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Friday, August 7, 2009

Accept: Balls To The Wall


ACCEPT: BALLS TO THE WALL (1983)

1) Balls To The Wall; 2) London Leatherboys; 3) Fight It Back; 4) Head Over Heels; 5) Losing More Than You've Ever Had; 6) Love Child; 7) Turn Me On; 8) Losers And Winners; 9) Guardian Of The Night; 10) Winter Dreams.

Nothing beats Restless And Wild, but one cannot spend all one's life listening to Restless And Wild. When you've learnt it by heart, try Balls To The Wall. Having now studied the essence of their talents and having reached the peak of their creativity, Accept just continue, without see­ming effort, to crank out not particularly imaginative, but solid, explosive metal tunes — one after the other, they just go off like a series of splendid, if samey, firecrackers.

Balls To The Wall, on average, is somewhat slower, denser, and darker than its predecessor. After 'Fast As A Shark', Accept have all but renounced breakneck thrash tempos; only 'Fight It Back' and 'Losers And Winners' (the latter's riff is superficially based on Black Sabbath's 'Symp­tom Of The Universe') fit the bill, but even these fall beyond their previous speed records. Appa­rently, they'd simply taken the speed thing as far as they could take it, and were now happy with concentrating more on the melody aspect.

So, in sharp contrast to 'Fast As A Shark' and 'Starlight', the album begins with a really slow song. But oh my God, what a song. It took real balls — pardon the pun — for Accept to begin their new record with (and this is my firm conviction) the best ever opening riff in a heavy metal song, only to retire it several bars into the song and never ever show it up again. It is the perfect opening. An opening that makes even non-metalheads pay attention. A riff that, perhaps, only a Teutonic metal guitarist could be capable of.

Still, now that I think of it, that riff belongs in the intro — I don't see it easily reappearing any­where else, nor can I imagine Udo singing over it. And besides, the song itself easily lives up to its opening. The revolutionary lyrics — the same old subject of the oppressed masses rising up and breaking their chains — are trite, but they're basically just a pretext for showing how mighty pissed-off Udo and the gang can be. Accept aren't revolutionaries, they're rock stars, and I have no idea just how much they care for the working class, but one thing I do know: few, if any, things let you vent your frustration better than singing along to '...they're coming to get you and then — you'll get your BALLS TO THE WALL, MAN!' After all, this is so much more humanis­tic and time-saving than actually strangling your boss when you feel like it, right?

Previous Accept albums were relatively even in terms of quality; here, nothing even comes close to matching the sheer motivated power of the title track — one reason why I always get a little annoyed with the album. At the same time, just like on Restless, there is not a single stinker: just more and more catchy metal riffs and choruses. American critics and listeners have often reacted strongly to what they perceive as a 'gay thread' running through the album — starting from the hairy leg on the album cover and ending with 'London Leatherboys' (actually a song about bikers rather than gays) and 'Love Child'; but then, it's the same American critics and listeners for whom the issue of Hamlet sleeping with Horatio overshadows "to be or not to be", so there's no need whatsoever to perceive Balls To The Wall as a specifically 'gay metal' record — it just toys with the subject on one track (and why shouldn't it?).

Odd as it may seem, my second favourite track is the album closer, 'Winter Dreams'. After nine rounds of explosives, they round out the proceedings with a ballad — but not a power ballad, rather a dark, brooding ballad where Udo sings in his world-weary voice, very appropriate in this place, as if tired and exhausted from giving it his all on the previous nine numbers. With its minor acoustic chords, church bells, and deep, echoing riffs, you once more (as you did on 'Princess Of The Dawn') get a medievalistic/D&D atmosphere, but this time combined with a very realistic sense of melancholia and futility of being. Nine balls of fire — and a cold shower at the door.

Balls To The Wall begins Accept's slow descent into mediocrity — but begins it barely a few feet down from the peak, so that you can only get such an impression from a later, general per­spe­ctive on their career. As it is, it would merit an unbiased thumbs up for the title track alone — even forgetting the fact that a lesser band would just as likely kill for any of the rest.

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