Accept

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By Carl Begai

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The first four seconds into the new album, Headbanger’s Symphony, are enough to slam dunk the 11-track opus into the Accept catalogue. Never mind that opening track “Scherzo” is an adaptation of Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9” featuring a tip of the hat to the band’s “Teutonic Terror”; the record has guitarist Wolf Hoffmann written all over it, featuring popular classical music pieces adapted for the metal crowd. The results are quite often stunning if you’re open to instrumental metal without the loopy Steve Vai craziness. For those Accept and/or Hoffmann fans that think this is something new for the legendary axe-master, however, not so…

“I made a classical album 20 years ago (Classical) and I’ve always been the guy doing that sort of thing in Accept songs, so it wasn’t totally unexpected,” says Hoffmann. “At the same time, it took forever to get this album finished so I’m super excited that it’s finally here.”

The delay in getting Headbanger’s Symphony was due to the fact Accept has always been Hoffmann’s top priority, particularly since their 2010 comeback album, Blood Of The Nations, pretty much blew the roof off the metal scene for being one of the strongest records released that year

“The majority of the album started before Accept got back together,” Hoffmann reveals, “so it was at a stage where it was almost ready but the recordings weren’t finalized. The tracks were written and the project was in my head, it was all demo-ed and good to go, and then Accept started back up. So whenever there was a couple weeks free, like over Christmas, or things slowed down I went at it again. And again and again (laughs).” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

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It was a brain scratcher when word came down in September 2014 that Accept guitarist Herman Frank and drummer Stefan Schwarzmann had launched a new band dubbed Panzer, particularly since the audio teaser accompanying the announcement sounded suspiciously like Accept. This only a month after the release of Blind Rage, regarded as one of Accept’s strongest outings in their 14 album career. Odder still was Destruction frontman Schmier taking up vocal and bass duties to complete the three-piece Panzer outfit when he already has a very successful trio of his own. The recipe for a potentially questionable platter of “Why Bother?”, yet Panzer’s debut Send Them All To Hell has gone over a storm amongst the people that have dared to step into the line of fire.

“We’ve had great reactions so far,” Schmier confirms. “Some people thought the old men might be doing a blues album… (laughs).”

Thoughts that are quashed early into the record, although the lead single “Panzer” was met with a lukewarm response thanks to a plodding 4/4 groove that is too Accept-like and predictable.

“Yeah, the song ‘Panzer’ doesn’t represent the whole record,” agrees Schmier. “Nuclear Blast wanted it to be the first release and use it on samplers and all that, but I don’t think it was the best choice. That’s the easy listening track on the album. We made a video for the first song, ‘Death Knell’, and I think that one shows the real direction of the record. It’s nice to hear that people appreciate what we’re doing because there are too many bands these days doing this All-Star thing. It’s good that people recognize Panzer isn’t just another one of those projects. Things are worked really well between the three of us.” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

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How about an Accept story that doesn’t involve discussion about former vocalist Udo Dirkschneider and his personal issues with the band? On top of that, let’s not talk about a possible reunion with the U.D.O frontman because, at this point in Accept’s career, stirring that pot is just plain bad manners bordering on insulting. Nope, the focus here is on Blind Rage, the band’s third go-round with singer Mark Tornillo, which the fans have been praising to high heaven according to guitarist Wolf Hoffmann. In fact, some diehards have actually gone on record calling Blind Rage the best of the three records in this “new” Accept’s catalogue. Brave words indeed, particularly when stacking it up against Blood Of The Nations, the band’s bold 2010 return that amounted to a “We’re back!” eargasm for their legion of fans.

Interestingly, Blind Rage comes off as being somewhat less heavy in places compared to Blood Of The Nations and its follow-up, Stalingrad. Call it classic heavy Accept with more melody and dynamics thrown into the mix, just like the good old days of Breaker (1981) and Restless And Wild (1982). Almost as if Hoffmann and bassist Peter Baltes experimented with branching out from what they know works for Accept fans in 2014.

“I’m not sure we did,” Hoffmann counters. “If anything I think we tried to hone it into what Accept really is. I think ‘experiment’ is a bad word to use. There are songs on Stampede that are more melodic, but all in all it’s totally Accept to me. A good song is a good song, and we always try to concentrate on songwriting more than anything, and if things sound a little softer or more melodic here and there, so be it. We’ve always been about melody in our songs. As long as people like it I’m happy.” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

udo2Udo Dirkschneider will tell you – and a host of press people and fans will agree – that his U.D.O. metal machine has been on cruise control for the past few years. Not that anyone was expecting the 62 year-old vocalist to abandon the sound he created with Accept a lifetime ago and kept alive with U.D.O. while Wolf Hoffmann and Co. explored their options before getting back into the game with a new singer, yet there was something painfully tired and all too predictable about U.D.O.’s last couple albums. As a result all but the diehard fans kept expectations low leading up to the new slab, Steelhammer, only to discover a vibrant in-your-face yesteryear U.D.O. pounding at the door. Gone are guitarist Igor Gianola and guitarist/producer Stefan Kaufmann, and along with the latter the compressed punch-card production and nigh-on-industrial tweakings have also disappeared. In exchange, Dirkschneider and his new bandmates have turned out an album worthy of the classic U.D.O debut Animal House (‘87) and over-the-top Timebomb record(‘91), proving there band has plenty of ammo left.

“I wasn’t really happy about the sound of the last two U.D.O. albums,” says Dirkschneider, singling out Dominator (2009) and Rev-Raptor (2011) as the guilty culprits in the band’s catalogue. “They were very cold. There are some great songs on those albums but there’s no feeling in there, no atmosphere. I think it was good that things happened the way they did. Steelhammer is a new start for U.D.O.”

Kaufmann’s departure was a surprise to folks outside the band, given that he and Dirkschneider came up together with Accept and have worked together pretty much non-stop since 1980. The decision to part ways was health-related, however, and not a typical music industry “creative differences” divorce.

“When we did the recordings for the Rev-Raptor album we had to stop for three months because he couldn’t move anymore,” Dirkschneider explains. “Then, on the tour he had to take painkillers, so he wasn’t in a good mood and the whole atmosphere in the band was bad. I’ve known Stefan for nearly 40 years or something, and after the last show in Kiev I told him we needed to talk about this, and I said that I thought it would be best if he stopped touring. Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

This interview is testament to the fact that no matter how cutting edge present day technology may be, it’ll never replace old school principles.

Booked for a phone interview in the midst of a European tour, Accept guitarist Wolf Hoffmann dutifully took on the task during a travel day, only to be confronted with a mobile signal that refused to cooperate as the band’s tour bus hurtled down one of Germany’s highways. Thus, two dropped calls later and Hoffmann questioning the wisdom of interviews being scheduled while the band is in transit, he opted not to call back a third time, leaving BW&BK with half an interview and a half-baked story. Fast forward 24 hours to an unplanned and completely unexpected phone call from Hoffmann, settled in his pre-show (and stationary) hotel room, who had chosen to step up of his own free will and finish the job rather than write us off as a digital-age hiccup.

Not that Accept desperately needs the coverage. Hoffmann is certainly happy to have it, but the buzz surrounding the band’s new album, Stalingrad, is as loud and in-you-face as the justified hype their rousing 2010 comeback, Blood Of The Nations.

“I guess we’re just firing on all cylinders at the moment,” muses Hoffmann. “We were away for quite some time, so maybe that recharged out batteries enough to give us the energy to keep going like this, but sometimes I ask myself how we’ve managed to do it again. I don’t know. We just go out and do it.”

Stalingrad marks Accept’s second outing with vocalist Mark Tornillo, who replaced original singer Udo Dirkschneider behind the mic for the reunion when the U.D.O. frontman made it brutally clear he wasn’t interested. Months of touring behind classic and new Blood Of The Nations material quite naturally tightened the bonds of this new Accept incarnation, suggesting the band was much more focused going in to do Stalingrad.

“It wasn’t dramatically different,” Hoffmann says of the creative process. “The only difference was that we were, as you said, a little more in tune with what we were going for. When we made Blood Of The Nations we were fishing a little bit; where does Accept belong in 2010? We weren’t sure if we should go the totally old school way or of we should try to incorporate some newer elements in out sound. But, because everything worked out so well with Blood Of The Nations we kind of decided not to change a winning formula. We just tried to come up with new songs that were as good as the one on Blood Of The Nations. The ideas on Stalingrad are fresh along the same lines, and that was our goal.” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

During a recent interview with producer / guitarist Andy Sneap about working with his childhood heroes Hell (found here), we discussed the hands-on role he played in putting German legends Accept back into the spotlight with their 2010 comeback album, Blood Of The Nations. Calling the record a success is a massive understatement given the fact the band did it without original frontman Udo Dirkschneider, receiving praise for creating some of the strongest material of their career. Not only was Mark Tornillo embraced as Accept’s new vocalist, the songs as a whole seemed to reach back to the band’s classic early works without sounding dated. Guitarist Wolf Hoffmann has gone on record in numerous interviews claiming that Sneap was single-handedly responsible for kick-starting the Accept machine back to life, and while Sneap downplays his influence, he’s happy to be on board for the follow-up.

“I’m doing the new Testament album, and that should last about six weeks, so I’m looking at the end of August to start working on the next Accept record. I’ll pop over to Nashville and sit down with Wolf to go over ideas on that. The good thing about that and the Hell record, and the Testament record as well, is that I’m actually quite involved from the ground up. I’m not just coming in, pressing buttons and just recording the band; I’m actually a valued person to bounce ideas off. It’s almost like being an extra member of the band.” Continue Reading