It’s been a decade now since Accept defied the odds and came screaming back to full strength with a new singer. Their first record with Mark Tornillo behind the mic, 2010’s Blood Of The Nations, stands as one of the biggest comeback stories in metal history, barreling out of the gate with twin titans of trad-metal riffery, “Beat The Bastards” and “Teutonic Terror,” and never relenting for the subsequent sixty minutes.
Three records followed Blood, each more or less in line with the established Accept-ed formula — big brash riffs, gravel-throated singalong hooks, the occasional moody moment for balance — and each one was slightly lesser than the last, culminating in 2017’s The Rise Of Chaos, which was mostly good but, overall, a marked step down. Over the course of the seven years between, drummer Stefan Schwarzmann and second guitarist Herman Frank departed in 2015, replaced by Christopher Williams and Uwe Lulis, respectively. After The Rise Of Chaos, bassist and songwriter Peter Baltes hung up his four-string after forty-two years in the band, with former Uli Jon Roth sideman Martin Motnik taking over, leaving guitarist Wolf Hoffmann as the sole remaining original member. New addition Philip Shouse adds a third guitar, which puts Accept as a sextet for the first time.
If anyone had any doubts that an Accept with only one original member might have lost the fire… well, Too Mean To Die addresses that pretty directly, both in terms of its title and its composition.
Opening number “Zombie Apocalypse” lumbers out of the gate with a swaggering main riff and that signature Accept drive. It’s the type of track that this band has always excelled at, that straight-ahead heavy metal charge, all barnstorming guitar and catchy chorus, a fitting opening shot for the no-frills metal to come. The title track follows, another classic Accept ripper, that statement of intent both musically and lyrically. The decision to put the Too Mean To Die’s worst track in the third slot is a strange one, as “Overnight Sensation” falls short, a mostly charmless hard rock number that satirizes the instant-gratification generation and takes a swipe at the Kardashians. It’s an early hurdle that does Too Mean To Die no favors, but at least, the remainder of the record hews closer to the promise set forth in the first two tracks. The ominous midtempo of “The Undertaker” is a mid-album highlight, Tornillo unleashing those piercing guttural screams as the three guitars and bass weave around one another. “Symphony Of Pain” quotes Beethoven in its solo section, interpolating “Ode To Joy,” while “How Do We Sleep” prominently features another Accept signature, those baritone backing vocals beneath Tornillo’s tale of a world gone to hell. Closing number “Samson & Delilah” is an instrumental, an unusual choice for Accept, but not an unprecedented one, although it is the first instrumental number in the Tornillo era.
In the end, Too Mean To Die offers no real surprises, no deviation from the standard set by all of the records from the past decade. Produced by long-time collaborator Andy Sneap, Too Mean sounds punchy and stout, polished without being toothless or slick, completely in line with that earlier standard, as well. With the exception (Acception?) of “Overnight Sensation,” it’s a strong collection of songs, a better one than the previous record, but it doesn’t top Blood Of The Nations as this line-up’s best, more in line with Blind Rage. Still, considering the loss of an integral part of the band’s history with the departure of Peter Baltes, it’s certainly good to hear that Accept continues to show no signs of wear and tear.
I guess there’s something to be said for being mean, after all.