Symphonies, Scherzos... and a tasteful amount of Shredding.
Accept guitarist Wolf Hoffmann has long flirted with the world of classical music in his day job – he even managed to fit two bits of classical music, by Tchaikovsky and Beethoven, into the title track of the Metal heart album – and this is his second solo effort devoted to the genre.
Opening with Scherzo – effectively an adaptation of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony – Accept fans will be drawn in immediately by the fact that Hoffmann dabbled with this piece for the band’s Teutonic Terror track, and his familiar chunky riffage backed by drums and a strident string section really makes for a drama-packed kick off to the album.
Hoffmann’s playing is of course exemplary throughout – some of his soloing is eerily reminiscent of Michael Schenker in his prime, and he locks in with the orchestra in very pleasing throughout.
Sensibly Hoffmann has stayed away from anything too obscure here – even the most casual of listeners to classical music will recognise the melodies featured on each of the songs – but he’s definitely selected tracks that fit the neoclassical/classical metal genre. His speed metal take on Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain is especially appealing, and very reminiscent of something Ritchie Blackmore might have conflated in his Rainbow days. His reading of Bizet’s Je Crois Entendre Encore has a sombre, bluesy feel not unlike Gary Moore’s Parisian Walkways, and whilst it’s not a blood-pumping headbanger it’ll certainly have you raising a glass to the man’s tasteful and restrained playing.
Other highlights include a spine-tingling, hair-raising reading of Madame Butterfly by Puccini and an achingly effective interpretation of Albinoni’s Adagio that’ll have your grandma weeping tears of joy should you choose to play it to her, whilst his take on Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 is pure pomp metal nirvana: the piece was clearly intended to be played like this in 1788 – they just didn’t have Gibson Flying Vs in those days!
Hoffmann clearly has a passion for the classical canon, and his playing here shows that. Despite this being a guitarist’s solo record, the guitar playing never swamps the compositions, with Hoffmann always pitching his performance to complement the piece rather than just saying ‘look at me!’, and it’s an incredibly pleasurable listen as a result. Highly recommended!
Headbangers Symphony is out now on Nuclear Blast