(91-77 Records 2015)
It is common knowledge that the Greeks are extremely passionate about traditional heavy metal. So it should come as no surprise that Accelerator hail from Athens. Only fragmentary information about the quartet is readily available; however, the lads appear to have been kicking around since 2007, originally making the rounds as a cover band called Deceiver playing songs from the likes of Flotsam & Jetsam (makes sense, given the title of the Arizonans’ first record). Accelerator released a three-song demo in 2010 but did not issue their full-length, self-titled debut album until fall 2015. Descriptions of Accelerator’s sound are often framed in terms like speed metal or power/thrash, but those don’t tell the whole story, at least not anymore. You see, the band have merged their technical, speedy roots with an undeniable penchant for the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and classic melodic ‘80s metal in general. Today, the band cite as their main influences the likes of Judas Priest, Savage Grace, Exciter and “anything NWOBHM.”
This nine-song, 44-minute album (featuring striking cover art from renowned artist Dimitar Nikolov, plus an image of the band members’ faces that is an obvious homage to the James/Jason/ Kirk/Lars portraits in the booklet for Metallica’s black album) straddles Accelerator’s earlier obsession with speed as well as its present NWOBHM addiction. Four tracks are ripping melodic speedsters in the Savage Grace / Enforcer / Striker mold, including “Higher than the Sky” (not a Rage cover; originally recorded on Accelerator’s 2010 demo) and “Accelerator” (a reworking of old riffs and ideas from that same demo). On the other five tunes, however, the band slows down, embraces its affinity for Tygers of Pan Tang, Demon and early Judas Priest, and lets the NWOBHM flow. Interestingly, the disc is sequenced so that the fast songs are generally alternated with the more rockin’ cuts (speedsters are tracks 1, 3, 5 and 8), keeping the listener on his toes. Album closer, “I Take My Path,” is an effective seven-minute epic that shows Accelerator spreading their wings and taking a few chances along the way, with an extra layer of polish and even some semi-ballad aspects.
I must admit that on my first spin through this album, I couldn’t get comfortable because of the alternating fast-song/mid-tempo-song running order. I felt like the hard rock styled cuts took the wind out of Accelerator’s sails, killing the momentum generated by the likes of “Warchildren” and “A Heavenly Quest.” Don’t get me wrong. All the material is well-written and well-performed, and the production and tones have a suitably retro vibe that fits the music well. It just seems a little schizophrenic, not to mention incongruous, for a band called Accelerator to take their foot off the gas pedal so much. I love that raw, frenzied, reckless speed metal stuff so much that I yearned for a full album’s worth of “A Heavenly Quest” / “Accelerator” type of songs. It also bugged me a touch that the beginning of “Final Destination” sounds so much like Blind Guardian’s “Bright Eyes.” Over time, though, I’ve come to appreciate the slower tracks like “By the Blade” and “The Bells of Notre Dame” nearly as much as their high-velocity counterparts. My hope is that Accelerator’s next album will show further distillation of their sound into a cohesive, unitary whole, rather than a distinct speed-metal side and a NWOBHM side. For now, though, this debut is an enjoyable listen that comes recommended to all fans of both sub-genres.
~ Review by Kit Ekman~