Submitted by HeadDino on Wed, 05/28/2008 - 20:52
Watch Wolf Hoffmann in Action at the bottom of this page!
Famous / Infamous for
Being another V-wielding, German Metal God. And unfortunately, Wolf's famous for not being famous. Wolf is the best Metal guitarist you've probably never heard of. Let's face it, Accept's uncompromising metal was never quite as mainstream or as radio/video friendly as some of their 80s metal comtemporaries. Some people remember the song Balls to the Wall, but unless you were a big Accept fan back in the day, you probably have no idea who Wolf Hoffmann is and how great he is. And sadly, that's even true among plenty of hard rock and metal guitarists. Consequently, Wolf is criminally underrated to all but his loyal fans who adore his playing.
Obvious: Wolf is an esteemed alumni of the German Metal School of guitar. He was influenced by several of his countrymen including: the Scorpions when Uli Roth still was the guitarist, as well as probably both Schenker brothers. And like most of the German Metal School guitarists, there is an inherent influence from classical music — it must be in the German water! The classical influence manifested itself in Hoffmann long before the album Classical. Several Accept songs feature direct classical influences: the melodic theme of Beethoven's Fur Elise in Metal Heart. Khachaturian's Sabre Dance in Sodom and Gomorrah. Pomp and Circumstance. Clearly Wolf has a love for classical melodies, and his own melodic sense has been greatly shaped by it. On the rock side, it's fair to say that as a band, Accept's first three albums have a strong AC/DC influence. As they evlolved, Restless and Wild and subsequent releases reflect more of a Judas Priest influence, however, Accept's melodic flavor and level of precision always remained distinctly German.
Not-so-obvious: There's some Ritchie Blackmore in there — all Aeolian and classical influence in Hard Rock and Metal can be traced back to Ritchie (and to some extent Uli Roth). I've seen Wolf's other influences listed as Rory Gallagher, Mark Farner, and Brian May on Queen’s first albums. These three guys are mostly blues or bluesy players. I don't hear much of their styles in Hoffmann. Like Schenker, even when he's in the blues scale, Wolf doesn't sound particularly bluesy.
Riffs. Great metal riffs flow out of Hoffmann like water from a hydrant. In this respect, he's almost like a German Tony Iommi. Hoffmann's riffs are not only crunchy and heavy as hell, but are also extremely melodic.
Songwriting and composition. He is a master of creating and releasing tension in the context of a song. He'll bludgeon you with a relentless riff in a grinding verse, then give you the release in a huge chorus. Or sometimes he'll just tease you with the release, then make you wait for it some more. He is fantastic at creating of melodic themes. He'll introduce a terrific melody, and return to it later in the song. And far more than most players, Hoffmann understands the value of when NOT to play, and just leave space.
Dynamics. He'll contrast slow with fast. Soft with loud. While playing some heavy, beefy riff on the low strings, another part of the same riff will often contain a chord played so that only the high strings B and E (sometimes G, B, E) ring out. The high string chord slices through the rest of the riff like a blade and provides dynamic contrast. This is a Wolf Hoffmann trademark.
Attitude and melody. In both his songs and guitar solos, Hoffmann oozes attitude and melody through every pore. Hoffmann's music is very distinctive and these elements ensure that it hits with maximum impact.
You pretty much have to love ballsy, riff-based, melodic metal to appreciate Wolf Hoffmann. If you're looking for track-by-track stylistic diversity, you won't find much in the back catalog. Accept's music comes at you like a mechanized panzer assault. Hoffmann did release a solo album, Classical, which displayed a different concept — personal interpretations of classical masterpieces. But while it was a slight departure, there's always been a strong classical element in Wolf's playing, so Classical never felt unfamiliar. It's more like the other side of a same coin.
Wolf Hoffmann's tone is probably my favorite pure Metal tone: The low end is beefy, with enormous crunch, and balls. The top end sears and cuts through with lots of bite, but no trebly harshness. He achieves it the old fashioned way: a humbucker in the bridge position and a cranked, EL-34-based Marshall. But unlike many who use this formula, Hoffmann's tone doesn't seem to contain the rock or bluesy elements that most player get through a vintage Marshall. Wolf's tone really is a pure Heavy Metal tone.
Wolf is strongly associated with Gibson Flying V guitars. The reality, however, is that Wolf's stage guitars are most frequently Super Strats (and variants) equipped with black, Floyd Rose trems — he claims the black Floyds introduce less treble harshness. Other than the Gibson Vs, Wolf's stage guitars contain EMG pickups: Model 81 humbuckers in the bridge, and SA single-coils in the middle and neck positions. And instead of using an overdrive pedal while soloing, on his newer guitars, Wolf's likes having the boost at his fingertips via a switch that activates an EMG's on-board preamp.
Wolf Hoffmann's studio choices are somewhat different. He doesn't use the Vs in the studio because he finds them hard to play while sitting. In the studio, Wolf prefers Strats with passive pickups (Duncans) and these guitars are more stock than his stage guitars. Hoffmann has been a devotee of Hamer guitars for years, and would sometimes reach for a carved-topped Hamer to get a Gibsonish sound.
For his early work on Breaker, Restless and Wild, Balls to the Wall, and others, Wolf used a vintage, Superlead 100 Marshall. He toured with this amp all through the early eighties, and later used it just in the studio. But Wolf's sound always had more gain than the typical sound of the late 60s early 70s Marshalls. This was at least partially due to the fact he frequently used an MXR Distortion +. He also uses a good deal of wah, and sometimes you'll hear some phase shifter. Eventually Wolf ran a stereo rig with a subtle effect on it — probably chorus or reverb — to add depth, but the tonal characteristics didn't change much. It was still EL-34-based Marshalls.
One particular Hoffmann trademark sound is that raunchy sound heard on Neon Nights, and Protectors of Terror among others Wolf calls it the "vomiting cow," and says: "It's a Morley Wah, a Mu-tron Octave Divider, a flanger, and maybe an overdrive. Three or four pedals at the same time."
Wolf Hoffmann's style leans predominantly on the Aeolian minor and consequently has a lot of that same German flavor Schenker's has. But while Hoffmann doesn't quite have Schenker's chops, Wolf's style has more nasty attitude in it —- bigger balls, if you will.
Hoffmann's solos are compositional masterpieces. Emotional journeys that have beginnings, middles, and ends. As stated earlier, attitude and melody are always key elements. Wolf likes to use slow, attitude-based playing to set up fast flashy licks. He's not a true shredder, but he's as fast and as clean as he needs to be. He's so good at working the dynamics that when he does play fast, it hits harder because it has been set up by the slow playing. Hoffmann's lead style feature lots of crunchy double stops that add beef and character to his solos. Wolf uses melody in several very effective ways: He'll create a melodic theme and return to it later as in Balls to the Wall. He'll create melodies from wah-ed octave runs as in Princess of the Dawn. Or he'll introduce a "theme lick" as part of the song as in Fast as a Shark.
Unlike many players that appear very intense on stage, Wolf's lead style — his whole demeanor while soloing — is marvelously loose and relaxed. Even while he's dispensing some of the most emotive, incendiary solos you'll ever hear, Wolf usually has a big smile on his face (rather than a pained, guitar hero grimace). Everything he plays appears effortless. And being relaxed helps him lay back. Wolf never rushes in the groove. There is great elasticity in Wolf's style. As for picking technique, he'll play certain slower licks legato, but when he gets to anything requiring speed, it's pure alternate picking.
Medium width, medium-to-quick speed.
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