ACCEPT – Humanoid

In many ways, you have to hand it to Accept. In the metaphorical race for the German hard rock and metal prize, they’ve spent literally a whole career in the shadow of Scorpions. Outside of their home country, they’re rarely name checked as an all-time favourite band, and they’ve constantly trucked on, often biting a collective thumb at the fickle finger of musical fashion. They’ve gone through many line up changes, but they’ve survived when many have fallen. What’s more, as late as 2021, they managed to deliver a career highlight with ‘Too Mean To Die’, a hulking mass of riffs that married their love of 80s metal with a really solid sounding production job. In terms of “late career” albums, it was a genuine winner. You can love them, you can hate them – but you can’t keep Accept down. When on form, they mean business.

‘Humanoid’, their seventeenth studio album – featuring the core of Mark Tornillo on vocals, with Wolf Hoffmann and Uwe Lulis on lead and rhythm guitars – may well mark yet another line up change, but in terms of solid material, it is another beast. Its best moments rival the high points of any album since Tornillo made his debut on 2010’s ‘Blood of The Nations’, and even its couple of weaker numbers deliver very strongly in terms of no nonsense riffs.

The title track, in particular, is classic Accept. The intro sets the tone with a pounding drum that feels almost tribal, whilst the lead guitar throws out a sustained 80s wail. The bulk of the verse launches itself into a massive, speed driven chug that blends the attitude of thrash with the muscle of a more trad based, 80s metal sound. Tornillo joins the music with a very confident vocal that’s part metallic squeal and part attitude driven gruffness. With this number, the band really hit their stride, and in record time. But that’s not all, the next four minutes or so manage to take in a few extra dramatic shifts. The chorus slows to a menacing chug, whilst a middle eight heavies everything with an even slower riff, which paves the way for a flawlessly played guitar solo with a slightly eastern bent. The heavier moments of the arrangement are perfectly suited to match the ominous lyric regarding the rise of AI. With phrases like “A flesh and blood machine” and “I am indestructible!”, there’s a certain Priest-like quality within the writing, but it very much suits the job in hand. Overall, this creates a near flawless listen.

Hoffman’s opening riff from the hefty sounding ‘Frankenstein’ aims to take listeners straight back to a world of 80s metal, and once the rest of the band locks into a very sharp arrangement, the 80s vibes only become stronger. With the feel of an old Saxon classic augmented by much better production values, the number thunders with a great tempo and an even greater sound, and Tornillo steps forth with a suitably aggressive vocal. For those who love old school metal, this will become a champion track somewhere around the end of the first verse, but the manic twin lead fills that link the chorus and verse stoke up the old school excitement even more, and the shouty chorus itself acts as a solid reminder of how Accept aren’t afraid of an unpretentious approach. With two fantastic lead breaks thrown in, and a coda that’s definitely been inspired by a peak Iron Maiden recording from the mid 80s, this represents great trad metal fare. Loaded with pumping bass and even bigger rhythm guitar lines, the more melodic ‘Man Up’ has a general mood sounds like classic Accept crossed with the more sullen end of Rose Tattoo and ‘Electric’ era Cult. Valuing brawn over complexity, the music is a perfect fit for the lyric which champions the idea of putting on a brave face and soldiering through this tough life. It sounds great when played loudly, and with a dirty hard rock infused lead break adding a broader melody en route, it really brings the classic, stomping Accept sound effortlessly in to the present. A similar approach is taken during ‘Straight Up Jack’, and although this could’ve felt like a band merely repeating a formula, a fantastic bass sound, a well constructed guitar solo and simple hook form the basis of a really enjoyable workout that shows how easily the veteran Accept can tackle a solid groove. In fact, this has AC/DC-ish intentions that sound so much better than the actual AC/DC in 2024.

For more great riffs, look no further than the album’s standout cut ‘Unbreakable’, a number which celebrates the unity of band and fans in the live setting. Against a ferocious trad metal arrangement, Tornillo sings with enthusiasm about power chords, how “volume cracks the night”, and everyone representing a “solid metal force”. In terms of an unashamed love for metal and its audience, this definitely rivals Saxon’s ‘Denim and Leather’ and ‘Heavy Metal Thunder’. With an even heavier groove applied to a pre-chorus where everyone can be found “in the pit” and a musical nod to Grieg midway, these five minutes could’ve sounded faintly ridiculous, but thanks to Accept’s level of musicianship, commitment to the metal cause and unwavering self-belief, it all sounds great. A slightly bluesy toned lead guitar break descales a little of the tension, but overall, this is a fantastic slab of no holds barred, classic metal. Not quite on a par with the rest of the songs, ‘Nobody Gets Out Alive’ sounds like a weird hybrid of early 80s Judas Priest and a meatier sounding Airborne and, as such, scores very highly in terms of riffs and moods. It’s got a really punchy heart that has a classic appeal. The pre-chorus ushers in a bigger melody, and the chorus itself shares a shameless shout-along hook. The featured solo, which occasionally sounds as if it’ll slip into a mix of rock ‘n’ roll and classic metal, is also rather fun. So, what’s the issue here? Simply that a few of the lyrics err on the side of clichéd, and Tornillo – as heard here in full squeal – could be accused of overdoing things. Nevertheless, for the less demanding listener, the good firmly outweighs the bad, and the track’s hard driving approach sounds like it’s tailor made for the stage. Since this is the weakest of the eleven cuts, it’s fair to say that ‘Humanoid’ is a more than decent album.

‘The Reckoning’ opens with a very ominous riff, before breaking into a mid tempo fist-pumper that makes the very best of a jagged riff throughout. The trad metal elements are augmented by soaring guitars on a simple chorus, and although there are moments that might feel a little like latter day Accept by numbers, the sharp edged arrangement is lifted effortlessly via the help of a slower groove during the mid section. This acts as a great musical base for a superb solo which begins with semi-bluesy notes to build the tension and then explodes into a flurry of trad metal furies. It might not be quite as smart as the title cut, overall, but it’s safe to say it’s another track that fans will love.

Elsewhere, ‘Diving Into The Sun’ blends a hard edged metal riff with eastern melodies during the intro, creating something that wouldn’t sound out of place in the later part of the Dio catalogue, before venturing further into a world of hard metal riffs where a razor edged lead vocal is offset by gruff backing vocals. It would be fair to say the heart of the track draws heavily on classic Accept, but fans will certainly not be unhappy with that, whilst ‘Southside of Hell’ closes everything with a full throttle metallic banger. With an injection of speed, the arrangement really showcases Wolf and Uwe’s rhythm guitar work with a sharpness that falls somewhere between melodic thrash and Jan Cyrka’s brilliant ‘Western Eyes’. With the thrashier elements interspersed with a very dirty chug on the chorus, this quickly starts to sound like one of the best trad metal tunes of 2024, and by association, it’s another of this album’s essential cuts. The band have clearly been very smart; since this example of Accept at full pelt is the last thing you hear when the disc stops spinning, it has the effect of making an already enjoyable album seem even better.

Absolutely years after Accept updated their sound just a little to weather the storms of the 90s, and even longer since those days of ‘Fast As A Shark’ and ‘Balls To The Wall’ were in rotation on the Radio 1 Rock Show, ‘Humanoid’ captures a band who are still capable of hitting their chosen mark with a real force. Another riff heavy slab that proves that the veteran band still has a lot to offer their fans – and indeed, the world of trad metal in general – ‘Humanoid’ doesn’t always share the most sophisticated lyrics, nor does it aim to break new ground in terms of the rock world at large, but it’s largely great. For those looking for a no nonsense metal album that has a lot of power, it is definitely a recommended listen.

Buy the album here.

April 2024