ACCEPT: STALINGRAD (2012)
1) Hung, Drawn And Quartered; 2) Stalingrad; 3) Hellfire; 4) Flash To Bang Time; 5) Shadow Soldiers; 6) Revolution; 7) Against The World; 8) Twist Of Fate; 9) The Quick And The Dead; 10) Never Forget; 11) The Galley.
Considering the generally warm welcome for Blood Of The Nations, a quick follow-up was most likely inevitable, and almost as likely predictable. With its Teutonic balls, nerve, and verve so finely displayed for all to see, could they have lost it in but two years' time? They probably could, if they saw some reason to change the formula; but the early 2010s did not exactly spearhead a revolution in heavy metal values (or in any other values, for that matter), so what you get is another piece of work in full accordance with the spirit of Metal Heart.
The title might make one think of some conceptual «metal opera» revolving around World War II — but, in a way, the majority of German metal bands have always revolved around World War II one way or another, and the only song here that addresses the topic directly is the title track, replete with Hoffmann's kitschy guitar recreation of the melody of the Anthem of the Soviet Union in the coda section. Otherwise, Stalingrad is just the current code name for the general atmosphere of merciless brutality and the world's dog-eat-dog nature which supplies 90% of the required oxygen for Accept. (Together with the album sleeve, it also looks and feels suspiciously like the packaging to some strategy-based video game — somebody in the band must have had registered for a crash course in modern marketology in the interim).
In terms of energy, precision, volume, instrument mix, and other technicalities it all sounds exactly the same as Blood Of The Nations — some fans point out that Stalingrad is somewhat more «melodic», which I decode as «it has some slower songs on it», but slow or fast, it's all heavy and brutal anyway, no pandering whatsoever to the metal balladry sector. Riff, gang chorus, riff, gang chorus, solo, gang chorus, build-up to final blow-up, repeat formula eleven times with minor variations — nothing new.
Alas, nothing new also in the sense that the main problem stays the same: just like Blood Of The Nations, Stalingrad does not have even one fresh riff — most are minuscule variations on what already used to be. Some of the gang choruses are catchy (at least, when you look at the title of ʽHung, Drawn And Quarteredʼ or ʽAgainst The Worldʼ, you immediately remember how they went), but the melodies have not improved. The only thing that saves them is the classic crunchy Accept guitar tone — as long as Hoffmann sticks to that tone (and it looks like he will be carrying it off to Heaven, or Hell, when he goes), I cannot complain while the music is on.
Come to think of it, Metal Heart did not have a ton of great riffs, either — that album, too, rode primarily on the strength of its choruses, which might be the reason why Hoffmann explicitly chose it as the «role model» for this next stage in the band's career. Wrong as I may be, it seems to me that to come up with something like one little intro to ʽBalls To The Wallʼ takes far more genius than it takes to come up with an entire Stalingrad — where, so it seems, newcomer Mark Tornillo has completely taken over the function of «emotional jackhammer» from the resident guitarists. But it is also evident now that Tornillo is even more of a one-trick pony than Udo used to be — capable of functioning only in the scream register — and as good as he is at it, the show does begin to get tedious after a while.
As usual, speed saves, so if you want to get a rewarding taste of the record, go for the faster numbers first — ʽHung, Drawn And Quarteredʼ, ʽFlash To Bang Timeʼ, ʽThe Quick And The Deadʼ, etc. — then check out the Soviet National Anthem for a quick laugh, and then go back to your old copy of Restless And Wild, unless you are a modern production freak (in which case, get your old copy of Restless And Wild and have it remastered). On the positive side, at least this ain't no sellout — and now we have an active countdown going on on how many more years (decades? centuries?) this band will continue to retain its holy integrity.
Check "Stalingrad" (MP3) on Amazon