Classic Rock Corner

Accept This: Classic German Heavy Metal Comes Roaring Back

Accept in 2022:  Christopher Williams, Philip Shouse, Mark Tornillo, Wolf Hoffmann, Uwe Lulis and Martin Motnik.
Accept in 2022: Christopher Williams, Philip Shouse, Mark Tornillo, Wolf Hoffmann, Uwe Lulis and Martin Motnik. Photo by Iana Domingos
During the pandemic, bands had to come up with creative ways to record and perform. The heavy metal men of Accept already had half a new record in the can before scattering, but months later they gathered in Nashville where leader/guitarist Wolf Hoffmann lived to finish the tracks.

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Record cover
The problem was, producer Andy Sneap was stuck in the UK, and a travel ban made it impossible for him to be physically present in the studio. Technology came to the rescue when they were able to pipe Sneap in–via video—to oversee the proceedings.

“It was a little strange, but we made it work! It was a new experience for us,” Hoffman says via Zoom from a Nashville rehearsal facility on the eve of embarking on their first U.S. tour in a decade. “And with the time delay, we were always talking over each other. I wouldn’t want to do it again, but it worked in a pinch!”

The resulting record is Too Mean to Die. The 16th studio effort from Accept, it has all the hallmarks of the classic sound befitting a band which has been around since the early ‘80s and responsible for such metal hallmarks as “Fast as a Shark,” “London Leatherboys,” “Restless and Wild,” “Metal Heart” and of course, signature tune “Balls to the Wall.”

“We don’t really want to change anything—just get better at what we’re doing and expand ever so slightly,” Hoffman says. “We want to push the envelope a bit, but not go too far. We know what our audience wants to hear.”

Other tracks on Too Mean to Die run the gamut from addressing Insta-fame in an online age (“Overnight Sensation”), political fealty (“No One’s Master”), and world social strife (“How Do We Sleep”) to odd jobs (“The Undertaker”) and…well…the for-sure impending zombie apocalypse (“Zombie Apocalypse”).
There’s even a semi-ballad in “The Best is Yet to Come”—with vocalist Mark Tornillo being sweet and salty in the same chorus. “It isn’t really a full-blown ballad, but it’s unusual for us, so we put it on,” Hoffman says.

There’s also one that reflects Hoffmann’s long interest in melding the aspects of classic music and heavy metal. In “Symphony of Pain” his axe even quotes short runs from Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” And he’s written music in this vein for both Accept and his own efforts.

“Growing up, I listened to Beethoven, Mozart and Tchaikovsky. That heavily influenced me as a listener,” Hoffmann says. “I always dreamed of combining metal music and Marshall stacks and whammy bars with the timeless beauty of classical music. It was a dream come true to do those live shows with orchestras in Russia and the Ukraine and others. It was fantastic.”
The German-bred Accept was formed in 1976 when Hoffman was all of 16 years old. The lineup has changed wildly since then, and the current crew includes Hoffman, Tornillo, Uwe Lulis (guitar), Christopher Williams (drums), Martin Motnik (bass) and recently added third guitarist Philip Shouse.

“Having three guitar players really adds something to the equation,” Hoffman says. “There’s a bigger camaraderie. And sonically, having a third guy onstage, we can do things that we couldn’t before. It’s very cool.”

So, would that number extend to Accept covering songs by other Three Guitar Army bands like, say, Lynyrd Skynyrd?
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Headbanging buddies Hoffmann and Tornillo.
Photo by Scott Duissa
“Don’t hold your breath on that!” Hoffman laughs. “Sorry!”

With the somewhat controversial departure of bassist Peter Baltes a few years ago, Hoffmann is the only member of the classic Accept lineup currently there. When asked if he feels extra pressure about that status, he says it’s more like something different.

“I wouldn’t say pressure. Maybe a certain responsibility?” he says. “I’ve been here the longest. Without me wanting to do this, I sort of became the leader of the pack over time. Everyone left but me! But Mark has become a huge part of this. I ask him about things more than ever. He’s my longest buddy in this new lineup. And Martin has a lot of great ideas for the songs.”

Recently, Accept’s Teutonic brethren in the Scorpions played Houston as part of a farewell tour, and indeed the two bands are often lumped together as practitioners of “classic German heavy metal” (Sorry, Rammstein). But is that just an easy way of forcing two bands together based simply on geography? Hoffmann has some thoughts.

“It is there, but it’s hard to define. I think that [German metal bands] have a different style of playing and performing and writing songs. But it’s the same as me asking you ‘What makes you a typical American?” he says.

“I don’t know, that’s just who I am! But there is a difference. We were influenced [somewhat] by the Scorpions, but there were also British bands like Deep Purple and Status Quo and Judas Priest.”
Speaking of geography, Hoffmann calls audiences in the south and Texas in particular “great.” And has a theory as to why—it has to do with heat.

“Even going back to the ‘80s, Texas was great territory for heavy metal. Maybe because it’s so close to the border!” he says. “The further south we go, the more hot-blooded and passionate people are. We play a lot in South America to [stadium-sized huge crowds]. They’re insane about heavy metal there. And even if they don’t know the language, they love to sing! Sometimes they sing along with the guitar solos!”
Finally, one thing is obvious about Wolf Hoffmann on Zoom as it is in photos: He’s got the Cleanest Head in Heavy Metal, maybe even in the entirety of rock itself. So how does he keep himself so smooth and hairless on top?

“I have it kissed off by the fans!” he laughs. “No man, it’s no secret. You just take an old shaver and go for it. But thanks, I appreciate that. Good thinking!

Accept plays at 8 p.m. on Saturday, October 1, at the Concert Pub North outdoor stage, 2470 Cypress Creek Parkway (FM 1960). For more information, call, 281-583-8111 or visit TheConcertPub.com. Narcotic Wasteland, Love and Ware, and Shy Foxx open.

For more in Accept, visit AcceptWorldwide.com.
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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero