One of metal's most enduring tropes is devastation. While much of this horror and calamity is figuratively conveyed through bombastic, guitar and drum-driven textures, metal historically tends to hold an ugly reflection against what's happening in the world. Two notable past metal classics were released during the first Bush administration, particularly its affiliated desert conflicts and brittle political affairs. MINISTRY's "New World Order" and MEGADETH's "Symphony of Destruction" carried warnings of communal collapse and global annihilation. Hell, while we're at it with MEGADETH, we can add "Holy Wars...the Punishment Due".
ACCEPT, which has weathered and won the day amidst its own state of disorder, delivers its fourth album featuring vocalist Mark Tornillo. Those who laid bets the band would dissolve without Udo Dirkschneider in 2010 are sadly mistaken. However you view its makeover—altered even greater a few years ago with the departures of Stefan Schwarzmann and Herman Frank—ACCEPT has shown immense fortitude in its second coming. Top-selling albums in Germany and Finland, and top ten landings in numerous countries, ACCEPT's new world order has been largely positive.
Its new album, "The Rise of Chaos", all but forces us to turn to the tube and consume the worldwide turmoil, most obviously in the United States, dominating the daily headlines. War, terrorism, hate crimes, a cultural degeneration threatens us all as one collective human race. It gives many of us charge to act, and ACCEPT takes up that cause to much length here. Making it an outright theme would've done this album better, as the non-topical songs are glaring eyesores. Yet, put to task with boots stamped on the floor pedals, "The Rise of Chaos" has its moments.
"Die By the Sword" opens as any traditional metal album would, ACCEPT particularly, big-minded, grand, a would-be epic upon greeting. While not quite as explosive as initially suggested, the pump of "Die By the Sword" is checked just enough to let the riffs sing as proudly as Mark Tornillo. The message is more important than the lowered volume, as Tornillo keeps his arsenal dialed back enough to point out mass bloodshed's atrocities, and the erasing of both earthly and manmade wonders built up over thousands of years. Tornillo later escorts his audience through the title track's "apocalyptic maze" within the tense, bass-bombing title track, which carries the album's most memorable choruses.
"Hole in the Head" rings like a 1990s MEGADETH jam, as Mark Tornillo hilariously natters "I need you like a prison term, like a ball and chain, like a spike into my brain..." in a spit-filled tirade against a soured relationship. Hence, another oft-used rock and metal trope. Unfortunately, "Hole in the Head" is a bit of a chore, since it doesn't muster much other than Tornillo's snarls and wails, plus a reliably gnarly guitar solo from Wolf Hoffmann. Hoffmann's melodic guitar play on "Koolaid" (yes, you're correct in assuming it's about Jim Jones and the nefarious group suicide in Jonestown) is all that keeps the song from thudding over its uncomfortably awkward self.
Thankfully, ACCEPT drops a sorely needed speed bomb, "No Regrets", to wipe off "Koolaid"'s prickly taint. The band lyrically reverts to the inherent conscience from which this album was conceived. The most affecting lyric being, "I've seen war and prayed for peace." It's not the predominant velocity, the appositely slow and somber choruses and breakdown notwithstanding, on "No Regrets" that counts the most, but the urgency. Wrapping the first half of the album on a high note harkens back to flipside days of albums and cassettes.
This illusion is cast so well you can picture yourself quickly snapping "The Rise of Chaos" over in mid-play and dropping the needle on "Analog Man", which Markhes stoically like the leadoff cut on a second side. Take the intended old-school cue of the song, in title and in words. "What's Done Is Done" and "Worlds Colliding" thus logically following as customary ACCEPT power pumpers. "Carry the Weight" picks up the momentum once more in a slight mirror of "Wrong is Right" from "Metal Heart". "Race to Extinction" wraps louder and brisker than it initially suggests, and if you're an old-dog headbanger, you'll be snickering at long ago debates over which side was better to albums that still stand the test of time. No further elaboration needed, on this album, side two wins out, easily.
"The Rise of Chaos" may not be the band's finest outing with Mark Tornillo, but once it trips past its initial foils, it settles into a contented, hard-hitting groove. Wolf Hoffmann continues to show the world what a gifted guitarist he's always been. Peter Baltes is Wolf's last holdout following the exodus of Stefan Schwarzmann and Herman Frank—the latter's presences are grossly missed. It's a matter of timing from men who worked so long together that's still being processed with Christopher Williams and Uwe Luis respectively. The new recruits prove up to the task, but even younger ACCEPT fans will detect a glaring difference between this album and its predecessor, "Blind Rage". That being said, Wolf and Peter still have a fangy pack to sustain their pride.