It’s been almost twenty years since legendary ACCEPT guitarist Wolf Hoffmann released his first solo CD Classical, featuring rock guitar versions of some of classical music’s most beloved compositions. Since then the faithful have been clamoring for another one and now their wishes have come true. Headbangers Symphony is out now on Nuclear Blast Records and it is really something. Look, I don’t claim to have some deep knowledge of classical music; I just know what I like. And what’s really cool about this album is that it made me want to go and check out some pieces and composers I wasn’t all that familiar with. When music does that it’s truly special, I think.
One that jumped out at me right away was “Je Crois Entendre Encore” by George Bizet. It’s simple and understated, with some beautiful passages. Beethoven’s “Scherzo” opens the disc in fine fashion and was an instant classic. Hoffmann’s soloing is so fluid and vibrant on this track. The one that sits head and shoulders above all though is “Night on Bald Mountain” by Modest Mussorgsky, someone I’d never heard of. There’s this tension running through it that I liken to the climactic scene in a movie where someone is hanging off of a ledge and the hero grabs their arm to pull them to safety. The Czech National Symphony Orchestra really shines here as well.
The guitar is front center for Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”, Hoffmann truly in his element, letting his fingers do the talking. We are treated to another fantastic piece by good ol’ Ludwig Van with “Pathetique”. I’ve always felt that Beethoven was one of the most “metal” composers from back then, and Wolf goes to town with this rendition. And keeping things rockin’ is Mozart’s “Symphony No. 40” that takes off at a gallop and never lets up in its ferocity. I was not at all familiar with Tomaso Giovanni Albinoni before hearing “Adagio,” and that feels like a crime. This song is picturesque, gorgeous, and lush from beginning to end.
“Meditation” by Jules Massenet is a piano-driven piece complemented by more of Hoffmann’s terrific fret work, and Vivaldi’s “Double Concerto In G Minor” is definitely big and bouncy. Closing the disc is “Air On the G String” featuring “Overture (Suite) No. 3 in D Major” from Bach. It’s a nice mellow way to come down from the musical hills and valleys we’ve just experienced over the course of nearly an hour. All told Headbangers Symphony is the ideal album for not only a metalhead, but a true music lover. The arrangements are wonderful, and the songs keep you coming back for more. Here’s hoping Wolf Hoffmann doesn’t take so long giving us another one!
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Pathetique”, “Night On Bald Mountain”, “Scherzo”, “Je Crois Entendre Encore”, “Adagio”