By Carl Begai
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).”
The pitfall of creating any form of art in fits and starts, as was the case with Headbanger’s Symphony, is the potential of losing inspiration as time passes. Sometimes the flame dies out entirely and what could have been a brilliant project gets shelved indefinitely. Hoffmann can relate to the predicament.
“I’m the kind of guy that when I get into something I do it all out, and then I have to force myself to go back to it if I stop for a while. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and be in it every day, but once you stop and move on to something else it’s out of sight, out of mind. It’s really not that easy to go back and say ‘Oh yeah, there’s this other thing I really need to do.’ I wish it didn’t need to be that way, I wish I could just keep going. If I ever do another album like this I’ll certainly set a couple months aside and do things front to back and be done with it. It would be a lot more fun and certainly a lot more efficient. Those kinds of albums where things just drag on and on over years and years, those are the hardest things to keep focused on. I speak from experience. If something drags on it just gets harder and harder to get anything good out of it.”
Asked if he ended up with the same album of material he’d planned on at the beginning, Hoffmann admits the material actually got better over time.
“It turned out better than I ever could have hoped for. It was a slow build. I started in my studio using a library of cheap string samples that sounded okay; it reminded me of an orchestra, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d have the material performed by a full blown orchestra. I was hoping it would sound awesome but I never inagined it would happen. We eventually replaced that first set of cheapo strings with better sounding samples (Vienna Symphonic Library), then recorded live drums for the album. After I heard that I went back and re-did most of my guitars. One of the last things we did was find an orchestra in the Czech Republic (Czech National Symphony Orchestra) that was semi-affordable and well trained in doing this kind of work, and we recorded 40 musicians playing the album front to back in a studio.”
In the end Headbanger’s Symphony is an organic album even though it started out as a digital production.
“It is indeed. It’s actually real people making music (laughs), but we haven’t played the music together… yet. The album was spread out over years and different continents but to me it sounds like we all played on it together. I wish I could have recorded everything together. If I ever do this again that’s exactly what I will do; find the right players to record as much as possible together in a big studio. There’s something to be said for the old way of doing things.”
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