Accept - Stalingrad: Brothers In Death
2012 Nuclear Blast Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
I consider myself an open-minded individual and don't mind being proven wrong if I suspect something amiss at face value. Still, there are few things I give a genuine pass to, in particular with music. Wolfgang Van Halen gets a pass in place of Michael Anthony on A Different Kind of Truth because Wolfie went the extra mile to prove himself and to prove his sire's faith in him. Blasphemous as it may be to many power metal fans to say, goddammit, I'm giving Mark Tornillo more than just a pass.
For the most part, Accept 2.0 has been well, accepted by the metal community. Face the facts, everybody; Udo Dirkschneider is a legend and he is to Accept what David Lee Roth is to you-know-who. Let me tell you something, though. I've sat down with both Udo and Wolf Hoffmann in recent years and though I cued neither gentleman, there remains an undercurrent of angst expressed by both parties that doesn't look to be resolved anytime soon. Never say never, of course, but in the meantime, Dirkschneider continues to steamroll ahead with U.D.O. while Accept have staged one hell of a comeback in the new millennium. To whom do they owe this rousing resurge?
Some people still cannot give poor Derrick Green of Sepultura a break despite the fact his stay at the mike well exceeds Max Cavalera's. Sepultura stays relevant in large part because of Green's energy, much as Accept has benefited from the gunslinging enthusiasm of Mark Tornillo. 2010's Blood of the Nations was a wonderful howdy-do for Wolfmann, Tornillo and company but the proving factor Tornillo is no fluke and no scab comes this year with Stalingrad: Brothers in Death.
I'm telling you right now there is no way Accept would sound this urgent and excited with Udo in the band. Tornillo's range, his broader pitches and best of all, his never-say-quit attitude has left a monster imprint upon Accept and if you care about power metal the way it should sound, then cut Tornillo some slack if you haven't already. Accept, for the second album in a row, comes to play on Stalingrad and you might say the subtitle ought to instead be Russian Roulette Redeemed.
Still fast as a shark on "Hung, Drawn and Quartered," "Flash to Bang Time" and "Quick and the Dead," Accept hearken the old days with Stefan Schwarzmann's pounding velocity, Wolfmann and Frank Herman's sparkling guitar solos, low end thunder from Peter Baltes and commanding delivery out of Mark Tornillo's confident pipes. Once in awhile you might catch him nailing some of Udo's high altos, but mostly Tornillo remains his own man and Accept flies alongside him. Watch them play live together if you have further doubts.
Stalingrad is probably best considered a quasi concept album through its banging title song in tandem with the marching "Hellfire," "Shadow Soldiers," "Revolution" and "Against the World." Tornillo growls harmoniously about carrying a fire inside one's heart in the name of freedom (i.e. the Russian Revolution) on "Shadow Soliders." Academics aside, this is as much a message about Accept as a band and where they're at right now. The fire blazes inside their Teutonic (and American) hearts and whereas 1986's Russian Roulette had more than a few shortcomings due to in-house separatism, Stalingrad is expelled from an undivided front professing unity. Hard not to notice the duality at work here. The cool swagger of "Twist of Fate" is full-on declaration this incarnation of Accept is more than comfortable with themselves. You can't teach that kind of camaraderie; it's natural and then fostered.
There are very few moments of serenity on Stalingrad. It's as methodic and loud as its subject matter but hardly cold. As with Blood of the Nations, the songwriting is crisp and memorable. Okay, we likely won't have another "Balls to the Wall" or "Screaming For a Love Bite," but we don't need Accept to re-commercialize. They're damned good as they are and you're not going to find too many competitors who can stand up to the sheer force of "Galley," much less the precise axis tilt of "Flash to Bang Time."
If there's anything left to be said about why Mark Tornillo should or should not be fronting Accept, listen to this album and then go back to Objection Overruled and Russian Roullete. Moments of goodness on each, but it's beyond obvious why Tornillo deserves to stay at the helm of a heavy metal juggernaut hitting stride at the perfect time.