ACCEPT - The New Age Of Rage
August 24, 2014, 9 months ago
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."
"Something interesting has started to happen," he adds. "A lot of people tell me 'I've been a huge fan since the '80s' or 'Restless And Wild has always been at the top of my list...' but this new era of Accept has started to overtake that. People are saying now that this new stuff is some of the best music we've ever done, and it's a huge thing if people start to feel that way."
Hoffmann's explanation as to why people are reacting to the new(er) albums is simple:
"These are all songs we could have written back then, we just never did. This new music should feel authentic but current, and it's clear we pulled it off."
Blind Rage is essentially Accept's second third album, a goal many bands that have fallen apart and rebuilt themselves fail to achieve. At least not at a level where the fanbase considers the music on par with the old days. Looking back at Accept's official third album, Breaker, are there any similarities between making that step then versus now? For Hoffman, apparently not.
"Nah, I can't even remotely compare those two things. Take the first album we ever did (in 1979), that never should have been recorded. It was just a bunch of demos and it never should have been released, so you can't even count that. In those days they released anything; nowadays that album never would have seen the light of day. We were kids just coming out of the rehearsal room, nobody had a style or a clue of where things were going to go. You can't over-interpret this stuff too much and I can't compare those two scenarios. Here we are 35 years later and... Blind Rage is the third album, I'll give you that (laughs)."
It's hard to believe Accept has been around for thirty-five years...
"(Laughs) Imagine that shit. I know; scary, isn't it?"
Especially considering how vital Accept is in 2014, an era seemingly bent on destroying the music industry and anyone foolish enough to be a part of it. Hoffmann is philisophical in his gratitude for Accept being able to do better than merely survive.
"We're in this business because we love what we do, and yeah, money is nice when it happens but it's not the motivating factor. Sure, we all have to make a living, but if it was about money we'd all be doing something else. We picked the hardest thing in the world to make money with, and if we would have known what was ahead of us I'm not sure we would have done it (laughs). We jumped into this pretty much blindfolded not knowing what was waiting for us at the bottom of the hill. We knew what we were capable of and that's what we still concentrate on. Luckily everything fell into place."
Digging into the guts of the new album, Hoffmann says he and Baltes live by the rule of not screwing with a winning formula when it comes to songwriting.
"It hasn't changed one bit. The songwriting for Blind Rage happened the way it's happened in Accept for years, with Peter and I getting together, jamming and exchanging ideas, locking ourselves away for weeks at a time and coming out with a bunch of songs. We bring them to Mark and he puts his spin on things, but at that point the songs already have the hookline and the chorus. Peter does scratch vocals on them, and then we test the songs before we have Mark write lyrics for them. On Blood Of The Nations we had Mark write and re-write lyrics again and again because the songs kept changing, and we realized it was a pain in the ass for him to do. It's a good thing that Peter has this God-given talent of being able to sing mumbo jumbo lyrics that sound like they mean something (laughs), so we can keep changing the song until we're happy with the basic structure, and then we give it to Mark so he only has to write the lyrics once."
And then there's the punchy signature Accept sound, which has hardly changed over the years beyond production values. It's as much of a trademark as the stamps heralding AC/DC and Motörhead as being one of a kind.
"I don't know if that's a good thing or a curse, but I take it for what it is," says Hoffmann. "We know what Accept fans want to hear and I think it's a good thing to have your own distinct style. I'm not questioning it anymore and I don't really want to ever change. At the same time you want to get better at what you do and not become stagnant. We don't want to stay in one spot and do stuff that kinda sounds like the old stuff but not as good. We want to get better. We really went through the paces with Blind Rage, and we wrote more songs than we ever have for an album."
Accept brought in Andy Sneap once again to oversee the recordings, a collaboration that began on Blood Of The Nations. At that point the band was getting its legs back with Sneap - a long time Accept fan - pushing the band in the right direction.
"There isn't that much guidance from Andy going on anymore. He pretty much just came in and recorded everything with us, but that's the fun part. The pain and the procrastinating happens before that, during the actualy songwriting where we had to dig deep. We felt pretty secure in our ways regarding what we wanted to achieve and what we felt was a better song over another one. It's funny because we all have to wear different hats doing this. There's the performer in me, there's the songwriter / producer in me that has to do my own critiques listening back to my ideas. We do have a lot of people around us to help with that stuff, like Andy, but a lot of this stuff I do alone or Peter does alone."
When Hoffmann and Baltes get together the songwriting magic takes hold in earnest, and neither one is shy about telling the other an idea isn't up to snuff.
"It happens in an instant (laughs). We go through stuff that somebody worked on for hours and say 'Nah, forget it.' We don't even say sorry, we don't have to (laughs). And that's why this works so well. We're like brothers and we can tell each other the truth and not a whole lot of explaining goes on."
In closing, Hoffmann is asked to respond to being given the well deserved title of "guitar legend."
"'Legend' is a big word (laughs). I'm flattered when people say that and I'm flattered even more when they say I influenced them, but I just enjoy what I'm doing and try to get better at it. If people enjoy my playing and they like what I do, that's awesome."