Nearly fifteen years have elapsed since the last Accept record. That one, 1996’s Predator, was weak, unfocused and easily among the band’s worst. In the period after Predator, Accept split up, then reformed and released a live record, split up again and then reunited for a “farewell” tour, after which their iconic vocalist Udo Dirkschneider made it clear that, for him, Accept was finished—he was moving on after three decades, pushing forward with his solo outlet U.D.O. Accept had attempted a career without Udo once before, with David Reece as frontman for 1989’s popped-up Eat The Heat—the album was a wash; the change was quickly reversed; Reece was canned; Dirkschneider returned; and the band was back in classic form for Objection Overruled in 1993, only to sputter out again four years later. By 2010, to me and all the world, it would have appeared that Udo was right—Accept was finished. But now, here’s a new Accept record, and true to the man’s word, it’s one without Udo.
So, given the time-lag and the absence of Udo, Accept fans have good reasons for being wary of Blood Of The Nations. (I nearly didn’t volunteer for this review, concerned that I’d be either be bashing a favorite, or equally as bad, covering their complete irrelevance.)
I’m more than happy to tell this to you all, Accept fans or not: Blood Of The Nations absolutely smokes.
With former TT Quick vocalist Mark Tornillo on board, Accept is not only back, they’re damn near back to full strength—and Accept at full strength is a mighty, mighty beast. Tornillo’s voice sounds enough like Dirkschneider’s shrill wail to satisfy the die-hards, and it’s just different enough to separate the two. Tornillo’s voice in the higher register can get a bit rough, but more often than not, his ragged leathery growl is a fine subsitute for the legend he’s replacing. With the quality in the vocal department established, the band’s sound remains clearly defined—what’s here is undoubtedly Accept, through and through, from the stout guitar-tones of Wolf Hoffmann and Hermann Frank to the pounding drums of Stefan Schwarzmann to the totally Germanic gang vocals. Produced by Andy Sneap (Megadeth, Exodus, Arch Enemy), the album sounds perfectly polished, punchy and tight.
Accept‘s strongest point has always been their prodigious ability to pen anthemic, fist-pumping trad-metal tunes (back when trad-metal wasn’t “trad” because it was just “metal”). Failure to appreciate the likes of “Balls To The Wall,” “Metal Heart,” “Fast As A Shark,” or “Restless & Wild” is simply failure to appreciate some of the best moments in classic metal—nothing more, nothing less. And Blood Of The Nations has plenty of those stomping tracks—the opening one-two punch of the killer “Beat The Bastards” and the smashing “Teutonic Terror” is quite simply the best example of head-bobbing, sing-along, horns-in-the-air classic heavy-effing-metal that I’ve heard in the last year. The title track’s ham-fisted “freedom don’t come free” theme isn’t enough to derail its sing-along chorus, stellar intro riff and intertwining harmony leads. “Shades Of Death” flirts with symphonics atop its chugging main riff; “Locked & Loaded” pushes into the speed metal territory the band famously created with “Fast As A Shark” three decades ago; and hell, even ballad “Kill The Pain” holds up, growing on me after my initial dismissal of it as dated and weak. (The former it remains, but the great guitar work and the classical-tinged bombast of it transcend the goofiness of the power ballad as a whole.)
I love U.D.O.—his (their) last few records have been solid slabs of stomping metal–but this new version of Accept exists without him by his own choice, and damned if these Teutonic terrors continue to take no prisoners, sogar ohne den kleinen Hauptmann. There will likely be those who cry foul, who swear that Accept without Udo is no Accept at all, and quite simply, Blood Of The Nations proves them very wrong. This band is back, without Udo and kicking ass, and that’s just something that nay-sayers will have to acce…errrr…learn to live with.