The metal community is interesting and – for me anyway – sometimes hard to understand. It has always been heralded as a “family”. A place for the outcasts and the misfits to fit in. To feel loved. To have that unconditional support without judgement. But there is a lot of judgement for a community that is meant to be a safe place. Go to any metal gig for example, and you bet there will be people there judging you because your look is not metal enough. There have been plenty of gigs where I have had to go straight from work. No time to change. It’s just straight from the office in my best attempt at business casual to a gig. And the up and down looks I would attract. I mean, most of them don’t even try to hide it. And then there are the metal nerds who look down on anyone if you haven’t heard of a band or artist that is considered seminal in the metal world. Or if you have heard of a classic metal band, but don’t like or haven’t heard any of their music. Well, you might as well have spat in their food and forced them to eat it. Of course, not all metalheads are like this, but it’s easy to spot when the community has praised itself for being so supportive of its fellow metalheads.
So anyway, here I am listening to Wolf Hoffmann’s (of Accept fame) second solo album Headbangers Symphony – and if the title wasn’t enough of a clue – is an album of classical pieces that have undergone a Hoffmann make over. Now, with what I said earlier in mind, I am sure to be chastised greatly for admitting this, but I know nothing about Accept, and probably less about Hoffmann. I think my only experience of the band has been when “Balls To The Wall” appeared on the setlist of Guitar Hero ’80s. For those I have offended I completely understand if you must close this article and not read the rest.
What I do know of Hoffmann is that he released a similar solo album back in 1997 titled Classical (straight to the point this guy – I like it). I also know that Headbangers Symphony was said to be more metal than his first – so I went and listened to Classical before jumping into Headbangers Symphony. And while of course the premise of both albums is the same. Take classical pieces of music, turn it up to 11, make it more metal and wunderbar metalheads and classical aficionados have something to bond over – Headbangers Symphony is certainly heavier than Hoffmann’s first solo release.
I am sure everyone can agree by now that classical and metal get along like a house on fire. Elements of classical music can be found among most metal bands, and Hoffmann is not the first to translate the classical masterpieces of Bach, Beethoven or Tchaikovsky into metal. Does that mean you shouldn’t listen to Headbangers Symphony? Certainly not! Hoffmann is a pro. Even with my very limited knowledge of the man, it is clear that he can wield a guitar in a way that not many can – the guitar his not an instrument he manipulates but an extension of himself.
Just like metal – classical pieces are wrought with emotion. They can go from subtle to bombastic wild pieces of music in a blink of an eye. Hoffmann captures the nuances on each classical piece with such finesse it is truly a pleasure to listen to. One of the best aspects of this record is that while the album is centered around these pieces being brought to life with a heavy metal guitar styling – Hoffmann is not afraid to let the other instruments take centre stage when needed. This is not just a “hey, check out my awesome talent. Only pay attention to me” kind of an album.
“Symphony No. 40”, “Swan Lake” and “Madame Butterfly” are definitely album highlights – and while that does have a lot to do with the fact that they are the pieces most recognisable to non-classical fans – there is no doubt Hoffmann knew this, and made sure to take great care making these metal renditions of the pieces just perfect. There is little to fault about this record. Hoffman hasn’t brought these pieces back to life. He hasn’t made them relevant again. The original pieces of music found on this record have a legacy that will outlive us all. What Hoffmann has done, is give us a new way to listen to them. An option to hear them in a new and exciting way as imagined by one of metal’s best guitarists.