Accept – Blood of the Nations – 4/5
With fourteen years behind them since their last studio recording and the hugely disappointing 'Predator;' and with the Udo, the band's vocalist, insisting that it was to be his last time with Accept it would seem that the legendary Heavy Metal band had seen their last days. And indeed, for years that would seem true until late last year when they announced their replacement vocalist and the return of guitar virtuoso Herman Frank, and if history had taught me anything it was not to pass them off unduly; between Anthem's “Black Empire,” Heaven and Hell's phenomenal return and the knock-out solo effort from Frank just last year it would seem that if there was ever a time to make a come-back then this would be it, but sadly it's not quite all it could have been.
I kept waiting for the guitars to give off that kick that would throw me back from my seat; a hard hitting riff that would leave me dumbstruck or a solo that would have me convinced the way that Herman Frank's solo album converted me to a fan in a a single note, but it never truly comes. There are certainly momentous occasions but they often feel too similar, for the production is crisp and the resultant tone is undeniably powerful but all too often it falls into the trap of playing mid-paced, unenthusiastic and overly simplistic power chords with a few palm mutes thrown in, which is only more of a shame when you see the heights they accomplish at other times, when perhaps their mind seems to be more focussed on the matter at hand.
With the departure of the part-troll Udo Dirkschneider with his distinctive voice any newcomer to the throne would have mighty big boots to fill, and newcomer Tornillo is under no illusion of it being anything but. It is his position that has everyone turning their heads and questioning how he could replace their iconic front man, and perhaps most shockingly of all he doesn't do a half bad job of it, roaring with a ferociously hoarse snarl or smoothly sailing for the ballads; the only real complaint is not so much of his abilities but that it isn't quite a perfect fit. It still feels as though he is filling in for Udo rather than making the tracks his own and can often be accused of trying to sound as much like the former front man as much as possible, which for any less of a singer would automatically be a recipe for disaster.
In fact, the only musician I have difficulty finding fault with is the long-standing drummer who still seems to fit like a glove, not taking but a moment to find his groove with the two new additions and pummelling away; finding that simple framework that never feels unsuited or uninteresting, remaining rawly felt yet capable of punching through the instrumentation to make its presence known. A spectacular return from old school heavy metal titans? Unquestionably, but album of the year? That's taking it too far. Blood of the Nations may be their best effort in almost twenty years but this still feels like a warm-up, a practice run for the real thing, and something tells me this new line-up's best work has yet to come.
Highlights: Beat the Bastards, Locked and Loaded, Time Machine