Accept – Stalingrad – 4.5/5
But there can be no surrender
For creed and pride, take hold
Blood is the cry, we'll do or die
Once again the metal titans have returned with what is now their fourteenth release under their belt, but only the second of what should aptly be known as “the second coming.” Coming off the heels of their “Blood of the Nations” tour, energy still high from the overwhelming fan response that it was the greatest comeback album of the year (a notion I should point out, I have little argument against), work began on this before the tour finished. They may be ageing rockers now entering what must be at least their 50s and yet they still possess more energy, passion and creativity than the vast plethora of bands still emerging now, and as though they still needed to prove that point, they deliver on this; a concept album about the battle of Stalingrad from the perspective of the German army; one of the bloodiest battles of the Second World War, and indeed all of history, which if you aren't up to snuff on your history, allow me to fill in a few of the blanks.
Late in 1942, the battle hardened German war machine marched forth into the frozen abyss of the USSR with the intention of conquering and gaining an all-important industrial foothold deep in Russian territory, but the enemy was gravely underestimated. Supply lines becoming ever thinner and causing shortages in food, the temperature rapidly plummeting to sub-zero temperatures, morale amongst the German troops was weakened before they even reached their destination. When they arrived they soon discovered the barbarism of the Russian Army; famously conscripting any man capable of wielding a weapon into service, half given weapons and the rest given the ammunition for it (told to pick whatever you needed from your fallen comrades) and many shot by their own officers for not charging into the machine guns fast enough, none expected to survive. Holding firm fervent in their belief of eventual German victory, they advanced and were constantly beaten back by the fearless and resourceful Russians; reinforcements magnified on both sides to five fold what they once were and air raids from both sides reducing the entire city to smouldering rubble.
To call this a dark time, even for war time Europe, seems like something of an understatement; neither side expected to survive (and indeed, an estimated 1.5 million, plus 99.8% of the cities population perished), and this sense of darkness comes across in the music. There's no question they live up to their Traditional Heavy Metal legacy but there's far more to the music than the insatiable old school aggression that they made known to begin with. There's a tear-jerking emotional undercurrent of the tragedy that they faced; of the enduring bravery and unwavering determination in their objective; of strength in the face of adversity, and the fact they've managed to channel all of this energy into their composition whilst losing nothing of what defines their sound is a feat few artists are capable of.
No longer perhaps feeling the pressure to prove themselves, this second line-up now sound all the more comfortable to vary the pace and increase the versatility in their tracks; no longer does Tornillo permanently try to emulate his predecessor (though there is certainly an undeniable similarity in their styles) but delivers on powerful lines of his own right that should see no fan crying for Udo's return, which just a few years ago would have been unthinkable, and the instrumentation never feels in a permanent rush to fry your face and prove they're still capable. There's a new element at play in their composition; a twisted, militant precision to the guitar lines, the bombastic drumming powering ahead like the drums of war, and through it all the solo's have never felt more poignant; the chorus' lines never failing to make their mark. Equal to the best they've ever done; it seems oddly fitting that they would release this just a few days before Easter as now there can be no doubt, from the ashes these metal gods have risen up once again to rule the world.
Highlights: Hellfire, Shadow Soldiers, Galley