Following a hiatus which was reportedly spent in regression therapy and headbanging to well-worn vinyl — which I suppose is a kind of regression therapy in itself — Chris “Woody High” MacDermott of Mighty High returns with the much-anticipated next installment of his Spine of Overkill column. This time around, Woody recalls picking up Accept‘s fourth album, 1982′s Restless and Wild.
I knew I was going to have trouble following up my last Spine of Overkill. How could I top a story about space truckin’ to L’amours in Brooklyn by myself to see Motörhead? I spent a lot of time in deep meditation to relive the details of that day and I’m not sure if I want to do that to myself again. 15 was a terrible age.
One thing that did come up while undergoing that past-life regression therapy was the thrill of hearing “Fast as a Shark” for the first time. I thought I knew all the fastest metal jams at that time — everything by Motörhead, “Delivering the Goods” by Judas Priest, “Mothra” by Anvil, etc. but “Fast as a Shark” completely floored me. I’m pretty sure I asked somebody at the show, “who is this?” I had never heard of Accept before but I knew I had to track down the album as soon as possible. I knew Restless & Wild was the album to get because the DJ at L’amours also played the title track. I knew it was the same band that did “Fast as a Shark.” At first I thought the lyrics were “Let’s dance” but I knew that couldn’t be right. Luckily someone near me screamed the chorus of “Restless and wild!” enough times to make it sink in.
Within a week I was back in NYC on one of my usual record buying trips. Top of the list was to find “Fast as a Shark.” I wasn’t sure if the band’s name was Except or Accept but I started in the metal section under “A” at Bleeker Bob’s and there it was. I was used to seeing rows of Marshall stacks on stage but this album cover offered something different. They had THREE speaker cabinets piled on top of each other rather than the usual two. The drummer was pounding a giant chrome drum kit with two of the biggest bass drums I’d ever seen. One guitarist was soloing on a Gibson SG in a leather jacket while the other had on a leather vest and was chugging on a Flying V. Total Judas Priest. Front and center there was a small guy with short hair strangling the bass player. This had to be good!
It was an import, which meant it wasn’t shrink-wrapped and I could check out the inside. There was an inner sleeve with lyrics on one side and a big Accept logo on the other, perfect size for tracing and putting on book covers. Even better was the clear red vinyl. I knew I was buying the album but that just made it even minter. Everything about it was totally metal, even the record label — Heavy Metal Worldwide. I started paying attention to what labels were releasing metal albums. If it was on Metal Blade, Megaforce, Neat, etc., you knew it was going to be metal no matter what. You couldn’t trust the major labels. They’d market something as metal and it would sound like REO Speedwagon or Loverboy. Fuck that shit! A few months later I saw the German version of Restless & Wild. It had a pair of flaming Flying V’s wrapped up in barbed wire. That was cool but too expensive for me to buy a second copy. In hindsight I should have bought it since I was going to be playing the album to death for the next 30 years.
I could not wait to crank it up and was not disappointed. To this day, “Fast as a Shark” is my favorite opening to any album. I never get tired of hearing the pops, scratches and the “hi-dee-hi-do-hi-dah’s” of a children’s folk song. It’s such a great build up before the big needle scratch and Udo’s opening scream. Many years later I found out the song was called “Ein Heller und ein Batzen” (“A Farthing and a Penny”) and one of the children’s voices belonged to Dieter Dierks, noted Krautrock producer who also worked with Scorpions. Even though the song was written in the 1830s, it was a popular marching song during the Nazi era and caused Accept a lot of grief. “Fast as a Shark” is simply stunning — the perfect combination of Motörhead speed and Judas Priest precision riffing. A lot of headbangers back then considered Motörhead too noisy and chaotic. On “Fast as a Shark” you could hear every note of every chord. This took songs like “Rapid Fire” from British Steel and delivered it at “Overkill” velocity. Fucking awesome. It still sounds incredible today. I remember playing this song for some of my punk rock friends who claimed most metal was too slow. They were speechless.
Following up “Fast as a Shark” with “Restless & Wild” is an unbeatable one-two combo. Certain songs belong together. Separating “Waiting for the Bus” from “Jesus Just Left Chicago” is lame. Same with “Heartbreaker” and “Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman).” “Restless & Wild” kicks so much ass. It’s just the right tempo for headbanging and has some built in dynamics to give your neck a rest before the big chorus. The rhythm section drives hard and the twin guitars are so powerful and crunchy, but razor sharp. Herman Frank is pictured and credited as a guitarist but he joined the band after the album was recorded. All of the guitar parts were laid down by the incredible Wolf Hoffmann. He doesn’t get nearly enough credit for developing the tight, powerful riffing style that guys like James Hetfield and Scott Ian would build their own styles off of. Then there’s the powerhouse grunt of Udo Dirkschneider, a shrinky-dink version of Rob Halford with a bark all his own.
The rest of side one is great but falls a bit short of the excitement that the opening two songs generate. “Ahead of the Pack” and “Shake Your Heads” are solid mid-tempo bangers. “Neon Nights” starts off with some fancy, introspective solo electric guitar before it gets all distorted and drops down an octave. Parts of it sound a little bit like what Cliff would do on his bass solo a year later on Metallica‘s first album. When the song kicks in, it’s a moody Scorps-influenced pounder.
Side two starts off with the blatant “Livin’ after Midnight” tribute of “Get Ready.” I’ve always been surprised this song wasn’t a big hit. “Get Ready” and “Rock Forever” by Judas Priest are my two favorite songs to blast with the windows down when pulling into the parking lot of a heavy rock concert. If you’ve ever wondered what Mercyful Fate would have sounded like with a more “normal” singer, then “Demon’s Night” might be a good indication. Wolf fires up a killer riff that’s always reminded me of Black Sabbath‘s “Zero the Hero” from Born Again (released a year after R&W). Back then I used to accuse Iron Maiden of stealing “Two Minutes to Midnight” from Venom‘s “Welcome to Hell” but Accept‘s “Flash Rockin’ Man” might have been the source, too. “Don’t Go Stealing My Soul Away” is kind of a commercial track with some cool woodblock on it. It all wraps up with the outstanding “Princess of the Dawn.” Years later when I started reading about Krautrock I always hoped it would sound like “Princess of the Dawn.” It didn’t. Nothing really sounds like “Princess of the Dawn.” Only Saxon‘s “Dallas 1PM” has a similar hypnotic, driving groove but Accept‘s is a bit more exotic sounding. Only Udo can get away with singing about fairytales and still make it sound metal. The abrupt ending to the song totally confused me at first but over the years I’ve come to really like it. The album starts off with such a big “fuck you” and it kind of ends the same way, too.
After buying Restless & Wild, I went back and picked up their earlier albums Accept, I’m A Rebel and Breaker. They all had some good songs but were pretty uneven. (There are rumors of a version of the song “I’m A Rebel” with Bon Scott on vocals but who knows if that’s true or not). When Balls to the Wall came out later in ’83, I picked up the import immediately. It was a good album but nowhere close to Restless & Wild. By the time Metal Heart came out in 1985 I had moved onto bands who built their entire reputation on every song being like “Fast as a Shark.” Goddamn, what an album. Go crank it right now.