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Accept the classics. - 91%

hells_unicorn, March 1st, 2011

Once in a while an album comes out within the metal world that is so profound that it can’t help but garner mainstream curiosity, despite that it wasn’t necessarily seeking it out. There’s always been a subtle interest in a wider audience within the broader realm of hard rock, and the spirit of 80s metal has always kept this same desire, but it’s pretty far removed from pandering. The cliché images put forth by Twisted Sister of pissed off parents shouting “Turn off that noise!!!” are an accurate depiction of how even melodic and easily accessible bands such as Accept, who were being heavily compared to AC/DC at the time, were not tailored for everybody’s ears. This sort of music might seem pretty tame compared to the purposeless profanity found in some popular forms of music today, but for its time it was pretty risqué and subversive.

“Balls To The Wall” is by no means an accidental classic, as with most well renowned albums, it finds its niche within a very basic structure. Udo might throw out some really gut wrenching screams the likes of which would give Brian Johnson pause, there’s a couple of really wild guitar solos that are way too frenzied and complex for any rock band, but this is a band of songwriters, and it shows from start to finish here. At its most complex, 4 separate guitar riffs reliant on a crunchy combination of power chord grooves and maybe an occasional flirtation with Judas Priest oriented speed metal for a song or two. This is an album defined by quality more so than quantity, which generally tended to be the rule before the rapid paced evolution that occurred in the years following this album within the broader metal world.

The common sentiment that Accept’s famed 1983 opus embodies the spirit of the 80s is an accurate one. While Udo does share a common voice character with Bon Scott and a very subtle holdover of 70s influences from earlier days, the combination of anthem-like choruses and a more aggressive guitar tone is right in line with the expanding boundaries propagated by Judas Priest and the ensuing NWOBHM. It definitely tends more towards the former’s paradigm of rock based ideas, and doesn’t venture much into the nimble, bouncing riff work common to Iron Maiden. There’s also occasional flirtations with early 80s glam in some of the acoustic work that pops in towards the closing songs of the album, though largely this is an album based around pounding mid-tempo goodness with a basic beat, a droning bass line, and full focus on the guitars.

Perhaps the most difficult matter in dealing with any classic band with a very consistent record is differentiating between their repertoire, and Accept’s post-1980 material is particularly challenging in this regard. While deserving of all the praise that is heaped upon it, “Balls To The Wall” is something of an album caught in the midst of a glorious time period for the band, lacking the extreme speed of a “Fast As A Shark” or a “T.V. Wars”, and also not quite reaching the arena level triumph of “Metal Heart”. Where this album really gets the job done is catchy songs and signature riffs. It’s no surprise that songs such as the title track and “Turn Me On” received lots of love on the radio at the time, and both songs are widely imitated by German power metal bands to this day. Likewise, faster yet equally catchy numbers like “Losers And Winners” and “Fight It Back” could easily rival equivalent classics heard on “Screaming For Vengeance”.

For all the denigration that the 80s had suffered at the hands of a number of musical outlets, including MTV and Kerrang magazine (both of whom had originally been very supportive of metal bands during the genre’s heyday); most of the best work from that time has maintained its prestige. Beavis and Butthead and all the other brainless caricatures of 90s mainstream culture can rip on these guys to their hearts content, but this is the sort of music that never dies, and the testimony of dozens of bands including Primal Fear, Gamma Ray, and Iron Savior show forth a band and an album that will be influential for decades to come. For the yet to be educated in the fine art of German heavy metal demolition, your sickness can be cured with $12 and a trip to the local music store, provided they’re stocking real stuff like this.