Accept – Blood of the Nations
Eight months after Accept's Blood of the Nations (Nuclear Blast, 2010) came out, I'm still listening to it. That says something, since I've heard hundreds of metal records since then. I'm probably one of many, since Accept has started its third tour worldwide (this one's in North America; see dates below) since singer Mark Tornillo joined the band.
Part of my Blood obsession stems from the press around it. It garnered almost universal acclaim, with commentators praising it as a "return to form". However, no one actually said what that form was. Maybe it's too obvious to say, but I take nothing for granted in music. So I set out to discover what form it was to which Accept had returned. In other words, what is "Accept-ness"?
That may seem academic, especially with a band like Accept. But I've found it fruitful to try to suss out bands' "whatness". Actually, Wikipedia says that what I seek is really "thisness": what makes something particularly what it is. For example, what's "Slayer-ness"? Of course, it includes recognizable personalities and musical trademarks. But what makes people go apeshit and yell "SLAYERRR!" like they do for no other band is Slayer's ability to access human nature's lawless side. Many bands reference that button, but Slayer push(ed) it consistently. Very few bands have that direct a line to humanity's primal instinct. (Pantera and Converge come to mind.) That's a big part of Slayer-ness.
After going back and forth through Accept's catalogue, I've realized that Accept-ness is hardly as profound. The band has existed just to exist. Its music has gone up and down in quality, and lyrically it's run a pedestrian gamut: love, vague politics, unexciting stories, rocking out. That's what happens when your English is so bad that your manager writes your lyrics. (There's a certain deliciousness, however, in a woman writing lyrics like those for "Hard Attack".)
Yet existing just to exist is somewhat profound, since living is a full time job. It's hard enough to live on an individual basis, much less keep a musical aggregation going for over 40 years (!) - especially when it's as bad it was in the late-'80s/early-'90s. And some bands that exist just to exist do it well, like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. Those bands are as much about business as they are about artistry. It's funny how underground bands get slagged for having careerist ambitions, while Priest and Maiden fire up the tour machine year after year and sell overpriced t-shirts to thousands of willing buyers. Metal, like everything else, is a market. Some bands just command higher market prices.
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When Mark Tornillo joined, Accept's market price was rather low. Six consecutive studio strikeouts, and now some singer discovered at a jam session? But not only does he sound much like original singer Udo Dirkschneider (what was it about the early '80s that made parched, constipated-sounding singers in vogue? See also Chris Boltendahl and Brian Johnson), he's also a decent lyricist, since as an American his native language is English. In fact, he slots into the band so well that he sings about "riding on Teutonic terror". (We've come a long way since World War II.) Granted, his lyrics are more catchy than profound - but it wouldn't be Accept otherwise. He dispenses with the unexciting stories and terrible lyrics about love. Instead, he focuses on winning, getting back at wrongdoers, vague politics, and rocking out. Basically, he writes Motörhead lyrics without Lemmy's deftness.
The press around Blood revealed another interesting tidbit: after 40+ years, the band still had no idea what made it good. In interview after interview, guitarist Wolf Hoffmann stressed the importance of producer Andy Sneap to the record. See this excerpt from this interview:
One of the first things he did was made us sit down and listen to the old records again and point out things that to him were typical Accept-like transitions or elements that he thought were special. That influenced us on how to write songs again that are like typical Accept.
Sneap had to tell Accept what made them Accept! Then Accept had to try "to write songs again that are like typical Accept"! Can you imagine elderly Germans (and a not-much-younger American) sitting around listening to their old records so that they could sound like themselves? (Actually, I can - see Metallica's Death Magnetic.) But they acquitted themselves well. Sneap conveyed Accept-ness to them, and they obeyed that muse.
Musically, Accept-ness isn't hard to quantify. The foundation is traditional metal, of course. But what makes records like Breaker, Restless and Wild, and Balls to the Wall classic is the attention to detail. Amidst all the goofy-bald-guy-singing-ESL-lyrics business was an idiot savant-like gift for the unexpected. Dark little guitar breaks would cast shadows upon otherwise straightforward, rockin' metal. Everyone knows Accept for "Balls to the Wall", but they're not one-hit wonders because their best albums have subtle depth.
That's true for Blood of the Nations. Believe it or not, it's a headphones record. Thankfully Sneap eases up on his usual fat, over-compressed sound and lets the guitars retain some bite. The sound is still polished, but it's crisp and taut, a far cry from the cock rock bloat that afflicted Accept for so long. Every song is about a minute too long, but even that's forgivable. Accept sound like they're having fun. They have a weakness for two-guitar-solo songs; when a solo ends and you think the vocals will return, the song modulates keys and in comes another solo. As a musician, you do this if (a) you have that much more to say, and (b) you have the compositional chops to pull off that modulation. Accept satisfy both conditions here. When every song starts, I think, "I know that song, and I like it". That's Accept-ness. There's not much to it, but it goes a long way.
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HEAR BLOOD OF THE NATIONS
- Full album stream -
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BUY BLOOD OF THE NATIONS
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SEE BLOOD OF THE NATIONS
North American tour 2011 (w/ Sabaton)
Apr 09 - Orlando, FL - The Club at Firestone
Apr 10 - Ft Lauderdale, FL - Culture Room
Apr 13 - West Springfield, VA - Jaxx
Apr 14 - Philadelphia, PA - The Trocadero
Apr 16 - New York, NY - Best Buy Theatre (w/ OVERKILL headlining)
Apr 17 - Montreal, QC - Club Soda
Apr 18 - Quebec City, QC - Imperial De Quebec
Apr 20 - Toronto, ON - Mod Club
Apr 21 - Detroit, MI - Blondie's
Apr 22 - Chicago, IL - Bottoms Lounge
Apr 23 - Phoenix, AZ - Mesa Ufest 2011 Quail Run Park
Apr 24 - Denver, CO - Bluebird Theatre
Apr 26 - Seattle, WA - El Corazon
Apr 27 - Portland, OR - Peter's Room
Apr 28 - San Francisco, CA - The Grand Ballroom at the Regency
Apr 30 - San Diego, CA - House Of Blues
May 01 - Santa Ana, CA - Galaxy Theatre
May 02 - Ventura, CA - Ventura Theatre
May 04 - Salt Lake City, UT - Club Vegas
May 06 - Odessa, TX - Dos Amigos
May 07 - Houston, TX - Scout Bar
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