I have to admit the circumstances surrounding Mark Tornillo’s joining of Accept as vocalist did raise an eyebrow. Replacing a singer is not uncommon in metal, or the wider music scene in general of course, with the German heavy metal icons already having gone through a chop ‘n’ change in the ’80s when David Reece took Udo Dirkschneider’s place for one album. However, Tornillo joins after a near 12 year split, with reunion shows in 2005 being the only activity from Accept between 1997 and 2009. Not one to let a good thing lie though, founding guitarist Wolf Hoffmann and long time bassist Peter Baltes reactivated the group, dispensed of a disinterested Dirkschneider, took Tornillo on board and now here we are. Whatever my initial reservations about this reunion, there’s no doubt Tornillo’s acquisition and subsequent material recorded with him have been a success. We are now seven years deep into the newest era of Accept, and with it comes The Rise of Chaos, their fourth album since reforming, and 15th overall.
This album is also the fourth consecutive time that Andy Sneap has overseen production duties. Sneap has a bit of a love it or loathe it production style, and I’m afraid to say that I tend to veer more towards the latter position. He has found his signature sound, sure, but generally I find it to be too sterile and clean. That said, I think it worked quite well for Accept’s previous three records, and the old ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ adage rings true here. The guitars are thick and punchy, with riffs sprayed over a weighty rhythm section that thankfully doesn’t succumb to an overly digitalised bass drum sound (as Sneap can be prone to subjecting us to).
The tried and true formula doesn’t just apply to the choice of producer, as The Rise of Chaos continues to march down the path Accept have been on since Tornillo came on board. There’s little risk taken, but at this point, I imagine Wolf and co feel they’re comfortably settled into their niche and see no need to branch out, which is an attitude I have no issue with as the band members start to skirt around the 60 year mark. The problem is when you come up short even when sticking to what you know, and this is the downfall of the record. I’ll make it clear that this is not a bad album; more a forgettable one. After three pretty good records in the past seven years, The Rise of Chaos dips into rather average territory. One word can sum up the problem – riffs (or lack there of). There’s plenty of attitude, endeavour and energy throughout, but those factors alone cannot carry a heavy metal record when the riffs are found wanting. Opener “Die By the Sword” typifies the record, with a tempo to get the head banging and a chorus that’ll have the masses singing along. You can already imagine it opening the show, and I’m sure it’ll go down a storm. Riff wise though, there’s not a lot there. “Hole in the Head” is even less fortunate, with little to no hooks to speak of, and early signs don’t look so good. Thankfully, the title track storms along with a bit more bite and steers things in the right direction. “Koolaid”’s more melodic intro is symbolic of the song’s more palatable nature, and although it’s a decent enough mid tempo anthem, it’s just lacking that little something special. Ditto for the hard rockin’ “Analog Man”, a very simple, basic song on an album where complexity isn’t exactly a defining feature. The ‘less is more’ approach is more effectively employed on the later cut “Worlds Colliding”; it’s slightly derivative riffing carried admirably by a straightforward, stomping beat and a catchy vocal line.
The album is unsurprisingly at it’s strongest when it goes for the jugular. “What’s Done Is Done” is Teutonic metal 101, a no nonsense showing of force with a ridiculously catchy chorus. When you think of German heavy metal, this is the sort of song that springs to mind. “No Regrets” is deceptively accessible in the way the melody weaves into the main riff, as the song thrusts back and forth between heavy chugs and hanging chords; a mold breaker on an album that plays it safe too often. “Carry the Weight” also effectively utilises melody in a similar manner and throws in a half-memorable chorus to boot; something the record is sadly starved of. Unfortunately, these moments of inspiration are far too sparse.
When all is said and done, The Rise of Chaos will stand as just another Accept album. It’s the least remarkable effort they’ve mustered since they reconvened in 2009, with a distinctive lack of riffs it’s biggest shortcoming. Not an awful effort by any means, and I’m sure the group’s fan base will enjoy it, but I feel that, after the initial euphoria wears off, it’ll likely be consigned to the shelf in favour one of their more superior records.
Highlights: “The Rise of Chaos”, “What’s Done Is Done”, “Carry the Weight”
The Rise of Chaos is available worldwide on August 4th, via Nuclear Blast Records.