Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Accept - Too Mean to Die (2021)

Country: Germany
Style: Heavy Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 29 Jan 2021
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Sometimes these sort of things just happen, but here's the second giant snake cover in two days and a second of three reviews in a row by bands beginning with A. But hey, it's the new Accept; like I wasn't going to leap at this one. I've been an Accept fan about as long as I've been a fan of rock and metal, as I found them at the same time, through The Friday Rock Show in 1984. The first gig I wanted to attend (and wasn't allowed to, on account of being thirteen) was that year's Monsters of Rock with a line-up that I still drool at. Accept, fresh from Balls to the Wall, were on second, after a Shout at the Devil era Mötley Crüe, and before Y&T, Gary Moore, Ozzy Osbourne, Van Halen and headliners AC/DC.

Talking of AC/DC, it isn't Brian Johnson singing for Accept nowadays, even if it often sounds like it. It remains Mark Tornillo, formerly of TT Quick, who's fronted the band ever since their reunion in 2009, which is as long as Udo Dirkschneider did the first time around. Of course, Tornillo channels Udo but he veers so closely to Beano that there are points, especially on the title track, where it sounds like a mashup of the two bands. Not that that's a bad thing, as this album proves.

Obviously, Udo isn't here, but there were three classic era members in the 2009 reunion, Blood of the Nations featuring Wolf Hoffmann, Herman Frank and Peter Baltes. That's gradually whittled down in the years since to just Hoffmann, who continues as lead guitarist as he's done ever since 1976. This is the newest band I think he's ever had, with two debutants here and two others who joined before the prior album, The Rise of Chaos in 2017. Yes, that means six musicians: there are two rhythm guitarists behind Hoffmann, which ought to sound fantastic on stage.

They sound pretty good here too, this being a strong album. Accept albums have traditionally tended towards a formula: a standout opener, a standout title track and a standout closer, with the rest of the album determining how well it'll sit in and amongst the band's discography. Are the songs in between killer or filler? Accept have done both in their time.

Zombie Apocalypse is a decent enough opener here, even if it can't match Fast as a Shark, Balls to the Wall or Objection Overruled. Interestingly, the closer, Samson and Delilah is an instrumental, which I don't recall Accept doing before. Again, it's not a classic closer to follow Princess of the Dawn, Winter Dreams or Bound to Fail but it's still an interesting and memorable one. Where this follows tradition is with the excellent title track, which may well be the best song on this album. It's up tempo and old school and it breezes along effortlessly but effectively.

As to the songs in between, they're closer to killer than filler this time out but a few songs are Accept by numbers, combining the expected solid riff, catchy chorus and nod to classical music with a bunch of powerful backing vocals, but never quite coalescing into anything that stays with us. Fortunately there aren't too many of those and, as always, they tend to be the ones that ditch the emphasis we're expecting from Accept.

The more urgent songs here, whether they're up tempo ones like No Ones Master or Not My Problem or slower ones like The Undertaker or Samson and Delilah, sound great. I particularly enjoyed the old school vibe of The Undertaker, which churns away inexorably. There's a little modern Diamond Head in the quieter sections, those memorable Brian Tatler chords from the opening of The Coffin Train. That song comes to mind in the chorus of No Ones Master too, which is built magnificently and I'm unable to conjure up any better source of influence for anybody in the last few years.

More importantly, these songs feel like the band mean everything that they do, that they are indeed Too Mean to Die and just maybe The Best is Yet to Come, just like they were still young and starting out. Sixteen albums and three reunions in, Accept are still a force to be reckoned with.

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