(Nuclear Blast Records)
When improbably long-running Germanic Heavy Metal icons Accept announced the addition of former T.T. Quick vocalist Mark Tornillo as a hirsute replacement for the recently departed Udo Dirkschneider, I was initially apprehensive. However, a trio of post-reunion releases (i.e. Blood Of The Nations, Stalingrad and Blind Rage) would ultimately prove, the group was more than capable of re-capturing the fractured magic of yore. A highlight of their universally-heralded resurgence was the performance of guitarist and group co-founder Wolf Hoffmann. Returning to music on a full-time basis after an arguably less-than-likely stint as a professional photographer, his now-trademark tonalities aided in re-propelling the group to the dizzying, halcyon heights of international acclaim. Now, with the remainder of the legendary group enjoying a much-needed discontinuity from the 'austerity' of recording and touring, he has unveiled his sophomore solo effort Headbangers Symphony.
On the brilliant Headbangers Symphony (2016), an expertly assembled eleven song collection of deftly executed Neoclassical Heavy Metal, each track, beginning with the thunderous--albeit maddeningly infectious-- first single “Scherzo” (an adaptation of Beethoven's “Symphony No.9” that utilizes the riff from the Blood Of The Nations track “Teutonic Terror”) and the playful, acoustic-tinged lament “Je Crois Entendre Encore” (from the Georges Bizet Opera Les Pêcheurs De Perles), instantly commands the rapt and undivided attention of even the most jaded and unimaginative of listeners, myself most definitely included. Breathlessly unleashing a series of previously unparalleled, all-consuming auditory landscapes, Hoffmann scores major points early and often by boldly abandoning the stereotypical trappings of yore in favor of an awe-inspiring multi-dimensional delivery. Accordingly, the initial auditory excursions seethe with an originality that belies the vastness of his discography.
Continuing with the relentlessly pummeling “Symphony No. 40” (an adaptation of Mozart's “Symphony No. 40 In G Minor”) and the smoldering, synth-laden “Swan Lake” (an adaptation of the oft-battle-scarred Tchaikovsky ballet), the impossibly airtight combination of Accept guitarist Wolf Hoffmann, bassists Peter Baltes (Accept, Don Dokken, John Norum) and John Billings, keyboardist Melo Mafali, drummers Jason Bowld and Pat McDonald (Kip Winger, Tanya Tucker, Victor Wooten) and, perhaps most notably, the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, steamrolls ahead a carefully-calculated pace. Showcasing his infrequently documented non-Metal roots, Hoffmann obliterates the preconceived notions of the casual peruser by 'thrilling' and 'chilling' while remaining understated. Flexing his more-than-considerable creative muscles early and often, Hoffmann wastes little--if any--time driving home each key focal point with a refreshingly forthright sense of enlivenment.
A self-Produced affair throughout, other standouts, including the fist-pumping, quasi-mosh-inducing Sonata “Pathétique” (a second Beethoven adaptation originally written for piano) and the awkwardly-titled--yet equally impressive--closer “Air On The G String” (a adaptation of the Bach Orchestral Suite No. 3 In D Major), only further reinforce the guitarists truly well-deserved reputation as bona fide creative and commercial force not to be ignored. Undeniably far heavier than his woefully-underrated solo debut Classical (1997), Hoffman delivers the goods with an unnerving grace and agility rarely showcased within the 'traditional' compositional confines of the Heavy Metal genre. Most definitely not for the faint of heart or weak of constitution (or, for that matter, anyone with a genuine and sincere interest in broadening their musical horizons), the end result(s) of the fleet-fingered guitarist's more-than-considerable efforts are devastatingly beautiful and should be viewed accordingly.
But is it groundbreaking or revolutionary? Absolutely. Seamlessly blending the already well-documented and well-established grandiose extremes of the Heavy Metal and Classical genres, the majority--if not all--of the decidedly incendiary wares contained herein are guaranteed to appeal to both die-hard Accept completists and curious newcomers alike. Remaining atmospheric and ambient and while skillfully avoiding the pretentious and self-indulgent proclivity of his few legitimate contemporaries, Hoffmann ultimately succeeds by wholeheartedly pandering to enthusiasts on 'either side' of the proverbial 'fence' without overly focusing on any individual element. Needless to say, if you've once again found yourself in search of a thought-provoking alternative to the painfully mindless, Pop and Hip Hop-fueled frivolities that are so often force fed en mass, then this, my friends, might just be the high-octane counter-irritants for what it is that ails you. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.
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