Monday, March 19, 2007


The other night, I went to see “post-metal” or “shoegaze metal” acts Isis (or ISIS, as iTunes prefers) and Jesu at Irving Plaza. I was bored to tears, and called it a night pretty early. I’ve been pretty disappointed with everything I’ve heard from Isis/ISIS since Oceanic and its attendant 2CD set of remixes (which is my pick from their catalog), but way back when I liked them a whole lot. I saw them live at Brownie’s in 2000, opening for Botch, and their set included what I remember now as a 10-minute theremin/didgeridoo duet, though it was probably 1/4 that long, if that. They were something totally unique and cool at that point. Now, of course, the very existence of the term “NeurIsis” as a subgenre descriptor (slow ’n’ low, no solos to speak of, enigmatic cover art) tells you how thoroughly their early innovations have been absorbed into the 21st Century metal mainstream. Jesu are Godflesh/God/Techno Animal/Ice/Final/Sidewinder guitarist/vocalist Justin Broadrick’s new thing, which marries his drum machine thud (except these days there’s a real live human slammin’ the skins) and mechanistical guitarrorism to My Bloody Valentine-esque clouds of beautiful noise. I don’t much like the results, though I will give the guy credit for really knowing how to sculpt sound—I had my earplugs in and it was dull dull dull, but when I pulled ’em out, the music came to life like one of those time-lapse sequences of a huge, bright flower blooming in like two seconds.

Anyway, I’d budgeted for a T-shirt, but before the show, I wandered into the Virgin Megastore where there was a pretty good sale in progress. Lots of CDs for $10, and some for less. It was the even cheaper ones that I gravitated to—I bought three Accept albums—Restless And Wild, Balls To The Wall, and Metal Heart—for $8 each.

I liked Accept a lot in Junior High. One of the first metal concerts I ever attended was Dio at Madison Square Garden in, I think, 1986. I was 13, and went with a friend whose dad drove us into the city, where we met up with my dad, who had bought the tickets and who would actually be accompanying us to the show. My friend wanted to see Dio; I couldn’t give a shit about him, really. I thought the Holy Diver album cover was cool, but hadn’t really bothered to investigate the music. I wanted to see Accept, who were opening up.

I discovered them pretty much by accident; my uncle, Bruce Malamut, a freelance rock critic for Rolling Stone and other mags starting in the late ’60s, gave me a pile of promo metal vinyl for Christmas one year. I don’t remember most of the records; they were proto-hair outfits for the most part, I think, plus a copy of the Deep Purple compilation When We Rock, We Rock And When We Roll, We Roll which some people have taken luxurious dumps on for making no differentiation between their early and later material (OMG, “Smoke On The Water” on the same compilation as “Woman From Tokyo” and “Kentucky Woman”!!!) but that’s exactly what makes it the perfect introductory toe-dip for an impressionable 12- or 13-year-old who just wants to hear loud guitarrrz.

Anyway, the only other record in the whole pile that I liked was a six-song live-in-Japan EP by Accept, called Kaizoku-Ban. It featured four songs from Metal Heart (the title track, “Screaming For A Love-Bite,” “Up To The Limit” and “Living For Tonite”) and two from Balls To The Wall (“Head Over Heels” and “Love Child”). I didn’t know that, of course, because I’d never heard the band before. I was immediately impressed, though. They sounded pretty much exactly like I thought a metal band should—big-ass guitars riffing with fist-pumping precision, thunderous drums, and no keyboards. Oh, and I thought the interpolation of Beethoven in the middle of the song “Metal Heart” was really fucking cool. But what really sold me on Accept was Udo Dirkschneider, the vocalist, who looked like Klaus Kinski as a portly, pissed-off dwarf in head-to-toe camouflage (T-shirt and fatigue pants) but had a voice that sounded like, with sufficient amplification, it could shatter bricks.

Of course, I wound up taping a friend’s vinyl copy of Metal Heart soon enough, and bought their next studio album, Russian Roulette, on cassette. Udo left the band after that one, and I moved on to Metallica, Slayer et al. (RR was the first record I ever bought that had a “Parental Advisory – Explicit Lyrics” stamp on it, by the way, and I swear I never heard anything dirty.)

Accept were, let’s face it, confusing sometimes. Their first three albums didn’t really suggest much in the way of psychosexual weirdness—the covers to the debut and Breaker looked not dissimilar to contemporaneous Scorpions releases (even if they never delivered anything half as sick as the Scorps’ infamous Virgin Killer sleeve). But starting with 1983’s Restless & Wild, unsettling undercurrents began to swirl. The title of this post is a lyric from “Fast As A Shark,” which is a fucking awesome song that basically laid the groundwork for thrash (or, anyway, was thrash where no one would have thought to look for it, assuming these guys were just a Judas Priest ripoff act). And on Balls To The Wall, they went all-out. See, the lyrics were all written by “Deaffy,” who turned out to be their (female) manager under a pseudonym. So a lot of their sex songs (and there were a bunch) seemed possibly written from the point of view of the penetrated, rather than the penetrator as was, and is, usual in metal. For example, “Head Over Heels” and “Turn Me On” are both about sex, but they’re gender-neutral, a tactic usually employed by gay singers who didn’t want to admit as much—Melissa Etheridge and the Pet Shop Boys (before Neil Tennant came out) both employed this tactic in the past. And when combined with the freakish, Helmut Newton-esque cover photo of Balls To The Wall, it was all a little much for young metal boys, who tend to be a roiling mass of sexual urges. (Me, I didn’t get any of this until much later—I just thought it was cool to hear someone screech the word “balls” in a song. I was fairly Beavis-esque at that point.)

Anyway, this post has already gone on way too long. Short version: Accept = awesome. These three albums still hold up, and should be in your collection just like they are in mine.

1 comment:

Erik said...

Accept were one of the shining lights of my "early metal years". Bought Metal Heart because I thought the cover was badass, and thankfully the music lived up to that image. Always liked that Udo took the camouflage thing as far as possible - the fingerless gloves were a nice added touch, in my opinion. Though he surely wasn't using the camo to hide the pudge, was he?

Glad to hear they hold up after all these years.