By Mark Gromen
Wow! Why can't all reformations/injections of new singers be so fruitful? The third album since Mark Tornillo joined Accept sees the band uncork the strongest collection of songs since Blood Of The Nations. That second-coming "debut" was bolstered by a "No They Couldn't" pleasant surprise surrounding Tornillo's successful replacement of mainstay Udo Dirkscheider. Here, Mark showcases more singing, not just screaming. Two records on, people know he can do the job, so there's an even more focused examination on the music, not ancillary waves of nostalgia.
The eleven songs, while definitive Accept, are not a carbon copies: no throw-away, "I know what those old guys sound like" album. Increased attention will be directed towards the lyrics (and rightly so), offering a glimpse through seasoned eyes. This is not the myopic "Rock until you drop" vision of Twenty-somethings, shining a light on the dark underbelly with a socially conscious lyrical bent, be it historical ("Trail Of Tears") or science fiction "200 Years", relating two centuries after mankind's downfall/eradication from Earth. There's talk of human trafficking, drug addiction and at least a pair of references to nuclear destruction, to say nothing of "Bloodbath Mastermind". The charging, snorting beast depicted on the cover is a fitting metaphor!
What follows is not intended as a complete review, but rather the random thoughts generated from a single playback. The material warrants further investigation (can't wait to hear it again and repeatedly thereafter). Rest assured, Accept deliver. No bull!
Have you heard the first video/single? A gradual build-up, with slight orchestration kicks into a patented Accept riff. The song features a simple, titular chorus and a sing-song guitar melody all held together by a thumping Peter Baltes bass line. The guitar break is an aggressive run before racing to the finish before Tornillo unleashes a closing, held and accentuated scream.
A mid-tempo, fist thruster that opens with punishing shot of heaviness. The lyrics comprise veiled references to metal albums/songs, including indirect name-checking of Hendrix, Dio/Rainbow, Motorhead and Judas Priest, amongst others. The echoing "Whoa whoa" chorus is employed for the first (but not last) time and the tones in the guitar break are high pitched. "Here's to the rocking warriors To those that have come before us. The last of a dying breed and we salute you."
"Dark Side Of My Heart":
Guitar is the first thing heard, quickly locking into trademark Accept beat. Can almost see the synchronized stage movements! "Tell me your darkest secrets and I'll tell you mine." Sort of a Midnight Mover style. "You know it's tearing me apart. This is the dark side of my heart." Ends with a quick upbeat blast.
"Fall Of The Empire":
Slow, almost sludgy heaviness to begin. More "who whoa" effects and the title phrase chorus utilizes gang vocals, not Tornillo. Lyrically, it's about looking back; "Do you remember when we were proud?" There's reference to a mushroom cloud, before asking, "We'll blow ourselves to Kingdom Come, or is it too late?". There's an almost bluesy guitar break, fitting for the bleak outlook.
"Trail Of Tears":
Storming out of the gates, it's guitar and pumping double bass drums. Lyrics are from the Native American perspective: "What gives you the right to do this? Who are the savages now? Trail of tears, where dreams go to die." Ending punctuated by Mark screaming. At 4:08, shortest tune on the record.
"Wanna Be Free":
Acoustic begun, it's joined by a second unplugged guitar, then an electric, a drum and eventually the full blown band. "No more human trafficking. No more ruined lives" Appropriately, gang vocals are utilized for the "we all wanna be free" tag line. Successive verses deal with powerless individuals: child brides/sex slaves and drug addicts. Song picks up momentum in the break following the second verse, before returning to slower pace to end.
Lively cautionary sci-fi number: "Welcome to the Stone Age. 200 years after mankind. A paradise for no one. No one left to claim." The term "population zero' is delivered in an indistinguishable mechanized voice.
Seemingly ripped from the headlines of American (and unfortunately, with increasing regularity, worldwide) newspapers. Sort of an eerie, unsettling Twilight Zone TV theme intro. Hardest and fastest licks yet! "No one can explain why you took this path. All we can hope is that justice will be paid and you serve out your sentence in Hell." Frenetic guitar dives, courtesy of Wolf Hoffmann, symbolic of a confused brain and then song ends with an abrupt stop, as other met their fate. "You chose the coward's suicide."
"From The Ashes We Rise":
Guitar and hi-hat to start. Mark is nearly a cappella. The main structure is a stomp/strut, dare I say an almost AC/DC shuffle. Destined to be a good crowd sing-along: "We been knocked down. We'll get back up. From the ashes we rise"
Longest tune at 6:29. Begins with guitar, then bass, then drums, each instrument playing a repetitive rhythm, almost like a round (multiple voices on "Row, Row, Row Your Boat"). Mid-tempo, triumphant march throughout, with guitar slicing through, Mark's voice is noticeably higher in the mix: "The curse of being good. The curse of doing right. No more Mr. Nice guy. No more Mr. Right. Should I be like all the others? I'm not complaining about my life. I'll gladly pay the price."
Chugging storm of guitars and cannonading drums. Quick picking and balls out, sort of a "Hung Drawn & Quartered" delivery. Guitars trade licks, only to temporarily relax before ending with a dead stop.
Blind Rage will be released August 15th, via Nuclear Blast Records
(Bottom photo credit: Deaf Music)