Review By Teresa Hopkins
Album: BLIND RAGE
Label: Nuclear Blast
Release Date: August 15, 2014 (Europe)
August 19, 2014 (USA)
2. Dying Breed
3. Dark Side Of My Heart
4. Fall Of The Empire
5. Trail Of Tears
6. Wanna Be Free
7. 200 Years
8. Bloodbath Mastermind
9. From The Ashes We Rise
10. The Curse
11. Final Journey
12. Thrown To The Wolves (Bonus Track, Japan Only)
While known for churning out some of the best and most memorable metal riffs around, Wolf Hoffmann also creates a very symphonic feel in the compositions he helps to write, as evidenced especially in ACCEPT‘s last three albums. They’re heavier than ever, but there’s definitely some purposeful structure in the songs that remind me so much of the Great Classical Composers, to the extent that I feel they’d sound killer played by a full orchestra. Hoffmann possesses that same passion and ability to create the perfect mood for each song within the melodies and riffs, so much that even if they were instrumentals, there would be no question as to the themes. He may have gained even deeper understanding and influence with respect to songwriting and arrangements during the making of his solo album Classical, poring over each measure and transition while modernizing some of his favorite classical music with his own personal stamp and style.
Each song from “Blind Rage” stands well on its own, but these are songs that only seem stronger when presented in a collection such as this. One needs to experience the total package, if you will, to fully appreciate the parts that make it complete.
‘Stampede’ begins the album with the same kind of slow-building intensity that Tchaikovsky’s ‘Slavonic March’ gave ‘Metal Heart’, before kicking in to a fast-paced, in-your-face heavy number. It gets my attention right away. Moving seamlessly into the slower yet steady tempo of ‘Dying Breed’, the band pays respect to their heroes and peers in the coolest of tributes without even having to name names—there’s no mistaking them in this most clever and poetic ode to some of the greatest in metal and rock who paved the way.
‘Dark Side Of My Heart’ is neo-classic ACCEPT all the way. The mid-80s era feel, very melodic with a terrific hook and a steady, upbeat tempo, has an even bigger and better sound in the modern day. After each line in the verses, the guitar riff gets incrementally heavier, and it’s subtleties like this that I totally dig.
The combination of a slower-paced, marching beat and the slight melancholy feel, rich with the band’s trademark wall of powerful, Wagnerian background vocals immediately puts ACCEPT‘s stamp on ‘Fall of the Empire’. Quite simply, it is epic. This is one of those songs in which the music and the overall feel completely encompass and reflect the title perfectly. Mark is great at making a statement with his words and singing them with conviction, and it’s nice to hear him in lower ranges now and then throughout the album.
There is no doubt in my mind as to the skill, versatility, and physical fitness of Stefan Schwarzmann. After hearing ‘Trail of Tears’, I think the man could keep up with a cheetah in a foot race—and then go on to pass it by! This one hits the ground running and doesn’t let up for the duration of the song.
A lovely acoustic intro in A Minor opens ‘Wanna Be Free’, its sweet-melancholy, lonely feel setting the mood for Mark’s lyrics. Wolf’s Framus has such a lovely, chiming tone in all the little fills during the verses, almost like a second lead vocal, and it contrasts so nicely with the snappy low end of Peter’s bass. The guitar solo is a little reminiscent of those from classics like “Turn Me On” and “Head Over Heels” from Balls to the Wall—that soaring, emotional, spiritual element that made me fall in love with his playing in the first place. But there’s scarcely time to linger as ‘200 Years’ changes gears, and now it’s the world after apocalypse! “Population: ZEROOOO…” It’s a steady driving track track that sticks in my head as much as the rest of them!
The twisted tone of the intro melody illustrates descent into the insanity of ‘Bloodbath Mastermind’. Stefan’s drumming builds and intensifies the anticipation as Wolf’s riffing and Peter’s thundering, ominous bass notes join his pace. Some terrific primal screaming by Mark, who actually seems to get vocally stronger with each album! Lots of energy, more of those subtle yet terrific “laser gun” sounding things Wolf slips in every now and then at just the right time for impact, and here’s another one of my favorites on the album
I know why Wolf raves on the sound of his Framus Signature. It flat out delivers, in whatever direction or sound he wants to go. Listen to that gorgeous chiming in the double stops for the intro of ‘From The Ashes We Rise’. The simplicity of only the guitar and Mark’s voice makes a powerful statement. Sometimes you really can say more with less. When the rest of the band joins in to fill it out, Wolf’s guitar takes on a dirty-sweet tone with a lot of drive. I love that Mark has the ability to write and sing about things which others who’ve been devastated by them can’t quite put into words. Similar to the feel of newer favorites like “Time Machine” and “Twist of Fate”, this song is a real standout. “BRING IT ON! BRING IT ON!” Indeed.
‘The Curse’, with its steady, marching beat and the smooth groove of Peter’s bass made me immediately think of ‘Shadow Soldiers’ from Stalingrad and Black Sabbath’s “Heaven and Hell”. Whether or not that was intentional, I don’t care; I dig it. And that Mark eerily reminds me of DIO a little bit at times only adds more power to the delivery of the song. Instant classic factor: check!
‘Final Journey’: Destination Unknown. In the middle of the solo in this powerful, frenetic, metal musing of physical and spiritual transition, something completely unexpected: a tune I had become most familiar with as a child via elementary music appreciation and Saturday mornings watching the Looney Tunes show. But what I’m hearing now isn’t anything like that slow, angelic-sounding waltz on a solo flute that I remember! In a recent interview I conducted with Wolf, he stated that he’d been contemplating the right context in which to showcase Grieg’s ‘Morning Mood’ from Peer Gynt for many years. Though he’s incorporated bits of classical pieces into a few of their songs before, this one was approached a bit differently: he wrote an entire composition around the Grieg piece! If this sort of thing keeps up, we might soon change the term “ACCEPT album” to “ACCEPT symphony” in reference to new releases.
If that last remark scared the hard-core metalheads a little, rest assured, this band works as much virile metal mojo as ever—more than ever! Right out of the cage, ‘Thrown to the Wolves’ goes back to the basics in a stripped-down, upbeat lament of love gone wrong. Heavy and sexy. I like it! That riff is wide open and it has a killer bite. The Framus Signature was used throughout the entire album, and its versatility, power, and sustain are as evident in the great grooves of this track as the rest of the songs. I’m disappointed that only Japan continues to benefit from the bonus tracks like this, but I’ll probably end up getting a Japanese version as well. It’s all good!
This latest album is not so much derivative of the band’s classic material as it seems to be the rediscovery of their roots and the foundation on which this band was built: the pure love of making music and writing great songs. Further evolving and expanding on that, ACCEPT continues to deliver with inimitable fashion to their fans all over the world. Cheers to Andy Sneap for helping to bring out their best, yet again.
“Blind Rage” is a must-have for die-hard ACCEPT fans as well as anyone just discovering the band. It wonderfully represents what they’re all about, past, present, and future.
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