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HERMAN FRANK The Devil Rides Out

By George Mihalovich, Pittsburgh Contributor
Monday, December 5, 2016 @ 3:43 PM


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HERMAN FRANK
The Devil Rides Out

2016 AFM Records




Guitarist, songwriter, producer and engineer Herman Frank is probably best known for his tenures with ACCEPT (1982-83/2010-2014), but his extensive discography also includes releases with VICTORY, MOON'DOC and PANZER. This, of course, is in addition to his solo career - but more on that in a moment.

Regarding Frank's departure from ACCEPT ... it seems a shame that someone with his songwriting and playing ability would feel compelled to leave a world-renowned, legendary band for creative freedom; particularly when they are arguably still at the top of their game and one of the leading proponents of classic metal. Not that Wolf Hoffman and Peter Baltes need help writing songs - they have made this abundantly clear throughout their long career. But wouldn't they be a little stronger with someone else in the mix to keep the perspective fresh? Check out "Rolling Thunder" from Blood Of The Nations as supporting evidence. Conversely, maybe in the long run it's better for metal fans that Frank is out on his own with no restrictions; along with ACCEPT and former lead screamer Udo Dirkschneider's U.D.O., the tally becomes three great bands releasing music on their own terms.

The latest HERMAN FRANK offering is The Devil Rides Out (2016), preceded by his two Metal Heaven releases Right In The Guts (2012) and Loyal To None (2009) - both of which were re-relased in September by AFM Records. Joining him on this outing are returning vocalist Rick Altzi (AT VANCE, MASTERPLAN, SANDALINAS), and two new members: drummer André Hilgers (ex-RAGE) and bassist Michael Müller (JADED HEART).

The live performance/concept video for "Ballhog Zone" (video on KNAC.COM HERE), released in October, was the first preview of music from the album. It's a solid mid-tempo track, but probably the exception rather than the rule in terms of the overall style of the disc. The lyric video for "Running Back" is more representative of the album as a whole, which largely consists of uptempo double bass propelled cuts featuring ample riffing and extended solos from Frank - paired alongside Rick Altzi's oustanding high-register, raspy, blues-inflected vocals. "Shout" carries on in a similar racuous vein (with shades of WHITESNAKE at their most aggressive), as well as "Dead Or Alive", which utilizes a galloping chorus that provides a nice rhythmic contrast. "Thunder Of Madness" showcases another great Altzi vocal supported by pounding drums and Frank's extended guitar interludes and solos. He really stretches out on this track, and it features some of his best guitar work on the disc. "Stone Cold" - along with "License To Kill" (slight doomy vibe) and "No Tears In Heaven" (very Germanic - think ACCEPT and U.D.O.) - provides some balance to the record with a different feel; it's a moodier number that is reminiscent of RAINBOW (aside from the obvious title) and Tony Martin-era BLACK SABBATH.

Frank and Altzi are definitely center stage throughout The Devil Rides Out, but the new rhythm section of drummer André Hilgers and bassist Michael Müller deserve a lot of credit. They do an outstanding job of propelling these songs forward by keeping them cohesive and tight, allowing the melodies and arrangements to shine through. There's no doubt that this is a well-written album, but in the hands of a lesser rhythm section the frantic pace might have detracted from - rather than enhancing - the effective presentation of the music.

The record's modern production is provided courtesy of Herman Frank, with the mix by famed producer Charlie Bauerfeind (BLIND GUARDIAN, HAMMERFALL, HELLOWEEN). It can be a bit muddy and compressed in spots with clicky kick drums samples - but as a whole, it is still well within current standards and listener expectations for power and clarity. Furthemore, the urgent songs and performances overshadow these minor issues.

The verdict? If you like in-your-face classic metal with crunchy guitars and great vocals, The Devil Rides Out is a winner - and matches anything else released in this style in 2016.

4.5 Out Of 5.0

Pick up your copy of The Devil Rides Out in the KNAC.COM More Store right HERE.


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