An idea that came to me as I explored old favourites uncovered in the course of my voyage of musical discovery it forced me to reflect on those projects that showed musicians of talent that truly excelled themselves when given hold of the reigns; projects that they aren’t known for, that wasn’t expected of them, and somehow ended up stronger as a result of that. You can learn a surprising amount about an artist and their influences by listening to the members hammer it out in other work. For example…
The Band: Accept
Accept are one of those Trad Metal legends of the German circuit; the irreplaceable shrieks of Udo Dirkschneider—or at least, so I thought until Mark Tornillo joined for “Blood of the Nations”—the insatiable riffs of the Wolfmann, and the unhinged, frenetic and chaotic solo work of Herman Frank. Their early material is an absolute pinnacle of the genre, displaying a sense of aggression decades before their time. But let us all not forget years where all seemed to be lost, each replacement bringing less energy than the last, and the spark slowly dwindling away. It wasn’t until much later that we got our first glimmer of hope in what probably remains my favourite album any of them have ever created.
The Surprise: Herman Frank – Loyal To None (2009)
It opens with a god-damn solo, and I don’t think it finishes until three more have been performed in the space of four minutes. It’s the balls-to-the-wall shred-travaganza Accept had been begging for, backed by his bandmates from Victory and emerging after years of semi-activity and obscurity, it simply doesn’t relent. Every time you think it hits a peak it somehow finds a way to up the ante; when it can’t go any faster, it grooves harder; when it can’t get any more frantic, it hits a higher note to raise the tension; when the ballad track rolls around, it somehow shows that it is possible to shred emotionally. You know you’re listening to a gifted guitarist when he’s capable of that feat.
What it lacks in originality it makes up for in sheer perseverance. It’s the first time in over a decade the ex-Accept stalwart has made a return to form and it arrives with a big ‘fuck you’; the old man pushing the youngster aside grumbling ‘let me show you how to do it you little shit, you’re doing it wrong’. It proudly displays more steel balls than an explosion at a ball bearings factory; has better grooves and catchier, more anthemic chorus lines than should be possible for men now in their 60s. This is also not an age where musicians usually start offering backing vocals but here they do just that, layering on vocal lines in case somehow the point hadn’t been hammered home yet.
Perhaps it’s less of a surprise now that we can look back, but in those years where Accept were releasing one failed comeback attempt after another, this album was the sucker punch nobody was expecting. If you haven’t quite gotten the gist yet, this is probably one of the best Trad Metal albums of at least the past decade, and you’re a moron if you haven’t already hit the “buy” button.