Album Review: Accept – The Rise of Chaos

Of the hundreds of bands that contributed to heavy metal in the ’80s, the ones releasing new material in the ’10s could probably be counted on both hands. Of those, the groups making exciting, well executed music is down to just a few. Accept was still in the latter group as of their 2014 release, Blind Rage, though they seemed to be slipping. Unfortunately, The Rise of Chaos continues the downward slide, and it lacks almost all of the fire and inspiration the band exhibited on the excellent Blood of the Nations and Stalingrad.

First impressions of The Rise of Chaos suffer from the woeful cover art, which looks like a computer choked down a Shutterstock image and sent it out the wrong end of Photoshop. The soiled and murky piece is a bit of an affliction, and though it poorly represents Accept as one of the world’s most notable heavy metal acts, it unfortunately turns out to be an accurate depiction of the album’s musical content. By the time the recording reaches its conclusion, the cover’s disastrous depiction of disaster couldn’t be much more fitting.

Anyone who’s heard Accept’s last few albums with Mark Tornillo at the helm will find the band deviates little from their established sound on The Rise of Chaos. The biggest difference is a lower number of uptempo songs in the vein of classic American power metal. The double bass and blazing tremolo-driven tracks of past albums like “Locked and Loaded,” “Flash to Bang Time,” and “Stampede” are almost entirely absent on The Rise of Chaos, and the album suffers for it. The modern incarnation of Accept only writes two kinds of songs, and with their more aggressive style out of the picture, it leaves the band as a one-dimensional act that struggles to fill an album with worthwhile music. The group’s complacency with pounding out midtempo, hard rock-fueled anthems causes the album to wear increasingly thin as it progresses, a problem that is compounded by the dearth of interesting moments, skillful technical execution, and mature songwriting.

“Die by the Sword” introduces the album with an enthusiastic, if unremarkable, effort that fails to generate much excitement for the rest of the recording. A sparse and ominous opening section gives way to a crunchy, head-bobbing riff and a plodding but inoffensive drum section. Tornillo quickly joins in with his signature snarl, offering a rapid-fire delivery on the verse section that works well enough with the instruments. The song achieves what it sets out to do, but its ambitions are low, resulting in some unmemorable riffs and a dull vocal hook on the chorus.

Incidentally, the generic quality of the song causes it to feel like an unintentional self-parody. Accept has written about 100 songs just like “Die by the Sword,” and as Tornillo rasps out the chorus lyric, “If you live by the sword, you will die by the sword!” one can’t help but feel like it’s a reference to the group’s unfaltering commitment to their established sound. With the fire fading from their ’10s revival, “Die by the Sword” is a perfectly, depressingly suitable way to open the album.

It soon becomes apparent that “Die by the Sword” is one of the best songs on the album, which is a way of saying it’s adequate and listenable. Things take a turn for the worse on the second entry, “Hole in the Head,” which drops the tempo for a lethargic, grinding effort with Tornillo speaking parts of the verse lyrics. A bouncy chorus section offers a moment of reprieve, but it can’t escape the burden of the repetitive and awkwardly immature lyrics. If there was one aspect that weighed down Accept’s last album, Stampede, it was its callow song ideas, and “Hole in the Head” makes it clear that The Rise of Chaos is no more self-aware than its predecessor. Several of Accept’s newest song lyrics would be at home scrawled in the school notebooks of an adolescent garage band, but they are jarring coming from a group of men in their 50s and 60s. “Hole in the Head” hammers away at the cliche phrase that serves as its song title and principal chorus lyric, leading to embarrassing lines like:

You’re a handful of addiction, my antagonistic sin
You take it all, give nothing back, I can’t let you win
I need you like a hole in the head

The cliches keep coming with the very next song, “Koolaid [sic],” which pounds away at its own ham-fisted chorus with, “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid! Don’t taste the holy water!” As with the opener, the song is musically competent, yet lifeless, and the unwarranted attempt at a history lesson about a popular cultural event complicates the appreciation of the song’s little musical value. The awkwardness of “Koolaid” has barely passed when The Rise of Chaos abruptly crashes to one of the lowest points in heavy metal history with the cringeworthy “Analog Man.” Dedicated to pointing out how old and out of touch the band has become, the song actually offers up the following lyrics without a hint of irony:

I was born in a cave when stereo was all the rage
Gatefold vinyl and eight tracks ruled the world
Now there’s flat screens in 3D
My cell phone’s smarter than me
I can’t keep up
My brains are beginning to burn

The music makes no effort to redeem the damning lyrics, plodding along at Accept’s default pace and further cementing the band’s penchant for brutally repetitive chorus hooks. Accept could’ve written “Analog Man” in their sleep, and for their sake, I hope they did. It’s usually unnecessary and reckless to question the intelligence of musicians, but since Accept openly admits their own ignorance, it’s safe to say that “Analog Man,” like much of The Rise of Chaos, is a dimwitted effort that should embarrass any self-respecting human who hears it.

Accept seems to offer a half-hearted apology with “What’s Done is Done,” which contains slightly more vigor than most of the recording. The song delivers a satisfying verse riff and a welcome breakdown and solo section about halfway through. Sadly, the solos are uninspired and clumsy, and the song is once again tarnished by a repetitive chorus laden with trite song lyrics: “What is done is done, the bullet’s left the gun! What is done is done!” Perhaps the chorus is a response to the band’s decision to keep “Analog Man” on the tracklist.

A handful of other mediocre pieces finish out the album with scarcely more zeal than the rest of the recording. “Carry the Weight” deserves mention as the album’s most uptempo effort, offering a melodic chorus that dodges the skull-hammering simplicity and redundancy of most of the album’s songs. In fact, this late entry on the tracklist is likely the easiest one to stomach for more than a single listen, though it does little to compensate for the album’s substandard overall quality.

Many fans refused to embrace an Accept without Udo Dirkschneider, and those people missed out on two and a half excellent albums from the act’s revival. They’re not missing anything now. The band’s impressive skill and enthusiasm were already dwindling on the bipolar Blind Rage, and it’s difficult to spot them at all on The Rise of Chaos. Of the ’80s heavy metal bands still making relevant music in 2017, it seems there is now one fewer.

Taken in its entirety, The Rise of Chaos turns out to be a rise of dreariness. The album marks the second, and likely final, decline of one of heavy metal’s most celebrated acts, and it’s difficult to imagine Accept bouncing back from it. Generally lifeless, frequently tedious, and occasionally embarrassing, Accept has piled on the latest releases from Judas Priest and Iron Maiden with a meaningless contribution to the modern heavy metal scene that does more damage to the band’s legacy than anything else. The mind-numbing repetition, unvarying pace, and wince-inducing lyrical content compound the lack of inspiration and technical skill, leaving the album without a single highlight. Diehard fans willing to support the group through anything will find companionship with cavemen in their enjoyment of The Rise of Chaos. Everyone else should spend their time and money elsewhere.

Rating: 27 / 100