Australian Guitar - - Feature - BY PETER ZALUZNY


Ah, Ger­many: the land of pret­zels, per­fect beer and plenty of heavy metal. Where le­gions of head­bangers, clad in black from head to toe, spend all sum­mer roam­ing be­tween an abun­dant num­ber of fes­ti­vals, and genre‑defin­ing bands re­mind every­one why the coun­try’s mu­sic scene is held in such high re­gard. So many sig­nif­i­cant out­fits – in­clud­ing Edguy, Blind Guardian and Ac­cept – grew out of small towns or cities at a time when the world was turn­ing most of its at­ten­tion to­wards riff‑masters in Eng­land and the United States.

While the odds weren’t nec­es­sar­ily against them, they weren’t ex­actly stacked in their favour ei­ther. De­spite it all, these leg­endary bands have reached vet­eran sta­tus, and are about to cel­e­brate some sig­nif­i­cant mile­stones. Edguy – the fun‑lov­ing met­allers that came to­gether at a high school in Fulda – have just hit 25 years. Blind Guardian – one of the pi­o­neers of power metal born out of Krefeld – are turn­ing 30. And Ac­cept – the band that formed be­fore heavy metal was even a term – are about to cel­e­brate their 40th birth­day (in­clud­ing a hia­tus or two). On oc­ca­sions like this, our old friend Nostalgia has a ten­dency to take peo­ple back to their child­hood or, in this in­stance, the early days of the Ger­man metal scene.

“There were a whole lot of peo­ple. There was a pub that we used to hang out in and we used to go to con­certs to­gether,” says Mar­cus Seipen, ex­cit­edly re­count­ing youth­ful days in Krefeld be­fore his ca­reer with Blind Guardian took off. “I re­mem­ber when Me­tal­lica came here for the MasterOf

Pup­pets tour – we went there with some­thing like 20 cars which were all full, went to the gig and then went back to the pub and cel­e­brated. And I’m still in con­tact with all those peo­ple. We have a re­union party once a year.”

Fulda wasn’t all that dif­fer­ent, ac­cord­ing to Jens Lud­wig from Edguy. The city had a small, healthy scene, but a high school‑es­que at­ti­tude lin­gered around it. “There were a few bands around who were or­gan­is­ing and ex­chang­ing gigs, but we were the new­bies,” he re­calls. “No­body took us se­ri­ously un­til we started to record our own mu­sic. Then peo­ple were kind of proud, like, ‘Hey, I’ve known those guys from the be­gin­ning,’ and all that stuff.”

But Solin­gen? That was a dif­fer­ent story. It had metal – in fact, there were young peo­ple mak­ing mu­sic all over the place. But Ac­cept’s main­stay gui­tarist, Wolf Hoffman, be­lieves it was a scene “that grew out of ne­ces­sity.

“Most peo­ple think of Ger­many as hav­ing alps, Bavaria, Mu­nich, and Ham­burg – all these beau­ti­ful places,” he ex­plains in a deep, gruff tone. “Solin­gen was a work­ing class en­vi­ron­ment with lots of fac­to­ries – it was sort of the armpit of Ger­many. Ev­ery­body had a band; I think it was our es­cape from the grim re­al­ity. Meet­ing five times a week, at least, gave us some­thing to do.”

Re­gard­less of their back­ground, all three bands shared the same dreams – play metal, make it to the big leagues and see the world. Fast‑for­ward through years of slog­ging it out in small venues, sum­mer jobs to buy new equip­ment, and bog‑stan­dard $50 gui­tars that sounded about as good as a shoe­box with strings, and you’ve got three bands that etched them­selves into Ger­man metal his­tory. “I re­mem­ber do­ing odd jobs at Bayer chem­i­cal com­pany for weeks, and work­ing all through the sum­mer months just to earn enough to buy a new in­stru­ment,” Hoff­mann adds. Clearly, there was a de­mand for home­grown bands to com­pli­ment the flow of artists rolling in from Eng­land and the USA.

Ac­cept be­came known for their straight up, no‑non­sense clas­sic metal, re­in­forced by weighty that filled their fans with an air of ex­plo­sive power. Even their new record, RiseOfChaos, takes most of its cues from the cur­rent, chaotic state of the planet, although Hoffman in­sists that they’re merely ob­ser­va­tions. “We’re not try­ing to teach peo­ple or be too po­lit­i­cal in any shape or form,” he ex­plains. “But we don’t want to write about bull­shit be­cause we have a chance to ex­press some­thing mean­ing­ful. We’re not politi­cians; we’re not do­ing any­thing of real sig­nif­i­cance; we’re just mak­ing f***ing metal and hav­ing fun do­ing it!”

Though the im­pend­ing an­niver­sary may be on his mind, Hoffman just sees it as the in­evitable pas­sage of time. He’s just blown away by the fact that Ac­cept are still re­leas­ing records af­ter so long. “It’s al­most like giv­ing birth to 15 chil­dren,” he laughs.

There’s still some fun to be had when walk­ing down mem­ory lane, of course, as Edguy found out when they looked back on their ca­reer while putting to­gether their ex­pan­sive 25th birth­day com­pi­la­tion,

Mon­u­ments. The colos­sal col­lec­tion in­cludes clas­sic tracks, deep cuts, live videos, a photo book and even a hand­ful of new tracks that neatly map Edguy’s ca­reer. A sig­nif­i­cant part of the process was find­ing photos and sto­ries that rep­re­sented their re­fusal to fol­low the sta­tus quo.

“There were been some as­pects where we were com­ing up with ideas and the record la­bel said, ‘You can’t do that in a heavy metal band,’” Lud­wig says, chuck­ling again, “Like the cover, show­ing the band as su­per­heroes in comic‑style art­work. But we al­ways said, ‘Why not?’ and the only an­swer was, ‘Well, be­cause heavy metal peo­ple have to be se­ri­ous.’ But we still did it, and most of the time it paid off.

“We had fun play­ing shows, and we had fun be­ing to­gether, so we didn’t see why that shouldn’t be an as­pect of the band,” he adds, be­fore re­luc­tantly open­ing up about Edguy’s ear­li­est

at­tempts at fash­ion, when pressed about the com­pi­la­tion’s pho­tobook. “There were these trousers at the very be­gin­ning, all neon with black com­bined... Ev­ery­body did things in their early years that might be em­bar­rass­ing, but they make us what we are to­day.”

While it’s amus­ing to think of what could have been had Lud­wig stuck to his fluro-clad roots, the fi­nal it­er­a­tion of Edguy’s style was a lit­tle more fash­ion-for­ward. Frankly, they’re prob­a­bly bet­ter off with the way things wound up, espe­cially since they never aban­doned the sense of fun that made them so in­tox­i­cat­ing in the first place.

Each band has left their mark on mu­sic his­tory. Words like ‘im­por­tant’, ‘sig­nif­i­cant’ and ‘ground­break­ing’ are of­ten thrown around with them, and rightly so. But the crown for hard­core fan­dom? That would have to go to Blind Guardian. That’s not to say Edguy and Ac­cept haven’t built up a cross-gen­er­a­tional army of ded­i­cated fol­low­ers, but it’s hard to com­pete with a group that can bring their au­di­ence to tears at ev­ery show.

“The song ‘Lord of the Rings’ seems to touch peo­ple in a very in­tense way,” Sepian ex­plains when dis­cussing Blind Guardian’s new live al­bum, BeyondThe

Spheres. “When­ever Hansi [Kürsch, lead vo­cals] an­nounced it would be the next song, there were peo­ple burst­ing into tears. Just talk­ing about it, I get goose­bumps again.” Even Sepian wasn’t im­mune to the mo­ment. Night af­ter night, his eyes welled up with the fans as they un­re­servedly poured them­selves into the song. “When you see how much it means to them – how much your mu­sic touches them – that’s price­less,” he adds. “Noth­ing com­pares to that.”

Vet­eran bands tend to see these lit­tle rit­u­als grow out­side their con­trol – the longer they’ve been around, the more en­grained they be­come. It’s things like im­promptu sing-alongs to riffs in sta­ple songs, or walls of death that need no di­rec­tion – you know a band has truly made it when fans know ex­actly what to do with­out fol­low­ing com­mands.

And that’s not un­com­mon in good old Deutsch­land. Hell, it’s the main rea­son why these guys are all cel­e­brat­ing big birth­days this year. Sure, Edguy, Blind Guardian and Ac­cept worked hard to build solid rep­u­ta­tions early on, but that sin­cer­ity in their mu­tual re­spect for every­one on and off the stage, and their work to help carve out a dis­tinctly home­grown scene, en­sured their longevity. So here’s to their 50th birth­days! Sounds crazy? Maybe else­where, but spend­ing half a cen­tury mak­ing mu­sic with the same group of friends doesn’t seem so far-fetched in Ger­many.


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