guitarist Wolf Hoffmann) doing a superb job of warming us up. The crowd's going nuts, shouting for Accept, chucking beer and getting ready to mosh! There are loads of Accept t-shirts on display and we're all curious to hear how they will sound without original front-man Udo Dirkschneider who no longer wishes to perform with the band.
Accept hit the tiny stage at 9.15 sharp, bassist Peter Baltes and Wolf Hoffmann taking centre stage, with second guitar, Herman Frank pushed back to the left. Drummer Stefan Schwarzmann is dead centre, astride ludicrous drum kit that has two large toms up high, either side of his head. It's a fact however that Metal drummers need lots of drums so this a cracking start.
Opening track 'Teutonic Terror' is a perfect choice. A mid-paced power metal number – imagine a pure mash-up of AC/DC, Judas Priest and Manowar – with vocals that could strip paint from the walls. And wow – this new guy can sing!
Imagine AC/DC's Brian Johnson with a gun to his head and his balls in a vice belting out the battle-cry: "So we drive through the night... with the howling wind at our back... Riding on 'Teutonic terror'... we will give 'em the axe."
The set-list is focused mainly on their early albums 'Breaker' and 'Restless and Wild', including 'Starlight', 'Breaker', 'Restless And Wild' and 'Son Of A Bitch'. 'Breaker', for me, was a total balls to the wall heavy metal drumming highlight.
Mark Tornillo seems to handle UDO's vocals seamlessly and his easy stage presence fits well with a band that looks relaxed and happy on stage. Wolf Hoffmann's guitar work stands out – he is just so effortlessly talented – and further highlights include 'Princess of the Dawn', 'Neon Nights' and 'Metal Heart'. The new tracks from 'Blood of the Nations' include 'Bucketful of Hate', 'The Abyss' and 'New World Coming' and they sound fantastic – it's a shame they can't play more.
'The Abyss', one of the stand-out tracks on the new CD, powerfully evokes the current world chaos as Tornillo roars out: "Earthquakes and tsunamis signal the end of time." It's brilliant.
The short encore kicks off with crowd favourite 'Fast as a Shark'. A mad, early thrash classic. I'm not sure whether it cleverly ripped off Judas Priest... or if Priest later ripped it off for their intro to Ram it Down. Either way, it's a blast! We finish with the chugging metal of new track, 'Pandemic', and a triumphant 'Balls to the Wall'.
What a great night – the re-emergence of a band who had not released a full album in fourteen years and the discovery of one of Metal's new vocal stars. This guy can roar and sing. He's the real deal.
And what of 'Blood of the Nations'? I think this is one of the best classic Metal albums since 'Painkiller'. Tracks like 'The Abyss' or 'No Shelter' – which they sadly didn't play – capture the ideal balance between power, melody and speed. The guitar and drums on the album are in perfect harmony and Mark Tornillo's emotive vocals bring a certain believable credibility to the lyrics.
The production is rich and crystal clear and each time you think the Metal cupboard must be bare, it just rips your stereo a new one with a constant barrage of outstanding tracks. It's definitely going on my list of great Metal albums – it's addictive. Just listen to the first track, 'Beat The Bastards' and you'll be hooked. It's great to see a classic band return and raise the bar.
Next time I'm continuing the German theme and I'm checking out The Scorpions... a band who have decided if they're going to retire, they may as well release the best damn album of their career! Watch this space.