The German band Accept was one of the best heavy metal bands of the early ‘80s, but given that this album came out in 1979 they’re not quite there yet. Udo Dirkschneider’s unholy shriek lacks the forceful authority of later releases, the songwriting is hit and miss, and the band obviously lacked a production budget. Still, songs such as “Lady You,” “Tired Of Me,” “Take Him In Your Heart,” and “Hellraiser” are catchy enough in that cheap, cheesy early ‘80s metal kind of way, and I like the overall aggression and hard hitting riffs from Wolf Hoffman and Jan Kommet on “Free Me Now” and “That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll,” generic though they both are despite drummer Frank Friedrich being especially impressive on the latter. Bassist Peter Baltes actually sings “Seawinds” and “Sounds Of War,” the former a decent “power ballad” with a pretty harmonized guitar solo, the latter a glaring example of the band barely being able to hold things together, especially towards the end. Some soulful guitars and an authoritative Udo vocal make the mid-tempo "Glad To Be Alone" worth mentioning as well, and the scalding guitar grooves of "Street Fighter" somewhat makes up for its annoying chorus. Overall, there are no classics here but few if any flat-out stinkers, either, as Accept was a consistent band even in their infancy. Still, the band had yet to solidify their increasingly powerful sound or their no-holds-barred heavy metal vision, and when all is said and done what’s perhaps most memorable about this tentative but promising debut album is its cover, which features a woman with a strategically placed chainsaw...
I am a Rebel (Razor ‘80) Rating: B-
After an encouraging debut, this skimpy 8 song follow up definitely saw the band taking a few steps backwards. For one thing, this album has two decent at best ballads ("No Time To Lose" and "The King") and (gasp!) a disco metal rewrite of Kiss' "I Was Made For Loving You" called "I Wanna Be No Hero," as the album has more unpleasant diversions and less getting down to business. New drummer Stefan Kaufmann is an upgrade from Friedrich, the sound is cleaner and more professional, and Udo's higher-pitched (Brian Johnson-esque) vocals are more distinctive, but the cheese factor is much higher this time out. That said, the cheesy chorus of "Thunder And Lightning" is pretty catchy at least, and the DUMB chorus of "Do It" is at least accompanied by screaming riffs and a galloping groove I can appreciate. "Save Us" rocks hard and has a good wah wah guitar solo from Wolf, but the album's two best songs are the leadoff title track, whose cheesy, fun chorus is easy to shout along with, and "China Lady," which has powerful, propulsive riffs and Udo in fine glass shattering form. Overall, this album is just too hit and miss, and even the hits are seriously flawed, as Accept's attempt at a more diversified, commercial sound was an ill-advised strategy.
Breaker (Razor ‘81) Rating: A-
Accept's most underrated album is a minor classic that saw the band arrive at "the next level," with a solidified, straightforward heavy metal sound and more consistent if not quite totally all the way there songwriting. Udo enters his evil prime, with fierce screeches and malevolent barks that fall somewhere between an unholy Brian Johnson/Rob Halford hybrid (the latter in more ways than one considering band’s allegedly gay lyrics, but more about that later), and the music now has the razor sharp teeth of a T. Rex, as riffs gleam and glisten in that technically precise, hard-hitting German way (think vintage Scorpions). You gotta love the great harmonized guitar solo on "Starlight," as well as the fast, galloping groove and shouted chorus of the title track. "Run If You Can" chugs along all nasty attitude, with another smokin' Wolf solo, and even the ballads work this time, "Can't Stand The Night" being a moody power ballad that actually is powerful, and "Breaking Up Again" (sung by Baltes) being genuinely moving. Of course, this is Accept, so it's the rocking riffs and chugging grooves that really count, and on that front the ever-so-subtle "Son Of A Bitch" is a "fuck you song" that AC/DC would be proud to call their own. The speedy, '50s-styled "Burning" is a bit generic songwriting-wise but boasts about ten times the energy and explosiveness of previous albums, likely bolstered by improved talent behind the mixing desk, as Michael Wagener would go on to become a major player in '80s hard rock. "Feelings" is a slower stomper with a bluesy Wolf solo and a fist-pumping message ("and we'll rock 'n' roll forever"), while "Midnight Highway" is a brighter hued driving anthem that, had an influential radio programmer had a sense of timing or adventure, easily could've joined AC/DC's "Highway To Hell" and Judas Priest's "Head Out To The Highway" as highway-themed hits. Perhaps the song could be described as "cheesy," but it's also melodic and memorable, and by and large Breaker is a cheese free platter compared to the prior two albums. "Down And Out" ends the proceedings with Udo again in fine form, and though perhaps the chorus plods a bit, this and other minor imperfections elsewhere just gave the band something even loftier to shoot for the next time out.
Restless And Wild (Portrait ‘83) Rating: A
Breaker was really good, but it was Restless And Wild, Accept's first international release, that brought the band their first taste of significant success, and it's a classic all around effort that remains the band's best. Breaker had some great songs, but no all-time great metal monuments like "Fast As The Shark" and "Princess Of The Dawn," and overall this album is just a bit more ambitious, innovative, and major label sounding. "Fast As The Shark," with its goofy beginning and explosive assault thereafter (though its chorus is surprisingly melodic and singable), obviously influenced songs such as Metallica's "Fight Fire With Fire" and is an early thrash touchstone. The breakneck pace, melodic harmonized solos (Wolf handled all the guitar parts on the album), and precise, powerful rhythms are metal as it's meant to be, and the title track continues with that classic power metal gallop accompanied by a fist-pumping chorus and a wicked Wolf solo. Doing a song-by-song inventory makes no sense, actually, as this is an extremely consistent album with lots of memorable chugging riffs and catchy shout along choruses that stick, so instead I'll just briefly mention significantly different (no, variety is not the point of this album, kicking your ass is) songs that stand out. "Neon Nights" is a superbly atmospheric 6-minute epic that borrows from Black Sabbath's similarly named song, with Wolf layering impressively blues guitar parts all over the place. Even better is "Princess Of The Dawn," another 6-minute masterpiece on which a single monotone riff is used to mesmerizing effect. It takes talent to take such simple ingredients, stretch them out to that extent, and still make it work so well; the riff had better be good, and boy this one is. But almost everything Accept tries on this classic album is a success (ok, maybe a couple of songs are less than stellar, but only a couple), as these Teutonic metal titans stake their claim as legitimate heavy metal Hall Of Famers.
Balls To The Wall (Portrait ’84) Rating: A-
Look at that awful album cover. Then consider some of this album’s risqué lyrics ("Love Child" is supposedly about a bisexual street hustler) and you’ll see where the “Accept are gay” connotations came from. Too bad all the lyrics for this album and every Accept album thereafter were penned by the band’s female manager Gaby Hauke (as Deaffy), but at least the press had a good time with it for a while there. Anyway, none of that matters, Accept was never about lyrics, and once again the music on this album is impressive, with Hermann Frank joining Wolf as the band’s second guitarist. This is the band’s most famous album and is often cited as their “masterpiece,” and certainly the title track, with its unforgettable chanted chorus, is an all-time metal classic, but overall I’d rate the album as Accept’s second best studio creation. Consisting almost entirely of mid-tempo stompers (school of Brian Johnson-era AC/DC), the album is a bit more generic sounding than the past two, with an increased pop quotient and a little less sense of adventure. That said, there are plenty of heavy grooves, steely Euro-riffs, and memorable shouted choruses (occasionally unintentionally funny in the best Spinal Tap tradition; see “Losers and Winners”) on what is another enjoyably hard-hitting package by a band in their prime. “Losing More Than You’ve Ever Had” and “Guardian Of The Night” are atmospheric efforts that perhaps are a tad too ‘80s (i.e. cheesy), while the biker anthem "London Leatherboys" and the aforementioned “Love Child” catch Accept at their catchiest, and the album’s lone speedster, “Fight It Back,” is a scorcher, with arguably Udo’s best scream on record. Man, it really helps to have a great singer, and elsewhere Udo elevates some unremarkable material, though by and large these are really good songs too (gotta dig the gothic touches throughout as well, again most memorably on the title track). Balls To The Wall may be slightly overrated by some and sound dated in spots, but if you put this album on and crank it up (preferably accompanied by your beer of choice) those fondly remembered junior high school memories will flood right on by (at least if you’re in my mid-40s age group and were an unabashed metalhead way back when this album was released).
Metal Heart (Portrait ’85) Rating: B+
A notch down but only slightly so, as this album is pretty ass kicking for a so-called sellout. Well, I suppose “Screaming For A Love-Bite” is an obvious bid for a hit, but it’s catchy as hell, and though “Midnight Mover” (I can still vividly remember its dizzying video) could likewise be called “pop metal,” it’s good pop metal with a bit of a bite. Elsewhere, “Up To The Limit” and “Too High To Get It Right” are carried by Udo’s patented shriek and some shouted choruses, while Stefan Kaufmann ’s blistering drum assault elevates “Wrong Is Right.” The problem with the album is that the band are starting to sound a bit too one-note and formulaic at this point, and the songs on what used to be side two are less memorable on the whole, though “Living For Tonight” (with Udo in prime “get the f**k out of my way” form) and “Bound To Fail” (which has an epic feel) in particular still sound good. The title track is classic Accept. Great riff? Check. Galloping groove? Check. Chanted chorus? Check. Gothic overtones? Check, particularly on the intro. Good guitar solo? Check. All the necessary elements are there, and Accept ambitiously integrates some classical music (Tschaikovsky, Beethoven) and surprisingly prescient lyrics for good measure. Still, I suppose that that’s the album’s only no-doubt-about-it classic track, and chinks in Accept’s armor were beginning to show, with some of the band wanting to return to the raw roots of Restless And Wild and others wanting to further mainstream their sound in a bid to break the U.S. market. Neither quite happened on this album (it was their most popular album after Balls but it still only hit #94 on the U.S. charts), but perhaps this constant tug and pull took its toll and sapped their inspiration somewhat, if only slightly.
Russian Roulette (Portrait ’86) Rating: B
Stagnation starts to set in, as this is more of the same only less fresh, though by and large it’s still high quality stuff. There are quite a few solid songs here, most on the first side, such as “T.V. War,” a deluxe speed rocker that gets the album off to a rousing start, and “Monsterman,” which is an atmospheric, amusing, and rocking follow-up. Like several songs here, the title track is a tad too reminiscent of “Balls To The Wall,” but at least it likewise has a memorable chanted chorus, and “Aiming High” is a definite standout, with a catchy chanted chorus (so what else is new?), rocking guitar (ditto), and pounding rhythms (yep). Unfortunately, “It’s Hard To Find A Way” is a weak power ballad, and the Gothic choruses that appear throughout are at times cartoonishly goofy, never more so than on “Walking In The Shadow,” which at least still has crunchy riffs. The same can’t be said for “Man Enough To Cry,” a silly throwaway pop song that’s way too sensitive for these guys, and the 7-minute attempted epic “Heaven Is Hell” is also significantly flawed, with too much “moody” down time in addition to its borrowed melodies and Spinal Tap-ish vocals. Better is “Another Second To Be,” which is basically Accept-by-numbers but lacking any of the obvious weak spots that brings this album down several pegs, though again if you’re a longtime fan you’ll still find a fair amount of stuff to like here. It’s hardly the place to start, however.
Staying A Life (Epic ’90) Rating: A-
After a disastrous Accept album without Udo (Eat The Heat), who turned his attention to his U.D.O. project (whose debut Animal House was ironically written by members of Accept) came this excellent live album consisting of earlier performances. Currently only available in the U.S. as an import, Staying A Life features a strong 15-song set list and powerful performances and is therefore worth the import price. Songs such as “Breaker” and “Fast As A Shark” can in retrospect be seen as early thrash numbers, but the band also had catchy choruses in store on “Screaming For A Love-Bite” and “Love Child.” On “Princess Of The Dawn,” an obvious crowd favorite that's not quite as inspired as its studio incarnation, a simple riff again propels the song forward for 7 surging minutes, while clumsy but catchy chants (a band trademark) mark tough-as-nails tracks such as “Metal Heart,” “Restless And Wild,” "Son Of A Bitch," “London Leatherboys,” and "Balls To The Wall" (here stretched out past 10 minutes). Some excessive guitar solos and crowd participation aside, this stellar live showcase works as a nice “best of” album for this ever-underrated ensemble.
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