In this installment of line-up changes I’m going to tackle a band that has had way more than one. In fact, the group has only had one constant member in its 46 year history. Discussing every change would be an insane task and be a 50 part series on the blog. It would also be extremely dry and uninteresting – very few of the line-up changes had any massive impact.
Today’s subject is Accept, the long-running German metal outfit who have several solid albums under their belts, as well as a book’s worth of line-up changes and a few extended breaks from touring and recording. Guitarist Wolf Hoffman is the only member to remain in the band from 1976 until now and to have recorded on every album.
Accept would gain notice in the 1980’s with albums like Balls To The Wall, Restless And Wild and Metal Heart. They would begin long periods of instability in 1987 when vocalist Udo Dirkschnieder was dismissed from the group. A series of reunions and extended breaks took place between 1992 and 2005. Hoffman was insistent on taking the band further after the 2005 reunion tour but blamed Dirkschnieder for inactivity after the tour.
The line-up change of note would happen in 2009 – Accept would reconvene with a new album and tour, and this time Udo was not invited. Taking his place was American singer Mark Tornillo, who had fronted New Jersey-based TT Quick in the 1980’s.
TT Quick were a bit of a “hidden gem” band from the ’80’s, never quite breaking big but still having an influence. Their guitarist David DiPietro would bear huge influence on fellow Jersey guitarists Zakk Wylde and Dave “Snake” Sabo, neither of whom should need any introduction. But TT Quick would remain under the radar and mostly inactive after the early 90’s, save for a brief reunion around the turn of the century.
It was a huge deal for Accept to reunite and do so without Udo Dirkschnieder. Udo was the definitive voice of Accept, having fronted the early and classic albums. A few records with other singers did not stand out or have the same impact as those from Udo’s time with the group. The band toured on festivals with the classic songs and that’s what fans were paying to see.
It was a massive risk to take on a new singer and someone as relatively unknown as Mark Tornillo. While Accept have international acclaim, they are a European band and taking on an American singer from an obscure group would be strange news to fans. The Internet lit up with negative reaction to Tornillo’s appointment, metal fans are not one to react well to major line-up changes like this.
Accept were prepared for the backlash, and very well armed to fend off critics. Filling Udo’s shoes was going to be a tall task, so the group hit the studio and prepared an album before announcing the line-up change. 2010’s Blood Of The Nations was the first new music from Accept in 14 years and the first without Udo in 21 years. It also became the first Accept album that anyone truly gave a shit about in 24 years.
Mark Tornillo’s “prove it” moment was a hit out of the gate. While many fans clinging to the Udo legacy still spewed venom across Internet comment sections, critics and fans were in awe of Blood Of The Nations and Tornillo’s strong performance. The major line-up change and huge risk would pay off. Not only did Tornillo gain accolades for his work on the album, but many praised his adept handling of the Accept back catalog.
That is where many replacement singers run foul of the fanbase – a new album can be good, even great, but when the new singer can’t lend due performance to the legacy works, people get turned off. And in fairness, it’s still not hard to find people slagging off Mark Tornillo and his singing on Accept’s classic tunes. If there is an Accept article at all on Blabbermouth or wherever, there are still plenty of comments from people unwilling to “accept” the new singer.
Music is personal opinion, of course, but I think the people still ripping Accept in its current form are just crying for the sake of crying. I saw Accept live in 2013 and the band blew the roof off the venue. Tornillo was spectacular and the band as a whole was in great form. The detractors are honestly just people who want to be butthurt over Udo’s exclusion from the group. I don’t often waste my time dissecting the opinions of people who hold contrary views to my own, but in the case of Accept, it’s one I feel comfortable doing. It isn’t an Accept problem, it’s a them problem.
The line-up change for Accept has been a success. Tornillo is now five studio albums and 13 years deep into his Accept run. The band have dealt with other line-up issues since but are still keeping at it. Udo Dirkschnieder is no worse off either – he is touring constantly and releases new studio albums more frequently than some people change their underwear. And even with all the commotion over the line-up change and Udo’s complex feelings about Accept, he has offered nothing but praise for Tornillo and how the latter has handled the role.
Sometimes the line-up change works, other times it doesn’t. In the case of Accept, their risky and daring change in 2009 panned out for the band and fans, or at least the fans who were willing to approach it with an open mind and ear. I’m sure it wasn’t an accident that they went with a singer in a similar vein to Udo. Accept have been able to add a new chapter to their legacy and were able to buck the odds and re-establish themselves when up against their own history.