With the recent release of Blind Rage, Accept finds itself three albums deep into a third act that sees the band enjoying creative and commercial success to rival its Eighties heyday, and putting on live shows potent enough to shame bands half its age. Not bad for a group that was all but dead for the better part of fifteen years. Just how Accept arrived at this improbable resurgence is a long story, but we’ll try and give you the short version.
Accept formed Solingen, Germany, in 1976, around the core of guitarist Wolf Hoffman, bassist Peter Baltes, and diminutive, perpetually camo-clad shrieker Udo Dirkschneider. Like many metal bands formed in the Seventies Accept’s initial style straddled the line between metal and hard rock, but as the Seventies turned into the Eighties, with albums such as Breaker (’81) and Restless and Wild (’82), Accept’s sound grew increasingly metallic, so much so, that the band might have accidentally recorded one of the first thrash metal songs.
Chock full of arena-ready anthems including the all-time classic title track, 1983’s Balls to the Wall proved to be the band’s commercial high-water mark. Two more solid, if somewhat less successful, albums followed in Metal Heart (’85) and Russian Roulette (’86). Then the wheels fell off. Udo left to start a solo career, and Accept was short one short frontman.
After trying out a few new vocalists, Accept finally settled on American singer David Reece to man the mic for 1989’s Eat the Heat, which went over like a lead balloon. The new, tall, glam-looking singer and the album’s more commercial bent proved to be more change than most fans were willing to accept. Rather than go another round with Reece, Accept decided to pack it in.
Fast forward a few years, and a reformed Accept managed to coax Udo away from his solo band for a three album run including 1993’s Objection Overruled, 94’s Death Row and 96’s Predator. While the first is well-regarded, quality and interest declined with its successors, and Accept broke up once again, this time for a long time.
Accept reunited with Dirkshcneider in 2005 for several festival appearances, but Udo was unwilling to abandon his well-established solo career for round three with Accept, so the reunion went no further. However, a fire was apparently lit in Hoffman and company, as in 2009 Accept was reactivated with a new, American, but sufficiently under-sized vocalist in Mark Tornillo. The highly successful album Blood of the Nations quickly followed, and Accept hit the road. In the live setting, Tornillo quickly proved himself a more than worthy successor to Udo, and the reinvigorated band proved they could still deliver the goods in spades.
And so, to celebrate the release of Blind Rage and the continued success of one of Germany’s finest contributions to the metal world, Last Rites is proud to present a Devil’s Dozen of Accept.
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RUSSIAN ROULETTE[Russsian Roulette, 1986]
“Russian Roulette” showcases a somewhat more mature and refined, but ultimately still raging Accept. A slow-burning anti-war protest song of sorts, the track relies less on big riffs for its hooks and more on dynamics, Udo’s impassioned performance and superb use of Accept’s signature backing vocals. The versus are uncharacteristically subdued, with Udo singing softly over a spare guitar figure, but intensity and volume increases until Udo is screaming at the top of his lungs and the rest of the boys drop the gang-vocal chorus like a bomb. The bridge and solo add a bitter-sweet beauty to the proceedings before the outro leads us to nuclear annihilation.
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DOGS ON LEADS[Metal Heart, 1985]
The Dieter Dierks produced Metal Heart was their shot at the top of the pops, with hooks that burst out of the speakers and production that verges on mid-80s parody. It’s also a classic Accept record, where the ambiguous and the catchy live in perfect harmony. Is “Dogs On Leads” about actual dogs (easily read that way) or is it Spinal Tap‘s Smell the Glove in musical form? Or is it about some men who are prowling, lusting animals best kept leashed? Does it matter, when Accept kicks it off like it’s a cover of AC/DC‘s “Squealer”, complete with Udo doing his best sprechgesang before rasping up the power as only he could do? “Dogs On Leads” was never a single, but it quickly and deservedly became a fan favorite. The appeal is all in the build, with its slow rise and held tension. The chorus is a limp noodle, “Balls to the Wall” writ small. But it doesn’t matter; “Dogs On Leads” already has its hooks in deep and strong long before it finally appears halfway through the song.
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FIGHT IT BACK[Ball to the Wall, 1983]
“Fight it Back” is Accept’s classic fist-pumping ode to defiance and insurrection. The band might have recorded the track back in 1983, but if you turn on the news right now, and look at all those underdogs kicking against the elite, then you’ll note that Udo’s simple message – “Now, if you hate it, you gotta fight it back” – is a relevant today as it ever was. Obviously, what you need for any punchy protest tune is also a nice juicy hook to hang that communiqué on, and Wolf and Herman step up to the plate in that regard. The track’s dirty chugging riffs tap into a hotbed of steely disobedience, and while metal’s dished out plenty of anthems to resistance and revolt over the years, “Fight it Back” remains one of the very best.
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Typically, a production technique such as piped-in crowd noise would be about as appealing to Accept fans as Eat the Heat, but with Breaker’s rollicking “Burning,” it fits perfectly. The roars of the crowd give the song an old school rock and rollvibe, fitting as the lyrics are nothing but a celebration of rock itself, and the music is basically the band’s time machine to 1957. With the Chuck Berry riffs, Peter Baltes’ wonderfully walking bass lines, and one of the band’s catchiest choruses, the tune was made for the setting that (artificially) introduces it. And of course, Udo’s overflowing personality helps it to span both decades and all the space between Accept’s Germany and Berry’s St. Louis.
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PRINCESS OF THE DAWN[Restless And Wild, 1982]
I was late to the party: the first Accept album I ever owned was A compilation of the best of Balls to the Wall and Restless and Wild, and even that wasn’t until the year 2000. After a number of heavy, raucous rockers, at the exact halfway point, “Princess of the Dawn” stuck out. Clean (at least by their standards) vocals? Acoustic guitars? Relaxed riffing with breezy solos? Turns out it was one of the band’s more ambitious tracks to date. Described by Udo Dirkschneider as a Lord of the Rings-type fantasy, the song rolls along at a steady pace, unconsciously building to a crescendo that, wisely, never breaks – yet as it ends, we’re all left wondering what just hit us . . . and what exactly happened to the princess.
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SON OF A BITCH[Breaker, 1981]
What is it that makes “Son of a Bitch” such a standout in the Accept cannon? Is it the sublimely sinister trills that punctuate the main theme? Is it the way that Udo Dirkschneider awkwardly, yet convincingly, delivers the lyrics, which are chiefly comprised of English cuss words? Is it the spritely, classical-sounding and entirely incongruous interlude? Is it the exquisitely agonized “Ooooooouh!” that Udo let’s out at 1:59, as if he’s taken a hay-maker to the bread-basket? It is all of these things, I contend, all of these things and more. Such is the multi-faceted genius of Accept.
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METAL HEART[Metal Heart, 1985]
The idea of “man as machine” was the creative impetus behind Accept’s sixth album, however the title track could well have been as much an anthem as “Balls to the Wall” before it. The album supposedly was a cautious attempt to be more commercially appealing to silly Americans, yet none of the songs ever reached the status of their big hit. This one in particular is a bit darker, heavier, and more menacing than much of the band’s previous work. Time has been on its side though, as both album and song are considered among the band’s best work. Also of note: the inclusion of Tchaikovsky’s “Slavonic March” in the intro, and Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” in the main riff and solo, adding a classical, almost cinematic feel.
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TEUTONIC TERROR[Blood Of The Nations, 2010]
The prospect of an Udo-less Accept had been explored once, on 1989’s godawful glam-metal dud Eat The Heat. The wee blonde screamer seemed so intrinsic to Accept’s sound that another attempt to replace him was a daunting prospect, but Mark Tornillo succeeded not only in filling the man’s shoes, but in reinvigorating his band and returning them to their rightful place at the top of the metal heap. Tracks like the absolutely ripping “Teutonic Terror” are largely why – it’s damn near perfect heavy metal, all groove and grit and pure energy. Just try not to sing along, I dare you.
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LONDON LEATHER BOYS[Ball To The Wall, 1983]
Between this song, “Love Child,” and the eponymous title track, one could argue that Balls To The Wall is a homoerotic concept album (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Guitarist Wolf Hoffman and his wife, Accept manager and lyricist Gaby, have long stated that the song is about biker culture more than anything else; but, between this song’s catchy verses and infectious choir, “London Leatherboys” is a great follow up in the one two punch that opens Balls To The Wall. Slight tempo variations, Udo’s snarling growls in the background, and the shouted chorus keeps “London Leatherboys” in heavy rotation on any Accept playlist.
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It is quite evident that early in Accept’s career, Udo’s grasp of the English language was less than firm but, generally, one could get the gist of what he was trying to convey. Such is the case with “Breaker”, the lyrics of which describe, reasonably eloquently (grading on a curve), a real bad dude, in the vein of Judas Priest’s “Sinner” or Twisted Sister’s “Destroyer”. The pre-chorus, however, is mystifying: “Icicle Brains! Bicycle Chains!” What the fuck? It doesn’t matter, really, because “Breaker” is three and a half minutes of razor-sharp speed metal before speed metal was even a thing, and the riffs alone make all the sense anyone needs.
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RESTLESS AND WILD[Restless And Wild, 1982]
If you’re going to follow the blistering “Fast As A Shark,” then you’d better bring some serious rocking, and the title track from Accept’s fourth record brings it in spades. With a galloping Wolf Hoffmann riff and Udo’s inimitable guttural screech, “Restless And Wild” is prime Accept – slightly downtempo verses ride Peter Baltes’ bouncing bassline before the whole thing explodes into that palm-muted chugging chorus riff beneath Udo’s protracted snarled “Restleeeesssss.” The second of the two undeniable metal classics that opened Accept’s first equally classic record, “Restless And Wild” proved that, after wandering through three records, Accept had finally arrived.
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FAST AS A SHARK[Restless And Wild, 1982]
I can’t help but associate this song with my youth as a high school student in the early to mid 80s, which was my first exposure to Accept. Released in 1982, this opening track on Restless And Wild is sometimes referred to as the first speed metal song. Maybe so, but from the crackling intro of a traditional German children’s song, to Udo’s opening scream, to the thumping double bass that pushed the pedal to the metal, “Fast As A Shark” is forever, to me, what Accept could have become if they chose to move in a faster direction. A fitting capstone, perhaps, to the NWOBHM era, “Fast As A Shark” plays a role in the nascent thrash metal scene that soon followed the release of Restless And Wild.
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BALLS TO THE WALL[Ball To The Wall, 1983]
While there are probably more than a couple songs on this list deserving of the honor, there is little doubt that “Balls to the Wall” stands firmly as one of the most iconic heavy metal songs ever written. Kicking off with a perfectly simple riff, it feels rather laid back to start, but lyrics about conquering bondage and oppression hint that there is something far more intense at work. And then… that pre-chorus – that demanding, laying-it-all-on-the-table, massive burst of spite and energy – rips forth as an eruption of disgust from Udo’s vocal chords before the continual slamming of the song’s title brings it all back to rock and roll. More than being Accept’s biggest hit, and more than being an undisputed classic in metal, “Balls to the Wall” is everything great about rock and roll: riffs, fist-pumping, dynamics, rebellion, and guitar wielding giants standing up for the little man. God bless ‘em.
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