Friday, January 6, 2017

LET THEM EAT METAL #5: Balls to the Wall by Accept (German Heavy Metal with big... bravado!)

Yes, that's the title art.  I can't make this up.

In the days of yore, when pop music meant something, it was filled with nourishing musical ideas and showed the tides of progress.  But then something happened, the ability for it to fill our soul has nearly vanished, and the masses are starved on good music.  There’s the occasional quality track that stays good after multiple spins, but it has gotten to the moment where even good pop music gets stale.  We live in a white-bread world in mainstream music.  However, there’s salvation from the drek that the masses need to know about.  In the words of Marie Antoinette, or more accurately The Rods quoting her: “LET THEM EAT METAL!”

Hello degenerates, heathens, weirdos, and deviants.  I am the Rock Otaku, and I’m here to show you worlds such as hard rock, metal, punk, alternative rock, movies, TV, anime, video games, and anything that makes us scream, shout, and show the sign of victory.

This series is dedicated to the best that heavy metal can offer.  As you will read, I will take you on a journey though the annals of heavy metal’s storied history from its beginning in early 70s, its crystallization in the late 70s and early 80s, its breakthrough into mainstream conscience in the early to mid-80s, its maturation in the late 80s and 90s, its dominance (sort of) in the 2000s and even today, and the rare moments that very few talk about unless in the company of like-minded fans.  Not in that order, but I’ll be looking at the footnotes oh metal history in the order I desire.  In short, this series is about metal, plain and simple.

Today, I am going to make a review that includes enough references to Kämpfer, Fist of the North Star, and One Piece to cause manliness, a thirst for Oktoberfest brews, and a possible desire to call your girlfriend.  But that okay, because we are going to be talking about a band that comes from one of the biggest markets for heavy metal in the world: Germany.  With their original barbaric origins, hardcore fairy tales, crazy drinking rituals, their tales of Krampus, and being ground zero for the metal subgenre that would be known as melodic power metal, Deutschland is very metal.  So metal that two of the most iconic rock bands of all time, both internationally known and beloved, would have their genesis in the German hills: Scorpions and Accept.  The former being the band who started in the 70s as the launching pad for Michael Schenker and Uli Jon Roth as renowned guitar virtuosos, then broke through in the 80s to have a string of hits.  The latter also started in the 70s, had a few albums, then broke through in the 80s and became international superstars and a massive influence on heavy metal and hard rock for years to come as well.  This is about the band who didn’t record “Rock You Like a Hurricane” (sorry casuals).

As for Accept, they consisted of Udo Dirkschneider on vocals, Wolf Hoffmann and Herman Frank on guitar, Peter Baltes on bass, and Stefan Kaufmann on drums.  If you’d think that their names are too German, then you are new to Teutonic heavy metal (we are going to have some fun once we get to Helloween, Blind Guardian, and Edguy).  As for the band, they started with their self-titled debut album in early 1979 after over 10 years of activity, then they released their second album I’m a Rebel in 1980, which has never gotten any good words.  But then they released Breaker in 1981, which not just showed what they were capable of, but was their first good album.  After that was Restless and Wild in 1982, which is arguably the first ever speed metal album ever conceived (both are going to get reviews in the future).  With the acclaim they received from their last two albums and the influence of their manager Gaby Hauke aka. Deaffy, the released their third opus Balls to the Wall in late 1983, enough to be considered a 1984 album (especially in the US).

As for my initial thoughts and story about this album, there’s not really much outside of morbid curiosity.  Specifically, the fact that I’ve only heard snippets of it before reviewing the entire album front to back.  The only track I’ve heard from beginning to end is the title track.  Plus, I’m sure I know how to play said track on guitar, so that should mean something.  But from what I’ve heard from Accept, both from this album and from others, I can agree that they kick some serious ass.  They are the Kenshiro of the traditional heavy metal foursome (the most straightforward, potent, and badass).  They will do this to your car if any of them have experience in engineering:
In short, they live up to their recent song “Teutonic Terror.”  They are in the business of rocking out so hard that the wimps and posers don’t have to leave the hall (they run from it).  They are a band that is not just affected by Night Howlers, but they love the savage feeling, regardless of how commercial they can get.  But if there’s a reason to not just respect these krauts, but adore them and worship at their altar, it’s their anthemic nature.  No matter how brutal they get, once you’re hooked, you will have the urge to chant out their lines of comradery, badassery, manliness, and revolution.  Plus, having a bunch of your hits being written by your manager, who also happens to be the wife of one of the guitarists, is a bonus for allowing a different perspective on you molten hot metal.  In short, Accept kicks ass, and they kick loads of ass.  That Kenshiro analogy earlier was perfect in describing their sonic attack.  And this is their best-selling album.

Want to know why?  Let’s dive in:

1.        Balls to the Wall:

Yes, I’m also uploading the video (this is because the video uses a shorter mix)
So why is this song such a classic?  Is it because of its homoerotic title, or because it describes the band’s sound as well as “Fast as a Shark” and “Teutonic Terror”?  Is it because it’s probably the ultimate example of quality mid-tempo commercial metal?  Whatever the case, it’s because it’s a catchy, heavy, manly song about oppression, then rising up to kick some ass.  How?  That opening riff is the stuff of legends, using a very manly, rough chord structure that gives off a marching-feel.  The verses deal with being put down, and Udo warning the oppressors that their end will come when the oppressed had enough and have a thirst for blood.  Then you get to the pre-chorus, where Udo screams how the damned, oppressed, and enslaved should be feared when they make their stand.  Then the chorus hits you with its repeat of the title, a savage riff that cuts like a razor, and a tight rhythm section that continues the marching feel, which ends into the next verse, then the face-melting guitar solo.  Said solo concludes with a melodic line (that’s later a harmonized line between Wolf and Herman) paired with the chanting in the background, which goes from a revolutionary melody into “Balls to the Wall!” in that trademark German manner that also gave us Felidae (the book and the animated feature, look it up).  Paired with that is Udo speaking about how he’d rebel in this case before screaming “SIGN OF VICTORY!” while going into the final pre-chorus and chorus.  However, there’s a sort of homoerotic, men-together-in-arms vibe to this that doesn’t exactly feel that manly due to the oppressive nature of the track before the explosion of bravado and rebellion.  Geez, it’s not as if this song was written by a woman, right?  As for the video, it ends with this beauty of a scene:
Any Miley Cyrus comparisons that you can make have already been done in 2013, and they may be met with this:
Or admit that meme is stale!

2.        London Leatherboys:
With its bouncy intro, it segues into a heavy riff that reeks of manliness and intensity.  Then you get into Udo Dirkschneider belting about a group of bikers that he stumbles upon.  Yes, bikers.  Not what you were thinking, but that’s what the band says.  With themes of comradery, brotherhood, community, and riding into the night with style, Accept hit hard with this mid-tempo rocker dedicated to the motorcycle enthusiasts of London (no werewolves here.).  The drums are on target, the riffs, as I’ve mentioned, slay, the bass is thick, and the vocal delivery is both laden with bravado and masculinity.  The lyrics detail the titular riders and their recurring nightlives.  Plus, that chorus is something that has a commercial quality that also provides an excellent battle chant.  And those guitar solos, with one of them being short, provide the motorbike-ready furor.  Overall, this is one great song for easy riding.  Though, considering the title, I could this being Jin Kisaragi’s theme when riding those icecycles (or ice cars).  I wonder what brand he prefers:
Yeah, this song’s definitely written by a woman.

3.        Fight It Back:
Well, this song starts savagely.  To describe how savage, think of the last two songs’ more mid-tempo grooves being them controlling the band’s natural instincts.  Enter this song, and they fall victim to the Night Howlers.  Essentially, the band goes savage, and this song is proof of that.  With Udo’s angry delivery in the verses telling people to fight back, then the vocal interlays loaded with screaming, it gives off a brutal tone.  It’s as if this is Udo here:
Adding to the intensity is the intense guitar work, the thick bass, and the pounding, double-bass enhanced, drums.  Each riff alternates between giving the rhythm section some time to shine, taking the lead, and launching into the savage guitar solo.  Man these guitar solos are reasons why Wolf and Herman need to be up there in the top metal guitar duos of all time, including K.K. and Glenn, Dave and Adrian, James and Kirk, Dave and Marty, Jeff (RIP) and Kerry, and so on.  Plus, hearing double bass drum work from the band that codified its purpose alongside Motorhead is a massive bonus.  For the lyrics, detailing the need to fight back, I consider the possibility that this song may have been written by a woman, but the rest of the band offered a manly delivery that evokes this:
Like a true man.

4.        Head Over Heels:
Starting with a sleazy bassline, the song jumps into a killer riff that leads into this devilish rocker.  Dealing with lust, which I’m sure would be the band in this scenario…
This song shows Udo at his most vunerable when dealing with a really hot woman (the band is straight, just to clarify for those that think the band swings for the other team), and how it drives him mad.  As a result, or because the band doesn’t chant the chorus with their short-statured frontman, the band decides to go for a mid-tempo groove, the kind that would be used by other bands that Michael Wagner would produce for *cough*Dokken*cough*.  Speaking of Michael Wagner and his association with metal, the guitars, as I’ve mentioned, crunch and cut through the song like your love interest when they learn you used dirty photos of them to bargain for Dragon Balls, the bass is thick, and the drums are steady, pounded in an orderly fashion, given a groove.  Plus, there are some awesome guitar solos that show some of Wolf and Herman’s classical leanings.  Overall, this song is fantastic, and it would go great when you’re using music to describe Sanji’s personality.  Who knew a woman’s touch would allow for an interesting rocker.

5.         Losing More Than You’ve Ever Had:
Speaking of Dokken, this is where I’m sure they got the idea for “Burning Like a Flame.”  As for this song on its own, the song’s opening riff is pure mid-tempo pop metal savagery (not to say this song is pop metal, but it may have inspired aspects of it and it’s pretty commercial).  Once that riff gives a sense of the song’s tempo, the bass and drums kick in, adding to this song’s commercial sound, then you get the vocals from Udo.  Dealing with the aftermath of a breakup, the lyrics are from the point of view of a friend of the listerner who just managed to hook up with your girlfriend after you abandoned her.  Now that she’s with this other person, you are now the one who’s suffering.  In short, this is the result of a Saibaman attack:
And as a result, Bulma went with Vegeta, and now Accept is telling poor Yamcha how he lost more than he ever had (and it wasn’t much after the Tenkaichi Budokai beforehand).  To add to this, Udo gives off manly charisma when telling the listener the news.  While, there aren’t a lot of guitar pyrotechnics here, outside of a short, tasteful guitar solo, you get a savage bridge after the third chorus.  In short, this is a great radio-friendly tune from these German saiyans and a great close to side 1, all to lyrics that give of the sense that it was written by the woman that dumped the listener.  Poor Yamcha.

6.        Love Child:
Starting with side 2, and I think I found Honjo Kamatari’s theme song.  With its power metal riff and slightly faster beat, Udo belts out this rocker from the point of view from a homosexual man (though some lyrics might give the impression of transgenderism in this man), but despite his different sexuality, he considers himself a “Love Child.”  As a result, Udo sings the song in two forms, belting, and crooning, the former when singing about who the subject is, and the latter when dealing with lust for the same sex.  Yeah, this is the gayest song on the album, one with the cover being a close up of a man’s hairy leg, with the added image of his hand clenching a ball or two (and I thought Judas Priest were flaming, their singer is gay).  Despite that, let me remind you that the whole band, especially the lineup that recorded this, is STRAIGHT!  I’ll explain why later, but let me get to the instrumentation.  The guitars are damn fine like a gender bender here, with fast, aggressive riffs, a classically inspired, tasteful solo, and several catchy licks and riffs.  The bass is thick, of course, and the drums keep this ode to non-straightness straight on course.  Overall, this is a great song, and the there is a reason for it registering on the gaydar.  IT.  WAS.  WRITTEN.  BY.  A.  WOMAN!
Imagination is a key here.

7.        Turn Me On:
Any reference to the David Guetta song of the same name will not be made here.  This is a classy blog.  Well, one that is likely to reference Shimoneta and any sort of random ecchi anime or manga that isn’t Shimoneta.
Okay, Okay Zoro, I’ll review this track.
Like with most of the previous tracks, this rocker starts with a two-chord-sounding riff that screams mainstream metal.  Then the bass and drums kick in with a mid-tempo groove that leads into the vocal performance.  Here, Udo sings about being around a really hot chick and demanding her to get him all hot and bothered.  Essentially, he wants her in his arms and later in the throngs of love.  But she needs to do it now or he’ll explode, and in this case, I’m sure that he’s referring to blowing his load before their embrace.  And this needs to be done now.  I’m sure that if I went further, this would end up being VERY R-Rated, so I’ll get to the rest of the instrumentation.  After that riff, there’s a lot of sustained notes on the guitars, especially during the chorus, and we get some wild guitar solos, each with some neo-classical leanings and harmonizations.  The bass is thick, keeping up with the pace of this track.  Then you get the drums, where the basic tones keep this song from getting too crazy or sloppy.  Essentially, the beat is sufficient.  Overall, this is a very sexy song that I’m sure David Guetta and Nikki Minaj would kill to have written.  Well, it was written by a woman with more class than that overrated Lil Wayne prodigy (as much as Drake).
Is it because I dissed Drake, or is because I didn't diss him as badly?

8.        Losers and Winners:
Okay, so I made two visual Kämpfer references, so I’ll try to bring Kenshiro in sometime soon. Or possibly any of the straw hats.  Or a vampire.  Or...
Alright!  For this metal planet smasher (which has not relation to Herman), you get a chugging guitar riff to start with that kicks things into gear, then the bass and drums continue that drive.  As for the song, it’s about a spineless guy being unable to get the girl he wants, and she is not interested in him to the point where she keeps rejecting him.  And Udo sings from the point of view of a friend.  It’s not my fault I keep making harem anime references (2 visual ones for Kämpfer while using a gif from Rosario+Vampire), THESE SONGS WERE WRITTEN BY A WOMAN!  And the band is GERMAN!  Now I need to get to get to the band’s performance of this track before Otto starts singing the German National Anthem (before someone calls him stupid).  The guitars, as I’ve mentioned, are savage, aggressive, intense, and loaded with memorable riffs, whammy-filled licks, and restless and wild guitar soloing (did you get my pun).  The bass and drums, as I’ve been saying repeatedly, keep this song in check, with their speed and wild and aggressive tones this time.  As for Udo’s vocals, he’s both charismatic, aggressive, and surprisingly friendly, telling us how we’re all loser and winners (Yin and Yang here), while offering some fun vocal delivery.  There’s also the gang vocals here, giving off the sense of community.  Overall, this is a hard and heavy rocker about growing a pair (still written by a woman, though).

9.        Guardians of the Night:
But Accept isn’t all about sex, relationships, and being a man.  They also sing about the mystic side of life.  But in this case, it’s that and relationships and being a man again.  This is why there should be a drinking game with this album: any time you realize the song is about love and relationships, chug a beer can down.  I can guarantee that you’ll be smashed before the album is finished.  But that’s what happens when your manager, who in this case is a woman rather than a corporate shill, helps you write your lyrics.  But in this case, this deals with being a stud that cannot deal with the day, may it be due to depression or being ostracized from society.  As a result, he’s better off in the nighttime, and would rather keep it that way, becoming the guardian of the night as a result.  In short, I’m sure this is about a vampire.  Probably this one:
Though I’m sure this could apply to anyone from Black Butler or Soul Eater.  As for the instrumentation, it’s rather interesting (well, in that awesome way the band specializes in).  The song starts with acoustic guitars (cue kvlt tears), then makes way for the electric guitars, bass, and drums with another straightforward mid-tempo beat (which would lead to another drinking game, this time about how I talk about the beat of each song).  There are a lot of sustained notes on the guitars to match the more spiritual atmosphere of this track.  Plus there is a shredding, neo-classical guitar solo on this track in case you forgot Wolf and Herman's classical influences and affections.  Overall, this is a badass song for the goths and nightwolves.

10.      Winterdreams:
To end the album, we get a ballad (cue moar kvlt tears).  To kick things in gear, we get a subdued bass and drum performance which provides the beat and the wintery atmosphere this song is going for.  The guitars start acoustic (I wonder what kvlt tears taste like?), but then you get airy electric guitars (which I’m sure include some slide) that go for sustained chords, with the beat by the rhythm section.  For the vocal performance, Udo’s pipes are set to low and he croons about how he feels during the winter and how the cold air affects him.  After the chorus, where the acoustic guitars return, you get a short, atmospheric guitar solo.  Then the song changes key.  Yeah, there are two key changes, and I’m not sure if a lot of artists have ever done this.  Essentially, the first verse uses the A and Bm chords, then a D-A-Em-Bm chord pattern, and each verse pitches up the key by one tone (A to B then to C#, and so on).  It somehow causes the emotions to the song to rise in general.  To summarize, this is both an emotional journey through a wintery landscape from a band that screamed rebellion at the beginning of this album, and to close it, they go for a soft, heartfelt, dreamy song about wintertime.  This would be a great song for Christmas season, but it also fits now, since this is January.  Yet this musical beauty is so enticing, it doesn’t matter what gender the person that wrote this was, all that matters is the song itself.

Plus, if this was your introduction to Accept (this song, not the entire album), I’m sure this is probably your reaction to “Fast as a Shark” or “Teutonic Terror”:
That or realizing this band makes most modern metal bands sound tame.
So what are my thoughts on this album?  Well, here’s how I would deal with anyone who says Miley did the wrecking ball thing first:
UDO DID IT FIRST!  Any remarks saying how Destiny Cyrus did it better will be met with the following note:
On the inside, I mean.
And yes, I’m aware that I already used that earlier gif

No seriously, this album kicks ass!  It’s a 45-minute rocker loaded with rebellious anthems, hard-hitting metal, pulse-pounding rock, and enough bravado to make up for any silly elements.  Udo Dirkschneider sounds excellent here, offering some powerful vocals considering his stature, and the gang vocals add to this album’s overall manliness.  The guitar work by Wolf Hoffman and Herman Frank is stellar, providing memorable riffs, excellent composition, virtuoso passages and sounds, killer tone, and powerful melodies.  And while they aren’t as flashy, Peter Baltes on bass and Stefan Kaufmann on drums are excellent in a manner that’s usually overlooked in metal: groove.  Their groves and beats are the groundwork that this band builds their mammoth sound on, and they also provide the sort of beats the band is famous for, may it be militant marching beats, commercial tempos, or outright speed.  Plus, the lyrics, written by the band and their manager Gaby “Deaffy” Hauke offer some interesting takes on love, sex, relationships, outside perspectives, ways of life, and rebellion, giving the band a focus that’s both accessible, relatable, and surprisingly nuanced, considering the musical assault.  In short, this is a traditional heavy metal classic, a must-own, and one hell of an album to explain how metal is for everyone, not just straight white dudes.  If there’s a best track, I’d give that honor to the following: “Balls to the Wall,” “Losing More Than You Ever Had,” “Love Child,” and “Winterdreams.”  The weakest song on here is hard to decide, so hard that there might not be a weakest song, but “Head Over Heels” is close to being merely good.  If you’re not convinced to buy this album:
It's been a month since I've used this gif, hasn't it?

Final Rating: 9.5/10 (Pure German Traditional Heavy Metal!).

Next time on Let Them Eat Metal: Metal on Metal by Anvil

Until next time, this is the Rock Otaku.  Live Loud, Play Hard, and Eat Metal.

All used references are done under the rules of fair use and are owned by their original creators.

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