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“They Fought Hard to Get it Right… and They Did.” - 100%

bayern, May 2nd, 2019

If I ever come across a visiting Martian, or a recently unearthed Neanderthal, and they ask me, “What’s heavy metal? What does it sound like?”, this will be one of the first, if not even the very first album I will hand them…

but first things first: the “Kaizoku-Ban” concert was the first metal cassette I possessed, half an hour of the best live heavy metal ever produced. It was some time in 1986, and Accept were pretty much the most famous metal act in Bulgaria; you could hear their music from literally everywhere: houses, cars, beaches, classrooms, offices, toilets… even the dogs on the streets were barking “Accept!” enthusiastically for a while, banging their heads with reckless abandon. The non-metal listeners felt obliged to add at least one Accept recording to their collection if they didn’t want to lose face and generate diatribes and scornful comments from the rest of the world… naturally, I got a hold of the album reviewed here mere months after the mentioned concert, and after all these years it remains one of the ten finest recordings to enter my household.

1986 was an interesting year; the big dinosaurs of heavy metal all decided to make some (slight) cosmetic alterations in order to capture the imagination of larger crowds, not only the American ones, mind you, like it was the universally accepted notion at the time. The Scorps passed on this campaign as they were still busy conquering the world, but the others came out with new opuses, all of them pretty decent showings, each in their own way: Tony Iommi released the introspective non-Sabbath, but fairly compelling “Seventh Star”; Judas forgot about church… sorry, freewheel burnings and jaw breakers, and settled for a cheesy radio-friendly, but impossibly catchy approach on “Turbo”; Maiden took a mellower, but almost equally as effective more ambitious, progressive direction with “Somewhere in Time”; and our friends here decided to play “Russian Roulette” with the audience which they had long since won for their cause, and not only in Bulgaria…

I’m still not sure whether all those more or less mild stylistic shifts were caused by the European brotherhood’s intention on matching the colossal commercial success of their US brethren Twisted Sister, Motley Crue, Quiet Riot, and to a lesser extent, W.A.S.P. I very seriously doubt that they were trudging far behind the mentioned American batch in terms of profits… no, that was hardly the main reason, and it’s not really that important right now what that reason was. What matters is that these adjustments brought “Russian Roulette” to life, and I can’t be any more grateful to them for that.

Mentioning changes, Accept were the ones who didn’t have to drastically alter the scenery with too many newly acquired tools; “Metal Heart” was already catchy and commercialized enough, largely for the better than for the worse. What had to happen, we’re talking changes after all, was the guys to add a more belligerent vibe to the established radio-friendly delivery, the one familiar from their early-80’s exploits. Easier done than said and here we go, savouring by far the finest combination of rowdy fast-paced hymns and softer pop-metal mentality (sorry, “Blackout”) ever produced, and one that can’t possibly be beaten, not in this, not in any other lifetime…

“TV War” is a most striking spontaneous, most compulsively headbanging opener, ranking right beside similar hyper-active introductions like “Aces High”, “Freewheel Burning”, and “Blackout”, a speed metal neck-sprainer second to none that will bring the fans right back to the times of the restless and the wild. A grand fiery opening that can’t possibly be followed by anything less than exquisite which in this particular case comes in the form of a “Monster Man”, the genre given in its concise essence, 3.5-min of bouncy razor-sharp guitars, passionate semi-animalistic vocals, screamy virtuoso leads, and a superb memorable chorus. That’s it; game over, nice meeting you… heavy metal dissected and perfected; there’s not much more to add...

nah, there’s more to come after this “monster” the guys embracing their softer, more mainstream side with the anthemic rousing title-track and the brilliant poignant semi-ballad “It's Hard to Find a Way” the latter sentiment missing from the “Metal Heart”, but here fitting like a glove. More firing on full-throttle later with the perennial moshers “Aiming High” and “Another Second to Be” the latter featuring some of the greatest lead sections in metal history; Wolf Hoffmann literally wrote his name with capital letters across the sky on this one, making everyone realize why a wizard of such proportions can’t possibly belong to small labels like Shrapnel and the likes. With the shadow of sentimentality, and perhaps a bit of nostalgia, looming heavily all over, one can smile condescendingly on lengthy semi-balladic epicers like “Heaven Is Hell” which overstay their welcome a bit, but surrounded by the two abovementioned speedsters this sleeper still works fine, setting the tone for the more anthemically executed crowd-pleasers “Walking in the Shadow” and “Man Enough to Cry” which will prick your subconscious with some of the catchiest choruses ever this side of “Love Bites” and “Rock You Like a Hurricane”.

I don’t listen to this album anymore… I don’t cause I know it so well that I can produce it mentally from the first to the last note; in fact I’m headbanging wildly on “Aiming High” at the moment, it’s all around my head. “Aiming high indeed”, and an aim very well hit cause after this colossal achievement there was nowhere for the guys to go. If they ever came close to emulating the success of their compatriots Scorpions, it was on the album here. What could have possibly happened for them to be able to beat it? Nothing; literally. Playing Russian roulette is always a risky endeavour, but in the Accept case it paid off so handsomely that it became ultimately redundant for the band to try and produce something even very remotely similar to it later; every other album sustained in the same spirit was going to be, always unfavourably, compared to it (just remember the three efforts from the 90’s reunion period). Advocates of true heavy metal? Yes, by all means; glam metal was running rampant, thrash was getting bigger and bigger by the day, but the audience was glued to this addictive game of Russian roulette, not showing any overt enthusiasm in attending theatres of pain, checking their (metal) health, pretending to control puppets behind the curtains, or exposing themselves to merciless blood rain.

Under the circumstances “Eat the Heat” wasn’t such a big mistake probably; yes, it was hard to find a way out of the Russian roulette game, but as an eventual, also necessary, exit from it this opus did work… I guess. Even if the guys had ever entertained the thought of entering the speed/thrash wave in the late-80’s, without UDO the “Animal” adding his apocalyptic contribution to the potential music melee that was practically impossible… so the glam/pop metal roster remained the only option, with UDO left to raise the old Accept flag with his own band. Has he managed to touch this magnum opus here at least with a single finger, though? No, not really; not even after all the animal houses, mean machines, and time machines… sorry, bombs he has built through the years. Still, there should be at least one more bullet left in the gun… let’s wait; after all,

“they fought hard to get it right, for an eternity of delight.”