Accept (Self-Titled): Is It the Best Accept Album Ever?
Updated: Jul 9
Today we kick off what will almost definitely not be a short-lived and pointless series of articles attempting to find the best something-or-other from among many related somethings. In this case, the best Accept album from among all the many Accept albums.
This will be no small feat since Accept have been around for eons and have squeezed out 16 full-length albums. Sixteen. As a result, we will be focusing exclusively on their full-length albums for this list, because otherwise we'd all be dead before I finished.
And so we'll begin in the same place where Accept began, which is with their self-titled debut from 1979. This album features many of the group's prominent early members, including Udo Dirkschneider on vocals, Wolf Hoffman and Jörg Fischer on guitars, and Peter Baltes on bass. All of those dudes have extensive histories with the band and will pop up in the totally unbiased analyses of future albums, with one exception. The name you probably won't recognize here belongs to the drummer Frank Friedrich, who did fuck-all related to metal or rock music after this album. (Unless you count a mid-'80s band he played in called Bad Steve, which, you know, let's not.)
Since the goal of this series is to objectively, definitively remove any and all shred of doubt around which of the 16 Accept albums is the undisputed best, we can start by saying that 1979's self-titled effort is decidedly not it.
Not even close, really.
And to be fair, this is self-obviously true of nearly all metal bands' first effort, but that won't stop me from sucker punching debuts in this soon-to-be-highly-regarded Finding the Best series. It's extremely rare for young metal bands to create even a decent or listenable first album, let alone have it be their best one. So let's acknowledge some important and true facts about this release before we start stomping on it.
The fellas were mostly young and baby-faced here. I say "mostly" because Udo was a wizened 26 years old when they recorded it. But Wolf Hoffman was a pup at 19, Peter Baltes was 20, and Jörg Fischer was 21, so just by looking at the numbers we can expect this one to have some rough edges, and boy howdy yes it has those.
Also, full disclosure here: I love me some Accept and generally have favorable things to say about them, but I had never gone back and listened to this recording until I decided to do this series. So the four or five-ish playthroughs I did before writing this were my first exposure to this album.
Now, to break this down into manageable pieces and have some remote semblance of structure for how I'm evaluating these albums, I'll use my tried-and-true and completely arbitrary metrics of Songwriting, Musicianship, and Production. Along the way I'll discuss some other ill-defined and it's-really-just-me-trying-to-sound-smart stuff.
Let's do this.
The songwriting section is primarily focused on whether the songs are enjoyable to listen to and whether or not it's possible to remember them for more than 10 seconds after they end. In the case of Accept's debut album, the answers generally begin with the letter N, as in "no" or "not really" or "never want to hear this album again."
There are very few meaningful melodies to speak of and the music is largely comprised of some dudes strumming guitars, another guy in the back clattering some wood against what I assume is tinfoil, and then Udo chanting out words he jotted down on the back of a napkin.
Unrefined. Yes, that's what I'm trying to say here. It's unrefined.
And sadly unmemorable. Even after multiple passes on this one the only song that I could vaguely recall afterwards was "Take Him in My Heart," and I am still working desperately to expunge that one from the ol' brain canals.
"Take Him in My Heart"
Let's go deeper on a couple of these though. I'm mostly going to complain here that the songwriting is repetitive and generic, and I believe "Take Him in My Heart" supports that argument, so we'll pick on that one first. The chorus line of "Take him in my heart, it's a long way to start" reads and sounds a bit like a nursery rhyme, and paired with the swaying rhythm of the music it becomes wearisome in short order. Plus, the song is apparently about a 20-year-old virgin girl who approaches a random dude on the street and asks him to fuck her?
I mean, what?
I'm not even inserting the F word here for embellishment:
One morning she was feeling bad
And didn't go to school
She went to town to find a man
Who fucks her very cool
Moving hard and randy
She was walking down the street
Suddenly she saw a man
The man she dreamed to meet
Hello guy, you're looking good
Don't you think it's alright
To love me now - I need a man
So badly - so badly
So, "Take Him in My Heart" is a weird song and also not a good one, but it's hardly the worst track on the list – in fact it's pretty good relative to many of its neighbors.
The honor of "the worst song in this dude's opinion" would undoubtedly belong to "Seawinds," a dreary ballad placed in the third spot on the album to ensure the recording's early momentum carries it straight off a cliff. Equally as repetitive as "Take Him in My Heart" but with the added misfortune of being...y'know, a ballad, this ploddingly slow track is devoid of any interesting melodies or musical details. "Seawinds" quickly becomes an endurance test to see how long the listener can fight off their rapidly escalating enthusiasm for the skip button.
"Seawinds" even has a near-twin later on the album in the form of the slighty-less-dismal "Glad to Be Alone," though the latter does benefit from some snarky lyrics that belie the song title.
The only song I might actually choose to listen to when I'm not firmly positioned in my underground review bunker would be "Helldriver," an energetic piece which bears a welcome semblance to the signature Accept sound we all know and love. But as with other near-salvageable tracks, the chorus hook lands more like a chorus haymaker, and it quickly bludgeons me into submission.
Am I being a jerk about all this and bullying some guys half my age? I mean, yeah. Isn't that what music blogs are for?
But let's be real for second, beneath the quick and dirty writing style here there's a youthful enthusiasm that gives the album a nice lift. At the very least, you can tell the fellas were excited about this one and put their hearts into it, and that counts for something, right? Let's give the boys credit for doing the best they could with what they had.
Did I mention Wolf Hoffman was 19?
Much like the songwriting, the musicianship here is best described as, "ehhhh..." The thing that really strikes me about it though is that none of the players here are particularly recognizable as themselves. Even Udo, who easily has one of the most iconic voices in heavy metal history, is largely free of the raspy snarl that became his signature.
The boys have learned to play their instruments competently by the time they recorded this, and that's about it. There's no remarkable skill on display and few identifying artistic touches from any of them.
It's actually kind of amazing in light of how clear and bold the Accept sound would become within just a few short years. But in terms of enjoying this recording for its own sake, well...no, probably not.
I'm not sure what that means in the context of Accept's self-titled debut, but here's what I can tell you for certain: while researching this album I found an interview with Udo clarifying that this album was recorded using nothing more than a ham sandwich and a broken frying pan.
Not really, but you believed me, didn't you? Also, you think I actually do any research before I write this stuff?
Let's just sum up this section by saying, "Ow, my fucking ears."
Okay, once again I'm probably being unfair. If you jump from any kind of professionally produced heavy metal album to this one, yes it's going to be jarring. But after you stuff a song or two into your ears you'll adjust to the white noise and the going gets a bit easier. I've certainly heard much worse, and no doubt you have too. The instruments feel relatively balanced in the mix so it's possible to appreciate what each dude is doing at any given time, so there's that.
And honestly, recordings that have this "first album vibe" are kind of charming in their own cacophonous way. I played in a garage band in high school and we made some shitty recordings, and that's just the nature of growing as artists. Just like Accept's musicianship, the production on this one has that warmly nostalgic "we're a crappy garage band but we're working at it and getting better all the time" thing going for it, so cheers to them for making the effort and putting themselves out there.
Conclusion About Accept's Self-Titled Album
This has all been a lot of unnecessary words to discuss what Hoffman himself has summarized about the recording, which is that the album had no real focus. "We were just playing songs that we had always played. It was material that had gathered up over the first few months and years of our existence and it was a mixture of all kinds of stuff."
It's very realistic to think of Accept's 1979 debut not as a true "album" type of album and more as a full-length collection of demos.
And with that in mind, it's time to answer the unspoken question baked into the title of this no-doubt-to-one-day-be-a-long-running series of articles:
Is this the best Accept album?
Is it in the top 5?
Is this the worst Accept album?
Actually, probably not. There are some real stinkers ahead (and we'll get to those), but acknowledging what this is – a low-budget collection of early songs from a very young band – it's actually pretty damn good.
In light of where the band ended up and their status as one of the most respected and influential traditional heavy metal groups of all time, I honestly enjoyed my time exploring this first album and getting a better feel for the history of the band. I would never slap this baby on and take it for a spin just to enjoy it for its own sake, but I've listened to a ton of Accept in my life and it's cool to think about them in their adolescence here, being excited just to get into a recording studio and lay down their best stuff.
It's a magical thing, really. That youthful optimism is pretty precious in life, and Accept's 1979 debut has that feeling baked into it. I mean, we wouldn't have gotten all the great Accept albums if it wasn't for this one, right? So taken in its proper context, this is actually a solid album from some dudes who were on the cusp of an impressive creative breakthrough.
Fortunately, our examination of Accept discography's moves quickly uphill form here. (Well, at least for a while.) So join me next time as I whip out some figurative kitchenware, put Accept's 1980 follow-up I'm a Rebel on the stove, burn it to a blackened crisp, and then dump the entire endeavor in the trash. Because the only thing I'm worse at than cooking is blogging.
And coherent metaphors.