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Accepting the Truth: Would You Like to Hear More?

November 11, 2013

Listening to anything other than religious hymns or classical music was strongly discouraged during my time serving as a Mormon missionary in Peru from 1983-1985.  The idea was that other types of music — along with television, movies, and non-religious-themed books — would apart us from the 24/7 spiritual focus that we were supposed to pursue as full-time proselyting messengers of truth.  My personal resolve as a 19-year-old to give up such worldly entertainments in compliance with mission rules barely lasted a month, as I found myself unable to relinquish terrestrial desires and fully embrace the celestial.  As a result, my journal from that wonderful time offers up a nostalgic blend of sincere neighbor-loving piety and youthful exuberance, with any randomly-chosen page as likely to describe an excited visit to a movie theater or record store as to solemnly convey a touching conversion story.

It was through my rule-breaking rebellion that I discovered Lima’s 99 FM, then the city’s only hard rock radio station, and Patricia, the aurally-beguiling host of the Friday night heavy metal show.  Immediately infatuated by Patty’s unique combination of sexy rasp and postgraduate-level metal expertise, I recklessly took her word for what was worthy of my auditory attention.  It was thus that, in April 1984, after two weeks of build-up regarding Patty’s plan to play in its entirety a new album by, as she described them, a troll-fronted West German band that was pushing the heavy metal envelope to new heights, I couldn’t be blamed for feeling a bit of anticipatory frenzy when the appointed Friday night finally rolled around.  As Patty dropped the needle on side one of Accept’s Balls to the Wall album, I pushed the record button on my mini boom box, closed my eyes and laid back to see where these vaunted Deutsche rockers would take me.

Album opener “Balls to the Wall” impacted me with the force of a V-2 rocket, its metaphorical bomb plugging itself firmly in my very own riff-loving ass.  God bless ya, indeed!  By the time a searing guitar solo screamed out just one verseAccept - Balls to the Wall (1984) into the chugging, bass-driven second track “London Leather Boys,” I was ready to climb the highest tower to testify of Accept’s divine truth.  Having never seen the in-your-face album cover, I was oblivious to what at the time was a sadly clichéd American puritanical reaction to the image and the album’s references to “balls,” “leather boys” and ass plugging, which were being decried as homoerotic evangelization.  All I knew was that the LP’s fist-pumping metal pounders most certainly got my rocks off (figuratively, of course).

I carried that radio-taped copy of Balls to the Wall for the remainder of my missionary service and then home with me when I reentered the earthly plane in April 1985.  Minimal finances and university studies kept me from much musical exploration for a while afterwards, and Accept eventually faded into nostalgia, even more so when I finally became a working stiff in the 1990s and dedicated the bulk of my limited discretionary funds to obtaining CD copies of already-owned vinyl LPs.  Even the homemade tape of Balls to the Walls was lost in the course of a horribly misguided giveaway of all my cassettes in 1999 in an effort to reduce holdings prior to an international move.  By the 2000s, when it came to Accept, I had all but apostatized.

Fast forward to 2011, when I found myself once again proselyting in the Andes, albeit this time in the service of a powerful secular deity known as the Government of the United States of America.  Unexpectedly one day I was surprised to see a billboard Accept - Blood of the Nations (2010)against the spectacular backdrop of the snow-covered peaks surrounding La Paz, Bolivia, announcing the imminent arrival of my forsaken Accept to offer a one-night only revival.  The spirit enveloped me like a warm breeze and I knew I had to attend.  Knowing nothing of Accept’s post-1984 offerings, I headed for the YouTube and discovered that the band had recently released an album called Blood of the Nations with a new singer and was on tour in Latin America in support of it.  What I heard of the new tunes in my brief sampling sounded promising.  I bought my ticket and impatiently awaited my day of reckoning.

The concert venue was a rundown cinema and there couldn’t have been more than 350 or 400 of us packed inside.  How some bands manage to financially justify the convoluted journey up 13,000 feet from sea level to La Paz and its relatively-impoverished population I’ll never understand, although I support whatever fibs promoters are telling them to make it happen.  On the other hand, it may simply be an act of charitable, mutually-inspiring love.  There are few experiences like sharing a rock show with a group of high-Andes indigenous metalheads so thrilled to actually be visited by a “known” act that one could be forgiven for believing they had all somehow found nirvana en masse.

Accept - La Paz, Bolivia (May 2011)

As Accept walked on stage to deafening cheers, lead guitarist Wolf Hoffmann took to the mike to announce that fellow guitarist Herman Frank had taken ill and would not make the show.  He promised us however that the band would pull no punches and would deliver a rocking set, which they proceeded to do in spades.  New singer Mark Tornillo deftly and powerfully handled both old and new songs, leaving nothing at all to be desired.  Wolf somehow single-handedly covered all rhythm and lead guitar parts with a bludgeoning force that quickly made us forget the lack of the second axeman.  In fact, more than anything else it was Wolf’s obvious and infectious joy as he banged out monstrous riffs and launched blazing solos that ensured our successful unified bum rush into the metal kingdom of God over the course of the night.  By the time the long set eventually ended with a mammoth version of “Balls to the Wall,” I had once again fully accepted the gospel of Accept.  My tithes flowed freely in the subsequent days as I sought to bring the Accept canon into my humble abode.  The lost lamb had been found, not by the shepherd but by the Wolf, and the lamb did rejoice exceedingly.

Wolf Hoffman photo from http://wikimetal.uol.com.br

I was able to see Accept again in April of 2013, this time in Santiago, Chile, in what was billed as the “preview event” on the evening prior to the 2-day “Metal Fest” I have written about previously here and here.  This time Accept were touring on the back of their second album with singer Tornillo, called Stalingrad.*  Once again, Accept showed themselves worthy of worship, proving to be my favorite show among nearly a dozen attended over the course of three days, toAccept - Stalingrad (2012) include other such notable contenders for omnipotence as Carcass, Twisted Sister, My Dying Bride, Symphony X, Morbid Angel and Sodom.  This time, with both Wolf and second guitarist Herman Frank on stage and probably ten times the crowd size as compared to the La Paz date, the pearly gates simply spread themselves wide in welcome vice waiting for us to force our way in.  Joyous Wolf again led the charge, his gift for striking exuberant, non-ironic metal poses as he wailed away a true vision to behold.  My companions and I freely accepted the offered headbanging sacrament as we clung to the wings of the smiling demon angels that carried us to rapture.

I call on all who read my words to cast off the blinders, remove the motes from your ears, and simply Accept.  Ignorance is not bliss, Acceptance is bliss.  Drink of the Blood of the Nations.  Make the holy pilgrimage to Stalingrad.  And if ever blessed with a chance to hear the gospel of Accept in person, raise your wallets, plug your asses, and rejoice in the miracle.

Accept in Santiago, Chile (April 2013)

     * At the time, they told us that the Santiago show was being filmed for an eventual DVD release.  If it ever sees the light of day, it will serve as proof of my preaching.

From → Church, Music

20 Comments
  1. ACCEPTANCE IS BLISS!

    What a great read! I enjoyed this one a lot. I’ve never been a missionary, and I’ve never been to Peru. But I spent a week at a religious retreat in a place called Stoney Creek and all forms of popular music were verboten. That week was hell for me. I remember trying to memorize “Love Gun” before I left, so I could at least sing it to myself in my head.

    Anyway, you used the word “joyful” when describing Wolf Hoffman and that just sums up what I see today as well. He clearly loves being in Accept so much today. It’s so sincere.

    I feel for you when you said you dumped all your cassettes. I did the same thing. I regret it mostly now because many of the tapes had custom artwork that I spent a lot of hours on. But they took up so much space.

    • Thanks Mike, as you likely guessed it was your own recent sermon on Accept that spurred me to add my testimony to the mix. What our religious leaders need to grasp is that the Metal actually brings us closer to the Divine rather than separating us from it. I say there’s nothing wrong with sprinkling a little Love Gun into our Sunday Schools!

      Yeah, I really regret letting those tapes go. Even worse, in a moment of mental illness I subsequently did the same with a large chunk of my LPs, but that’s a story I don’t like to talk about as the pain is still just too raw.

      • You know what, I actually agree with you re: metal bringing us close to the divine. I believe that music has done exponentially more good than bad in this world, heavy metal being a part of that.

        Sorry to hear about your LP collection. I can imagine how that would feel if it were me.

  2. What an excellent post! And “I carried that radio-taped copy of Balls to the Wall for the remainder of my missionary service” is not a sentence you hear every day!

    It seems there’s a huge amount of love for this band since they returned. I’m feeling a bit late to the party but I think I’m going to have to accept the inevitable and buy these albums!

    • Scott…just Accept your Acceptance into the Accept fan club.

    • I’m telling you HMO, you won’t be able to take all that cash you’re trying to save with you into the next life. As such, I have no qualms about trying to separate you from a touch more in the interest of expanding ACCEPTance. Besides, whether it’s now or on the Day of Judgement, you will be born again in Wolf, and you will joyfully bask in his Metal glory. In the meantime, I will light a candlemass in your name.

  3. I’ve seen the light! Loved this post, banning music only ever serves to make more sought after.

    • I’ve actually been lobbying the U.S. Congress to ban my first single and had thought I was getting some traction. Turns out the useless buggers are now demanding that I actually write and record the damn thing BEFORE they issue their edict however.

  4. Loved reading this, although I’m not a huge metal fan – I was definitely transported to another place with that. 🙂 travelling without moving!

  5. Ha! Oh my goodness, your posts are all so funny and clever…I’m having to sit quietly in the public library while my kid does her community service for school, and it’s all I can do to keep from literally laughing out loud. 😀
    Plus, note that I am opting to read them over picking up one of the thousands of books that are staring at me reproachfully. 😉

    • It’s your hard rock rebelliousness keeping you from those books, not me! I’m truly glad you’ve enjoyed yourself here. I don’t follow cynically, so you can be assured that I followed you sincerely after perusing your site; that it brought you to mine is a welcome bonus.

      • “Hard rock rebelliousness” – haha! There you go again, cracking me up. Anyway, keep up the great writing, and have a nice weekend. 🙂

  6. Enjoy the way you work the language of your late teens (and associated teaching) into the story. The terrestrial-celestial divide, Accept apostasy, secular deity, and my personal favourite, the mischievous ecclesiastical sedition of the pearly gates spreading themselves wide…
    Somehow it reads as both gently mocking and residually reverent (both inwards and outwards) with a sprinkling of brimstone for flavour. Though I may not dine (with or without a long spoon), I love gazing at the laden table of metal through your eyes.

    • I think your perception is correct. Any mocking is meant to be read as coming from a place of deep love and respect. To paraphrase recently lost country music poet Merle Haggard:

      Where I’ve been or where I’m goin’
      Didn’t take alot of knowin’,
      But I take alot of pride in what (made me who) I am.

      As for my Metal table, rest assured that you will always have a place and freshly prepared game, mead, and buttered bread awaiting you should the hunger pangs take hold.

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