posted on 4/2012 By:
Like most, I was surprised by Accept’s 2010 comeback, and more than pleasantly. Accept sans Dirkschneider had been attempted once, two decades prior and to dismal results, and so I initially approached Blood Of The Nations with some hesitation. And so unsuspecting, I got my head thoroughly knocked in by a kick-ass metal record that ended up as my second favorite album of that year. (That year, Accept lost out to Overkill – that rivalry for my top spot continues this year, with Napalm Death now in the mix. 2012 has been a good one thusfar.) As a result, I approached Stalingrad with no hesitation – with, in fact, quite the opposite of that: This record is one of my most anticipated new releases of the year, and I have to say that, were there any doubts that Accept is back and as strong as ever, Stalingrad is ample proof that the masters can still deliver.
One of Stalingrad’s biggest strengths is that it fits neatly against its predecessor – is literally and effectively the logical continuation of that record’s regeneration of the band’s long-standing good name. It doesn’t trump its elder brother, though it equals it without question, but nor does it feel like a backwards step or like a retread, like Blood Of The Nations, Part 2. It feels like a band just moving along the natural path forward, enjoying their resurgence, capitalizing on their newfound strength and their re-invigoration while keeping one foot firmly rooted in their well-established sound. Parts of it harken back to the band’s earlier efforts, and parts are the next step along the way. Mark Tornillo’s voice fits perfectly, and though he’ll likely forever be plagued by references to Udo, he’s more than proved himself to be a worthy and capable replacement.
Of course, it helps that he’s been given two albums worth of top-notch material with which to prove himself. Generally speaking, Accept isn’t one to offer up musical surprises, their brief and ugly late-80s foray into hair metal notwithstanding – so it’s a good thing when I say that Stalingrad is Accept doing what Accept does, which is to say rocking the hell out with killer and catchy riff-driven trad-metal tunes. Though it’s not quite the one-two home run of Nations’ “Beat The Bastards” and “Teutonic Terror,” the opening tandem of “Hung, Drawn And Quartered” and “Stalingrad” is certainly striking. The former sports some great lead guitar work and a strong vocal hook, whilst the latter stomps along on a killer Wolf Hoffmann riff before dropping into a half-time chorus powered as much by those patent uber-Teutonic backing vocals as by Tornillo’s soaring wail. Beyond the opening salvo, the blistering “Flash To Bang Time” and the driving pair of “Revolution” and the heavy metal rallying cry of “Against The World” are instant highlights, as is the moody “The Galley.” That last tune closes the disc, a seven-minute epic number detailing the plight of slaves (presumably in Greco-Roman days, given the nods to sirens and mermaids), chained to the oars. The guitars fit perfectly in step with Stefan Schwarzmann’s rock-solid drums while the backing vocals chant, “Row! Row!,” and the whole thing ends with a placid instrumental that fades into oblivion…
My only criticism of Stalingrad is a small one, and one that also affected Blood Of The Nations -- both discs could be shortened by a song and be even stronger. The weakest number here, the mid-tempo "Twist Of Fate," could easily be subtracted from Stalingrad with little negative effect. But nevertheless, given the choice between a bit too much and a bit less than what I could possibly have, I will choose the former every time, so take that minor criticism with a microscopic grain of salt. Too much of a good thing is more than good enough.
Whereas Blood was born initially of jam sessions between the American Tornillo and German-born American residents Hoffmann and bassist Peter Baltes, Stalingrad feels more like a band that’s solidified, settled in, (back) together and given new life. Two for two in their new incarnation, Accept has done it again. The masters return and Stalingrad will be the traditional metal album to beat in 2012.
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