Accept - The Final Chapter, Live Double Album (1998)
Submitted by Dinosaur David B on Thu, 05/29/2008 - 22:08
I was exactly the right age to ride the metal wave of the early to mid 80s (I turned twenty in '84). I saw every metal band that toured in those years. I saw every hot guitar hero of the day. I saw Accept in 1986 opening for Dio, and they were the tightest band I've ever seen. Pure German precision. And yet, I always took crap for liking Accept. Sometimes I still feel like I'm the only one who appreciated the band's brand of thunderous, ballsy, riff-based melodic metal. When they were at their peak popularity around 1985, most of my friends and bandmates were into more mainstream metal like Iron Maiden, Dio, and the Scorpions. And here were a bunch of big, blond, Germans, wielding flying Vs with unified, parade ground precision. They would have actually been a bit scary had it not been for Udo Dirkschneider; Accept's five foot tall singer who looked like the runt love child of Rob Halford and Paul Williams. Udo grunted and squealed out vocals like some demonic pig. In a way, Udo was so preposterous, — at least visually and lyrically — that he alleviated the scarier aspects of a band who's music was coming at you like a mechanized panzer assault. Put him on a wrecking ball in the Balls to the Wall video and send him crashing through a brick wall. Hilarity ensued. But the music kicked HOLY ASS!
Most people who remember Accept admit that the band was great and the songs were cool, but most of the same people never got behind or beyond Udo's raspy, grating vocals. You often see the same phenomenon with early Rush. People were similarly turned off by Geddy Lee's banshee-like wailing of the pre-Permanent Waves era. Both vocalists are DEFINITELY an acquired taste. And with both vocalists, If you listen long enough, it stops bothering you. After a while, you even grow to appreciate it. The sad irony is that now almost 20 years later, if you compare Udo's vocals to those of VERY popular hardcore groups like Pantera, or rap metal bands like Korn or Limp Biscuit, and you'll probably notice that by comparison, Udo had a pretty good vocal range and was singing actual melodies — a totally dead concept these days. Back in the day, I quickly learned to "accept" Udo's vocals. Then I actually embraced them. He was shorter and uglier than both Ronnie Dio and Klaus Meine, and he was out there singing things like: let's plug a bomb in everyone's ass. What balls! He sort of became an anti-hero of mine.
But before all that, what initially attracted me to Accept, and what has kept them my favorite metal band for all these years, was the riffs and incredibly tasty guitar playing of Wolf Hoffmann. Wolf Hoffmann's guitar style has all of the elements I love in a Dinosaur Rock guitar player. His songwriting is superb. Hoffmann's riffs are not only crunchy and heavy as hell, but are also extremely melodic. His lead style has a lot of that same classically-influenced German flavor Schenker's has, but while Hoffmann's doesn't quite have Schenker's chops, his style has more nasty attitude in it — bigger balls, if you will. I like composed guitar solos, and Hoffmann's solos are compositional masterpieces. Emotional journeys filled with crunchy double stops, searing runs, tons of feeling, and always melodic. Hoffmann's tone is probably my favorite pure metal tone: it's beefy, with enormous crunch, balls, and bite. He is one of my favorite players, bar none.
But back to this album. Accept had always been a two guitar, five-piece band, both live and in the studio. In 1993, that changed. For a bunch of reasons not worth going into here, Wolf Hoffmann became the sole guitar player for the band's Objection Overruled album. On the album, he overdubbed the rhythms and you couldn't tell the difference. Even prior to this, Hoffmann had played all the guitar parts on some Accept albums. In the live format, however, Accept would probably sound significantly weaker playing songs written for two guitars without that rhythm player, right? WRONG! Accept's final release, this double live CD, is a total Hoffmann guitar masterpiece! And I liked the guitar sound so much on this album, I purchased the actual amp (and one of the guitars) used on this album from Wolf Hoffmann! So you could say I'm a little biased.
I've read some reviews by people actually do miss the second guitar on this album, and others that claim Accept's earlier live album, Staying A Life, was better. I have both albums, and personally, I find The Final Chapter more interesting for several reasons: First, Staying A Life is mixed like the studio albums with the two guitars fairly equal. On The Final Chapter, Wolf Hoffmann's guitar is right IN YOUR FACE. I mean, as good as the whole band is, The Final Chapter is really The Wolf Hoffmann Show. Second: The overall production on The Final Chapter is far better. This is technology at play. In general, the sound quality of all live albums took a quantum leap in the early 90s (no doubt coinciding with the move to digital). Not only is Hoffmann's guitar in your face, but everthing else — drums, bass, vocals, is remarkably crisp and clean. Compare Baltes' bass sound — there no contest — the bass sound on the The Final Chapter is one of the best I've ever heard, period. Third, and perhaps most importantly, I find that the lack of the second guitar makes the performance itself far more interesting. I grew up in an era where live albums were not just carbon copies of the studio albums — artists used the live setting to stretch out an vary the perfomance. And while Accept still plays it pretty straight-forward on The Final Chapter, you get to hear Hoffmann covering for that second guitar, and going for hugeness in his sound. What he chooses to play vs. what he doesn't adds some interest — in my opinion. They stretch things a bit, and interact more with the audience. And for some reason I can't put my finger on, The Final Chapter just sounds more "live" and even more ballsy than Staying A Life.
There are several great Accept albums — I'm partial to the Restless and Wild to Objection Overruled period. If you're unfamiliar with the band and want to check them out, The Final Chapter is a great introduction. If you haven't listened to Accept in ages — if you don't have anything on CD, buy this one! If you want to hear some fabulous metal guitar, buy this one! If you own only one Accept album, buy this one! It's a fantastic sounding double live album that chronicles the band's later era, but still gives plenty of nods to its past.
Track By Track (vocal cues in parentheses)
Starlight (5:23) This is a fast-paced riffer. Oddly enough, it's probably my least favorite track on the album. Nice melodic solo. Listen to how tight the band is coming out of the solo.
London Leatherboys (4:42) Here we go! This song kicks ass! It starts of with a bass and drum vamp. Peter Baltes gets a bass tone I'd kill for on my home recording projects! Guitar comes in with the huge and chunky riff. Wolf takes a quickie solo after the first chorus. It's just loaded with attitude! Full of crunchy doublestops. Listen to how laid back it is. He never rushes in the groove. After the second chorus, listen to them build up the tension before the bridge with the chugging guitar part. (Swearing that he would do - he could not even say ) This is followed by a Whole Lotta Love-style lead break where Hoffmann plays licks between the band's pauses before taking off on a great solo. Another break out of the solo. Chorus repeats on the outro.
I Don't Wanna Be Like You (4:29) Classic Accept sound: crunchy, grinding, riff-song similar in feel Balls to the Wall. You get Accept's trademark militaristic background vocals (I'm the exception to the rule) and on the chorus (don't want to be like you) Brief melodic solo after chorus holds back the song creating tension before the second verse begins. Solo after second chorus. Starts slow and melodic, then speeds up to some nice mid-paced licks, a few double stops and an ascending octave run, but Hoffmann's really going for a heavy, laid back feel more than flash. Bridge comes in (the ordinary way of life ain't for me), back to the chorus which hammers the song home.
Breaker (4:49) Title track of the album with the same name. A fast-paced rocker. Double bass drum feel. Guitar plays a riff matching the drum feel on the verse, power chords on the choruses (he's a breaker, he's a taker). Again, listen to how tight the band is. No one is rushing the parts. Cool, long, fast rhythmical break after second chorus in lieu of a solo. Outro finds Hoffmann playing some simple, but flashier licks. Song end is very precise and worked-out.
Slaves To Metal (5:14) An ass-nasty, chugging riff. Love the way the drums come in with snare hits — feel how drummer Kauffmann holds back the tempo — very heavy. Song settles into its headbanging groove. Nice songwriting device: they break the groove and give you a quick taste of the upcoming chorus without actually going into it (We are the kings of madness). So instead of releasing the tension built on the verse, they just tease you, then drag you back into the main groove. Chorus then hits (Come raise your hands and shout it out) and there's a grain of familiarity to it because you been set up for it. Chorus part one is big power chords with the background vocals. Chorus part two (cause we are slaves to metal) is a riff similar to the verse. After chorus repeats, the drums stop for one bar, and let Hoffmann play a quick riff before returning to the groove. Another clever device that keeps you from getting exactly what you're expecting, and thus build tension. Verse again, but Hoffmann starts playing with it a bit, and adds a descending line that leads into chorus part one again. Chorus part two. What becomes the solos section begins, but they don't give you the solo right away. They give you a good 24 bars of some serious headbanging on the riff before Hoffmann begins one of his tastiest solos. It starts with some doublestop-based riffing that's full of attitude. Then into a slow Hendrix-like bluesy lick in open E, a descending melody using octaves into a soaring part on the high frets. Then Hoffmann sets up a theme with a tasty, snake charmer-flavored lick that he plays off of, and returns to in higher octave. There's nothing particularly chops-demanding in this solo — certainly no shredding — and yet for me, this does everything a great guitar solo should do. Back into the chorus to end the song.
Princess of the Dawn (10:45) Accept classic from the Restless and Wild album. A textbook example of a tension-creating riff along the same lines as Zeppelin's Kashmir, in fact, it's almost the same riff sped up. The verse riff is king here, and they just bludgeon you with it. The chorus (the Guardians of God, play the pawns) is extremely simple and doesn't have to be anything more because you're dying for that break in the relentless riff. Verse and chorus repeat. Hoffmann plays around a bit — a long pick scratch, a short, melodic ascending run. Verse and chorus repeat. The band goes into a break down and gives Peter Baltes a bass solo section over the drums. Very ballsy bass playing. Band comes back in for the guitar solo section. Another great, melodic work by Hoffmann who creates another melodic theme, then goes into another attitude-packed solo. Flashier licks follow, then doublestop riffs, some more flash, then back to the theme. The audience picks up the theme and sings it back to the band. A crescendo build takes you back to the chorus. You get a quick taste of the upcoming outro section which features the tune's trademark lick — a classical-sounding, Aeolian minor melody. You want more of it, but they don't give it to you yet. One more verse with the riff first. Then they hit you with the outro. Great song.
Restless & Wild (2:46) Title track of the album with the same name. Another fast one. Largely bass-driven, it chugs. Udo doing a powerful vocal here. Unfortunately you don't get the whole song here — it's just a mini-medley and launches into Son of Bitch.
Son of a Bitch (3:26) Starts with a riff over drum hits. Song has a start-stop feel to it during the verses. The chorus (son of a bitch, kiss my ass) releases the tension. A quick, classic-sounding interlude takes you back to the verse. Udo calls you a few nasty names and grunts a big: uuuuaaaahhhhh that sounds like he's having trouble while on the toilet. Chorus repeats. And the outro gives you a nice tension releasing guitar riff with a nice grind to it.
This One's For You (4:08) Another fast, wild one with relentless double bass drum part. After establishing the verse riff, Hoffmann goes into some fast licks, then back to the verse. Chorus is power chord- based, rather than like the riff. Solo section comes in, another nice melody. Drums, bass, and guitar sync-up for some sledgehammering, then Hoffmann goes off on another melodic journey. Back to the chorus. Quick outro solo followed by the whole band stomping out the ending riff.
Bulletproof (6:17) Starts of slow with clean guitar chords playing off the up beat. At (he bought a ticket to ride) song comes in heavy with a descending, chord-based part over a midpaced straight beat. Chorus doesn't change the song's feel much. Drums and bass drop out for a small break before verse two. Again, an effective device. These guys clearly know the value of when to play and when to leave space. Another breakdown after the next chorus — just drums and bass keeping the beat. Hoffmann takes his time coming back in with melodic arpeggios building them to a crescendo that eventually leads into the solo section. Starts with a rude, nasty feel and is then followed by some flash licks. A perfect example of using slow, attitude-based playing to set up fast flashy licks. Again, he's not a true shredder, but he's as fast as he needs to be. He's so good at working the dynamics that when he does play fast, it hits harder because its been set up by the slow playing. Bridge come in with a major scale feel, believe it or not! (He thought that he could fly). The melodic arpeggios bring you back to the chorus outro.
Too High To Get it Right (5:44) One of only two songs from the excellent Metal Heart album (unfortunately). This is a mid-paced rocker. Sounds like a chorus effect on the guitar. Simple 80's metal style riff. Big chorus with the big unison back up vocals. Attitude style solo.
Metal Heart (6:19) An Accept/Hoffmann classic. Song's intro and melodic theme is from Beethoven's Fur Elise. Metal heart's verse is a fast-paced, ascending riff designed to build tension. Chorus releases the tension nicely. Hoffmann is going for it on early part of this solo using more flash than attitude. Still plenty of melody. Then the Fur Elise theme returns. When the audience picks up on it, Hoffmann backs off and lets the crowd do it over the rhythm section. The studio version of Metal Heart has a cool freestyle guitar solo in it. We don't get that here. Hoffmann returns to the song after where that solo would have been. A few more flash licks get us back to the chorus part. While they do a fine job on this tune live, there's too much cool stuff from the studio version that I miss.
Fast as a Shark (3:50) Considering that this song first appeared in 1982, it is probably one of the founding moments of speed metal. They skip the studio version's: hi-de-hi-doh-hi-da into and start the song with Udo's stuck-pig shriek. The song itself is fast and furious, and with almost twenty years on the tank treads, it has lost none of its impact. Double bass drum and the riff flatten you from the start. While rhythm is clearly king here, the song is still surprising melodic (often the missing element is speed metal and newer rap metal). Here the verse stays rhythmic and the chorus goes melodic. Bridge part before the solo adds tension. The solo starts slow and melodic and then goes into some faster licks, all the while retaining the strong melodic element. Hoffmann then sets up a theme lick, and the band drops out briefly to emphasis it. Listen to the elasticity in Hoffmann's playing. Great stuff.
Balls to the Wall (11.11) Accept's most famous song. This is one of the best metal riffs you'll ever hear. This song is a slow grinder designed to get your head banging. Great use of space in the verses over the straight beat. Verse and chorus repeat and the song heads for the solo. Hoffmann leans in to first note and wrenches the piss out of it for a long time (creating guess what?) and launches into a brief, chaotic solo. Another thematic melody ensues. Then the song breaks down to just bass, drums and vocals. The audience starts to pickup the song's melodic theme and the band let them take over for a while. When they return they hammer out the chorus a few more times and the song has a live version ending. For some reason, the song ends twice on this CD. This is undoubtedly where a typical Accept concert would end — this track would be the last encore.
Seems as if The Final Chapter was organized into two distinct sections rather than trying to blend separate performances into a composite concert. Up until this point, (I think) we are hearing the Objection Overruled tour. The tracks that follow have the other drummer and are from the next, Death Row tour.
What Else* (5:27) Song intro finds Hoffmann teasing the crowd with a few licks from other songs before heading into What Else's bludgeoning, repetitive riff. The chorus (What else, what's in it for me) maintains the rhythmic feel. Unlike most Accept albums, Death Row album's emphasis was on rhythm more than melody, and you can hear examples of that on this track. Listen to the rhythmic passages between the searing solos.
Sodom & Gomorra* (6:39) Another sledgehammer rhythmical riff. Nice quick solo early. The only break in the riff is under the part (Self-inflicted - life corrupting antisocial - controversial - living in sin) which feels like a chorus but isn't (vocally). Song's chorus (Sodom and Gomorra) is actually over the verse rhythm. Another quick but hot guitar solo here. Verse and chorus repeat. Then there's a break where the drums stop (Don't you look back - to the essence of evil ) guitar riff sets up and the drums come back in with a half-time feel that holds the song back while you're waiting for it to plow ahead. Another great device. Great solo with some wah in it. Then Hoffmann pays homage to another classical influence, inserting the melodic theme of Khachaturian's Sabre Dance. This works really well. Back to the sledgehammer riff and some more quick licks the chorus and a pretty ballsy ending.
The Beast Inside* (6:25) This a more melodic track off Death Row than the previous two. A slow melodic mood-setting intro is followed by a chugging riff that builds into a verse. Verse part two (I want to resist - but I can't hold it back The beast is unleashed - it's got to attack ) is also melodic over a ride cymbal figure. The chorus is a nice melodic descending riff that ends with a crescendo leading back to verse part one. Both parts repeat. Bridge is a different (from the chorus) melodic descending riff, but with the same flavor. Solo follows. Lots of attitude and all the Hoffmann trademarks. Ends with double stops. Back to the verse and chorus.
Bad Habits Die Hard* (4:53) Uptempo song here with a major scale feel (which is quite rare for Accept) over a straight beat. Quick intro solo. Straight forward verse-chorus song progression. Quick solo. Bridge. Longer solo; melodic and flashy.
Stone Evil* (4:32) Rhythmic track with a slightly different feel. Repetitive riff, but not simple. Melodic, descending arpeggio for verse part two. Chorus. Studio version has the sound of boots marching (those wacky Germans! Let's invade France again!) in the background of the chorus. I kind of miss it here. Solo sears! Chorus repeats and the song ends fairly abruptly.
Death Row* (6:03) Another real heavy, headbanging riff and a more rhythmic, less melodic song. They beat you over the head with the riff more than the L.A.P.D. beat Rodney King! Relentless. First respite comes some three minutes into the song with a (bridge?) which turns the beat around a bit and provides a break. Intro riff follows, then they pick up the riff club and start hitting you again. Put it down long enough for for a guitar solo? Nahhhh.
Well there it is. With Accept, we have an extremely tight metal band with a terrific, powerful rhythm section and guitar player who oozes attitude and melody through every pore. The singer isn't everyone's cup of tea, but if you can handle him, there's a lot to like here. As for this disc, I would have preferred a few more songs off of Metal Heart, and a few less from Death Row, but then, that's what Staying A Life offers, so there's not a lot to complain about here. These songs are SO well-constructed that they stand the test of time and still do what they were designed to do: get your head banging! To me, the music here sounds fresher, and far less dated than most of the 80s metal released by the supergroups like Maiden, Priest, Whitesnake, Dio, and the Scorpions. Enjoy.
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By Dinosaur David B. Copyright ©2001 All rights reserved.
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