Herman Frank – Right in the Guts – 3.5/5
Now this is one album I was not expecting. I wasn't even looking for it; after a monolithic return to form with '09s “Loyal to None” and two albums since with his old band Accept, bringing the life back into that project, I assumed his solo project was to be put on hiatus. Yet here we are. The fourth album in as many years; the second in less than 3 months, just in case his hard edged teutonic heavy metal didn't kick you up the ass quite hard enough he's back to finish the job off. The Accept comparison has to be the most obvious element to this – he is their lead guitarist after all – but being entirely of his brainchild there are a couple of fundamental differences. Firstly, there are solo's. Lots of them. Sometimes you'll be listening to this release and realise how many there have been simply because he's stopped shredding and gone back to the main rhythmic section consistently played by a second guitarist, I'm assuming just in case he gets a little carried away and fifteen minutes later realises the vocalist has sat down to a sandwich and he's completely forgotten what the track originally sounded like. There is also melodic, almost rock-like element to the choruses; when he melts your face off for the umpteenth time, he wants you to remember it.
Sadly, the new vocalist doesn't seem quite as up to the task as the last was; he's too monotone, though there is power in his vocal lines by the bucket loads they aren't distinctive enough to truly make tracks stand out on their own rights. Neither is there the variety of composition as his last solo effort, perhaps as a result of putting his best work into Accept, making it less impressive as his other more recent work. The production, too, is rather problematic. It has a deep, thick bass tone reminiscent of his Accept work – more so than his last solo effort – but retains the consistently higher tempo's, and it's just too much. It loses too much treble and makes the solo's less distinctive, the vocals less memorable and the whole album lacking in that 80s sense of biting attack it otherwise strives for (and often accomplishes). When I'm re-mastering the album on my amplifier (25% bass down, 15% treble up seems to work best for me), it isn't a good sign.
Finally, it also seems to be lacking a purpose, and perhaps this is all because he's been spoiling us with his work of late but this release feels a little superficial and... well kinda pointless. His debut solo work was rammed with emotion and versatility; his debut with the renewed Accept, “Blood of the Nations,” was a powerhouse of evil and aggression, a call to arms for anyone willing to listen; the sophomore a concept album about the soul-destroying events of Stalingrad. Here he doesn't seem to have any reason behind the album, but lets be honest, does this man really need a reason? This is not an album that will knock your socks off and no replacement for either of the Accept releases, and it's unreasonable to expect the man to be capable of two of the best albums released this year. But it's still Herman Frank. The Guitar Legend himself. By virtue his presence alone it's still pretty damn good.
Highlights: Roaring Thunder, Starlight, Raise Your Hand