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[ALBUM REVIEW] WOLF HOFFMAN, ‘HEADBANGERS SYMPHONY’

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Artist: Wolf Hoffman
Album: Headbangers Symphony
Release: Out Now on Nuclear Blast – www.nuclearblast.de/en/shop/wolf+hoffmann
Review by Paul Southwell

German metal band Accept always have a good sense of melody combined with song structure. Even when cranking out some skull-hammering metal, there is generally a harmony line that lies within the song, be it in the chorus or at the very least, lead guitarist Wolf Hoffman’s wah pedal embellished solos. When the band was in a state of hiatus many years ago, Wolf put together his first solo album ‘Classical’, which pretty much did what it said on the tin; a selection of classical pieces given the rock guitar interpretation treatment. Far less bombastic than the neoclassical movement that by then had been diminished on a grand scale, Wolf wasn’t under any illusions and essentially did it on his own terms.

In the last several years, the profile of Accept has returned to the fore of the metal scene with some seriously bruising and robust material that competes or even surpasses some of their earlier releases from decades ago. In that light, with all the touring the band has undertaken of late, it is a testament to Wolf’s determination and drive, to finally combine solo material recorded in the last few years during the band’s touring cycle breaks. So it is, that we have his second solo album titled Headbangers Symphony which continues in a similar fashion to his previous album albeit twenty years later and with selections of pieces reinterpreted that are both recognisable and also more esoteric without being too obscure.

Put together with the invaluable assistance of Italian musician and arranger Melo Mafali, bass guitar input from Accept colleague Peter Baltes and with the added brilliance of a 40 piece orchestra from Prague, this album is a remarkable celebration of Wolf’s ongoing appreciation of classical music and operas from a variety of composers. Apparently respectful of retaining the authenticity of the pieces chosen, when the guitar solos do drift into improvisational territory more suited to rock and metal, the underlying musical theme remains present to bring it all back into focus. Be it the opening track of Scherzo from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony or the haunting and operatic Je Crois Entendre Encore by Bizet which evokes tonnes reminisce of Gary Moore’s Parisienne Walkways, anyone with a sense of musical appreciation will be captivated by the joyful mood, the musicianship and the apt instrumentation.

This is not your typical classical guitar album on nylon string guitars nor is it an over the top scalar onslaught of harmonic minor runs that were rife in the mid to late eighties. Instead, Wolf has taken heavier and evocative classical pieces such as Symphony No. 40 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and put them alongside subtle and brooding opera pieces such as Puccini’s sensational Madame Butterfly or the tranquil Méditation by French composer Jules Massenet. A definite highlight is Wolf’s rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake which uniquely shifts from blues rock guitar and heavy rock rhythms to transition flawlessly back to mellow, musical calmness. Yngwie Malmsteen and Cacophony aficionados will no doubt recognise Bach’s Adagio played in this instance at a slower, more graceful pace yet with a deep passion as it moves into a soaring, sweeping guitar solo, marking another album highlight.

Having chosen material that fits into a rock beat as opposed to a waltz time signature common within classical compositions, has clearly challenged Wolf to an extent but the material chosen to reinterpret flows smoothly and takes the listener on an emotional musical journey. Controlled bombast and slightly ambitious maybe, it still manages to be a highly rewarding album that doesn’t have any musical snobbery about it whatsoever. Headbangers Symphony is a wonderfully constructed album from start to finish that gets better with subsequent listening sessions.

Release: Out Now on Nuclear Blast – www.nuclearblast.de/en/shop/wolf+hoffmann

Wolf Hoffmann - Headbangers Symphony
Wolf Hoffmann – Headbangers Symphony
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Carl Neumann

Carl is the owner and the director of HEAVY Magazine. Carl is a music journalist and photographer for HEAVY, Rolling Stone, scenestr, Planet Rock and Kerrang!
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