It was a night crammed full of almost every heavy metal cliché imaginable.
On 8 February 2018 at KOKO, one of London’s most beloved music venues, guitarists locked together in a rhythmic chug, songs extended with completely gratuitous guitar solos, and set-piece choral singalongs were enthusiastically encouraged.
It was an outdated, unfashionable and a completely joyous triumph.
Welcome to hallowed ground
The night was opened by a rising band in the new school of old-school heavy metal, Night Demon.
From Ventura, California but clearly influenced by all things NWOBHM, they make an unholy racket for a three-piece. They brought tremendous energy to a style that nowadays can sound ploddy in comparison to thrash/black/death metal. They even managed to win over a typically subdued London crowd until a good portion of the stately, lifelong-leather-clad audience were getting in the mood, with riotous cheering after every song.
Vocalist/bassist Jarvis Leatherby headbanged until Never Say No To Metal thought his head would fly off. Leatherby attacked his bass more like a rhythm guitar leading to a splendid low end wall.
Guitarist Armand John Anthony machine-gunned the crowd, cracking out wild, seemingly spontaneous solos. Topless drummer Dusty Squires (what a name) held it all together, and also managing to make our NSNTM Editor weak at the knees (Editor’s note: Welcome to Wet February, ladies and gentleman).
The short instrumental ‘Flight of the Manticore’ was for us a clear highlight in a celebration of heavy metal power and craft, and Night Demon are sure to be with us for a long time to come.
Restless and whiling away the time?
As great as Night Demon were, Accept have been masters of the genre for 40 years and were going to be drawing on the full force of their experience.
Listening to Accept in the run up to the gig, we enjoyed the music but we were sceptical that there would be enough variety in the set to keep our attention from wandering for over an hour and a half.
We were also a little concerned about the constant “verse, chorus, verse, chorus” format wearing a bit thin, but were looking forward to the obvious ragers like ‘Balls to the Wall’.
However, the crowd gave us some reassurance before the band had even taken the stage. At least half the punters sported Accept shirts; it’s always encouraging when the billed band manages to subvert the scene-standard choice of faded Slayer or Maiden t-shirt.
If you live by the sword…
As Accept strode onto the stage and fired up their weapons of choice, they were welcomed with an almighty cheer before launching into ‘Die by the Sword’, the first track from their new record The Rise of Chaos.
Mark Tornillo’s AC/DC-style rasps and shrieks translated brilliantly live. It definitely helped that he looked the vision of the “noble rocker aging well” in a cap and aviators, although rhythm guitarist Peter Baltes won merch-watch with a simple but effective Legend of Zelda t-shirt.
For us, the gig really kicked into gear when they followed up their opener with ‘Stalingrad’ – the song which got us into Accept in the first place. It was a NSNTM party in our little corner of the venue, much to the amusement/bemusement of the middle-aged punters around us.
From that moment onwards it was a gig defined by unfiltered joy for both of the NSNTM contingent, who within four songs were throwing heads back to laugh maniacally at how ludicrious it all was and much fun was being had.
We’re gonna mix it up
While we would say we’re generally more a fan of Accept’s albums since they reformed in 2009 (and certainly more familiar with that material), the latest album The Rise of Chaos left us a bit luke-warm. There’s some validity to criticism that a couple of songs are a bit daft.
But then, that didn’t stop us screaming “Don’t drink the KOOLAID!” or “I’M AN ANALOG MAN” at the top of our lungs. Accept played a run of four songs off the album (the other tracks being ‘The Rise of Chaos’ and ‘No Regrets’) which were everything you could want from singalong heavy metal.
In the middle of the show, guitarist Wolf Hoffmann – who had been contorting his face into all manner of gurns throughout his centrestage solos – was given space to show off some of his neo-classical solo material before drawing us back into ‘Neon Nights’.
Balls to the wall euphoria
The second half of the gig was generally dominated by golden oldie material, given a new lease of life thanks to updated Accept guitar tones.
‘Princess of the Dawn’ and ‘Fast as a Shark’ sounded absolutely huge, the latter of which managed to sandwich in a completely over the top instrumental showdown between Hoffmann and Baltes.
Finally, Accept stepped back on stage for an encore of old and new with ‘Metal Heart’, followed by the the gigantic ‘Teutonic Terror’ (Editor’s note: Will forever be grateful for the opportunity to scream “WE WILL GIVE EM’ THE AXE” with unironic gusto).
The finisher was the classic ‘Balls to the Wall’, which left the crowd in a complete state of euphoria and still wanting more.
We departed from Koko feeling that the following quote was an apt description of our own feelings and of the bands future.
“The fire remains in our hearts, all of our dreams made anew” – Shadow Soldiers by Accept.
Crowd watch: Our NSNTM editor was definitely a rare vegetable in a mostly middle-aged sausage factory, but a shout-out has to go to the two women on the nearest balcony to the stage who were losing their shit throughout the entire thing.
Verdict: Insufficient breakdowns more than made up for by abundant solos, gurning and metal heart.