Christopher Williams

REVIEW: Accept – Symphonic Terror – Live at Wacken 2017 (2018)

ACCEPT – Symphonic Terror – Live at Wacken 2017 (2018 Nuclear Blast)

They weren’t the first, but they did it with their own twist.  It was inevitable that even a band with the heavy metal roots of Accept would eventually go symphonic.  Guitarist/leader Wolf Hoffman released his first classical album in the 90s, and in 2016 made the Headbanger’s Symphony record, adapting classical pieces to metal with Czech National Symphony Orchestra.  Accept’s Symphonic Terror combines their own metal masterpieces with the classical/metal hybrid Headbanger’s Symphony at Wacken 2017, to create a unique musical experience.

Like Kiss with their symphonic detour, Accept chose to break the set into sections.  The first consists of five Accept songs, mostly new, performed straight by the band with no extras.

“Die by the Sword” was the logical opener, also being the starting track on Accept’s newest album The Rise of Chaos.  The biting riff storms the Wacken stage.  It is vocalist Mark Tornillo who proves his worth over and over again through the entire show.  With voice set to full-grit he delivers all the power and melody that Accept’s material demands.  Not an easy gig.  Second, it’s the riffy “Restless and Wild” from Accept’s 1982 album of the same name (an album that they return to more than once on this night).  It’s singing the old Udo material that people will judge Tornillo by, and he does the job.  By necessity, it’s done with his own twist.  Another sharp Rise of Chaos standout, “Koolaid” is rolled out to great effect.  They dig back to the first album with Mark for “Pandemic”, riding the Peter Baltes bass groove to heavy effect.  Finally it’s the speed metal of “Final Journey” from the Blind Rage album.  Not the finest song of the set, but a banger indeed.

The Headbanger’s Symphony featuring the Czech National Symphony Orchestra has a different set of musicians in the front.  Wolf Hoffman and drummer Christopher Williams remain, while Mark Tornillo, Peter Baltes and Uwe Lulis are replaced by keyboardist Melo Mafali, guitarist Phillip Shouse and bassist Daniel Silvestri.  With the full might of the orchestra behind them, they take on  the tempests of “Night on Bald Mountain” (Mussorgsky). It’s not a pure adaptation, but more a thrash metal version with an orchestra.  “Scherzo” (Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony) is fully enjoyable and a better melding of the two styles.  Moving on to Prokofiev, “Romeo and Juliet” is slow and plodding.  Even with a burning hot Hoffman solo, it’s the least interesting.  I don’t think Beethoven envisioned the heavy riffing of “Pathétique” but you never know.  Did Beethoven invent speed metal?  Judging by this, he might have.  Vivaldi is next, the metal shredder’s favourite.  “Double Cello Concerto In G Minor” is less familiar but continues to combine the heavy and delicate music with an emphasis on the heavy.  Mozart closes the Headbanger’s Symphony set with “Symphony No. 40 In G Minor”, a familiar favourite made heavy enough to sound eerily similar to Queensryche’s “The Needle Lies”.

The orchestra stays on stage for the remainder of the show, peppered with new and old Accept classics.  Accept’s music works well with the orchestra behind, arguably better than Metallica’s does.

Back to 1982 and “Princess of the Dawn”, an awesomely enhanced Udo-era metal classic.  However it is “Stalingrad” that is the show stealer, a song clearly suited to the orchestral treatment.  It sounds as if the string section is charging into battle with the band.  Blind Rage‘s “Dark Side of My Heart” comes to life in this new form, a superior track to the original.  The punchy horns, the silky strings — everything comes together to raise the track to a higher level.

Back to 1981, the classical musicians may have had a difficult time keeping up with the speed metal of “Breaker”!  They get a “break” on the more deliberate pace of “Shadow Soldiers”, an excellent tune adapted well to the orchestra.  Another album highlight.  “Dying Breed” is a heavy track from Blind Rage, a little same-same sounding to other tracks like “Stalingrad”.

“Fast as a Shark” is the last of the speed metal tunes that the symphony has to try and keep up with.  They sure sound wonderful together on the neoclassical guitar solo section.  “Metal Heart” (with classical interlude) and “Teutonic Terror” both work well enhanced, but “Balls to the Wall” is surprising.  It’s always been a bit silly, but it sounds great with an orchestra.  Too bad Mark couldn’t nail that “sign of victory” part, but the absurdity of “Balls to the Wall” with a symphony is not lost.

Symphonic Terror was the second live album with Mark Tornillo on vocals.  Only about half overlaps with the previous one, and when you consider the differences offered by the symphony, not much overlap at all.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Accept – Too Mean to Die (2021)

ACCEPT – Too Mean to Die (2021 Nuclear Blast)

Tornillo-era Accept has been a pretty even field; a level grid of Sneap-sharp production and Hoffmann’s razor-riffs.  If you expected change just because there’s a new bass player for the first time ever, you’d be wrong.  Accept may be down to just one original member (Wolf Hoffmann himself) but it doesn’t matter much.  What Accept deliver on Too Mean to Die is the same as they have done for every album since 2010’s Blood of the Nations.  Reliable, like AC/DC…or a comfortable leather jacket.

Nothing wrong with this.  Accept found a formula that works in their post-Udo world and it works well.  It’s difficult to remember what songs are from what albums, but Accept haven’t stopped putting out solid quality metal.

There’s the song about zombies (“Zombie Apocalypse”), one about never giving up (“Too Mean To Die”), the mid-tempo one (“Overnight Sensation”), the one about the media (“No Ones Master”), the single* (“The Undertaker”), the one with the funny title (“Sucks to be You”), the classical influence (“Symphony of Pain”), the ballad (“The Best is Yet to Come”), the one about the state of the world (“How Do We Sleep”), the angry one (“Not My Problem”), and the instrumental (“Samsom and Delilah”).

The riffs keep hammering in the capable hands of Wolf, and Mr. Tornillo on lead vocals never stops givin’ ‘er.  Hooks on every track.  The energy is no less than their first together.  Wolf’s guitar tone remains as tasty as it has been for over four decades.  One more album to add to your collection, as the Tornillo era blends together like a monolithic five-CD box set.  Too Mean To Die could have been titled Disc Five, so if you need to complete your set, do it now.

4/5 stars

* The single for “The Undertaker” features a non-album live track on its B-side, of a non-album single called “Life’s a Bitch”!


REVIEW: Accept – The Rise of Chaos (2017 coloured vinyl)

ACCEPT – The Rise of Chaos (2017 Nuclear Blast blue and orange splatter limited vinyl edition)

Over the past decade, Accept have joined a rare pantheon.  They are among the few metal bands with “replacement singers” that have continued with honour, and without constant clamouring for older lineups.  Mark Tornillo has, over the course over several great albums, earned his place without question.  The Rise of Chaos (with producer Andy Sneap) continues the journey, full steam ahead.

The blue and orange swirl vinyl edition is a double record set, limited to 700 copies.  Not only do they look stunning, but they sound vibrant and crisp.  A 46 minute album could easily have fit on a single LP, so the fact they did a double means they wanted to ensure maximum musical reproduction for vinyl buyers.*

Wolf, Mark, Peter, Uwe and Christopher crush it throughout.  “Die By the Sword”, the initial assault, is a lightning strike of sharp riffing and Baltes’ bass undercurrent.  This is pure Accept:  gothic backing vocals and overhead screams!  “Hole in the Head” boils over with animosity, delivered molten.  Then, like a Panzer division at full speed, “The Rise of Chaos” rips the heads off anything still standing.

Flip sides.  “Koolaid” retells the story of Jim Jones and the cult of the damned, a topic previously explored by Manowar.  With a riff written as if out of 1984, it takes on a mid-tempo groove rock march.  Yes, it’s possible the best song on the Accept album is named “Koolaid”!  Then the heat put off by “No Regrets” will blister the skin, if the drums don’t give you a concussion.

Flip sides.  Taking it back to a sharp metallic groove, “Analog Man” is an amusing look at our high tech world.  “Now there’s flat-screens and 3-D, my cell phone’s smarter than me!” They go for an anthemic style with “What’s Done is Done”, and plenty of guitar harmony solos to go around.  “Worlds Colliding” has the “classic metal” sound, brilliant riff and chorus combined for a slick mercury-like sound.

Flip sides one more time.  Neither “Carry the Weight” and “Race to Extinction” let up.  It’s 10 more minutes of fast, heavy metal.  Make no mistake, this is one punishing metal album.  Is it a little paint-by-numbers?  Yes — Accept albums are getting that way.  Riffs might be interchangeable.  But when the albums are still this good, it matters little.

4.5/5 stars




* You could also choose from:

  • 45 RPM, 180 gram black vinyl.  “limited edition”.
  • 45 RPM, 180 gram vinyl – blue and red splatter.  300 copies, USA.
  • 45 RPM, clear vinyl.  300 copies, Germany.
  • 45 RPM, 180 gram red vinyl.  300 copies, Germany.
  • 45 RPM, 180 gram vinyl – green and gold splatter.  300 copies, mail order from Nuclear Blast only.
  • 45 RPM, 180 gram vinyl – orange and red splatter.  500 copies, mail order from Nuclear Blast only.
  • This one is 33 RPM, 180 gram vinyl – blue and orange splatter.  700 copies, USA.