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Friday, September 4, 2009

Accept: Eat The Heat


ACCEPT: EAT THE HEAT (1989)

1) X-T-C; 2) Prisoner; 3) Love Sensation; 4) Chain Reaction; 5) D-Train; 6) Generation Clash; 7) Turn The Wheel; 8) Mistreated; 9) Stand 4 What U R; 10) Hellhammer; 11) Break The Ice.

With each new account of yet another glorious Accept album, I risk the risk of passing for a devoted metalhead, which I am frankly not. What with all the diversity and complexity that, to­day, characterizes the heavy metal genre, at heart it is still fairly silly and clichéd, and, for me, the deal with every metal album I listen to is simple — is this particular album strong enough to make me, for a few moments at least, forget about the silliness of it all? Are the riffs powerful enough to overcome the stench of machismo? Is the singer superhuman enough for my organism to recognize him as a true rather than a false prophet? Very few albums, very few bands actually manage to pass that test, and Accept are one of the lucky few that had this lucky streak for a long, long time — half a decade at least, a whole eternity of music-making by pop standards.

But if Russian Roulette contained only the first signs of an upcoming headache, then Eat The Heat is hangover in full flight. Udo Dirkschneider left the band due to a creative falling out with Hoffmann, reluctant to pursue a more commercial, "hair-metal" style direction, and nothing but a blind, uncontrolled desire to get more airplay explains the band's decision to replace him with a new frontman. That was an American, going by the name of David Reece, very little known in heavy rock circles outside his former local base in Minneapolis; but I dare say that it would have made little difference even if they had had the good fortune to pick someone of the high stature of Ronnie James Dio or Bruce Dickinson instead.

Because it isn't just that Reece's vocals, powerful as they are on their own, are no match for Udo's one-in-a-million powerhouse screaming. More important is that Reece was a nobody — due to his newcomer status, he could hardly have much creative influence on Eat The Heat. The songs, as usual, are credited to "Accept" for music and "Deaffy" (a pseudonym of Hoffmann's wife, Ga­by Hauke) for lyrics, and it probably wouldn't be much of an exaggeration to say that it is mostly Hoff­mann himself who is responsible for the band's new sound.

Eat The Heat isn't exactly "bad" — for instance, it goes very easy on pathetic power ballads, where 'Mistreated' (no relation to the vastly superior Deep Purple/Rainbow song) is the only seri­ous offender, and the aggressive rock songs still bear traces of the old Accept crunch. Yet every­thing, every single song has been recast in the dominating hair-metal mold: the production is cleaner and glossier, the guitar tones are brighter and less frightening, and the catchy choruses seem to emphasize "brute power" over "intelligent hatred", so that the simple average lad off the street wouldn't be turned off by too much scariness.

Alas, the problem is that in this corner of the market, Accept were unfit for the competition. All they could do was lose the old fans, pissed off at this change of direction — and fail to bring in legions of new ones, already well-satisfied with the likes of Poison and Cinderella. Of course, it was a gamble where one could theoretically win, like Alice Cooper did with Trash; but Trash, released the same year, was a far more intelligently crafted record than Eat The Heat — for one thing, it sacrificed none of Cooper's personality, ensuring its own identity among the crowd, whereas no personality whatsoever is evident on Eat The Heat.

I might also add that musically, the record is pretty lazy — completely lost in the effort to com­mercialize the sound, Hoffmann had forgotten to write any original riffs. One listen to the ope­ning track, 'X-T-C', is enough to give you a general impression of the entire thing: everything sounds very powerful, but you know you've heard it all before, and you know the main emphasis here is on making you just blindly headbang to the music until you reach the chorus, which is the point at which you're supposed to become happy. This isn't so much heavy metal as it is bland arena-rock with crunchier overtones. And this certainly isn't a true Accept record.

In terms of individual songs, there is nothing to discuss. I am amused by the somber chorus of 'Generation Clash', a song whose message could have been much stronger had it been better backed up in terms of music, and by the rousing chorus of 'Hell­hammer' ('HELL HAMMER, HELL, HELL HAMMER!'), so it might be fun to think about covering these two in a more con­vincing manner if, by any chance, you're in a metal band (or, for that matter, in a bluegrass com­bo — a fun melody is a fun melody in any genre). But this is certainly not enough to stop the heart from sulking in a relentlessly thumbs down mode, or the brain from wondering just what exactly was it in the Eighties that made so many talented people go so utterly crazy you'd think the first of the Four Horsemen was upon us already — maybe playing drums in one of those L.A. hair bands, as a warm-up.

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