The successful and surprising comeback of veteran German heavy metal band Accept ranks among the more noteworthy stories in the genre over the past three years.
Even more unlikely is the critical role that Brielle native and singer Mark Tornillo has played in the Teutonic thrashers’ resurrection.
Prior to joining Accept, Tornillo was best-known as the frontman for T.T. Quick, the Brick-based metalers who released two albums in the mid-80s and were a staple on the New Jersey and New York club scene.
This past Tuesday, April 10, Accept released “Stalingrad,” the band’s highly-anticipated second album to feature the Jersey shore-bred vocalist. Tornillo’s Accept debut, “Blood of the Nations,” was hailed by many fans and critics as 2010’s heavy metal album of the year.
“I’m grateful, humble and enjoying the hell out of it,” Tornillo said of recording and touring the world with Accept, a band he has long admired. “I had no intention of performing at this level when everything happened.”
Tornillo, a member of the Manasquan High School Class of 1972, was working as a union electrician when a friend asked him in 2009 to join a jam session with Accept guitarist Wolf Hoffmann, bassist Peter Baltes and Baltes’ son at a recording studio in Long Branch.
“I was sick and I wasn’t going to go but I figured why not, I’ll get my Accept albums signed,” Tornillo said. “There were no expectations. They weren’t looking to put the band back together. We just played all afternoon. We worked on some new material and played some Accept classics.”
While Tornillo headed home with a day full of great memories, Hoffmann and Baltes marveled at his powerful pipes. A spark was lit.
“A week later I got a phone call from Peter saying what would you think about doing an Accept album and a tour,” the affable frontman said. “I was floored. I cleared it with my wife – she said, ‘if you don’t do it there’ll be no living with you’ – and three or four weeks later we were writing songs.”
At first the news that Tornillo had joined Accept, a band known for metal classics such as “Balls to the Wall,” “Fast as a Shark,” and “Restless and Wild,” was met with a chorus of contempt.
“There were so many naysayers, all saying an album with me would [stink],” Tornillo said. “I was like, ‘That helps. Thanks!’
“But I was pretty confident. I figured I could probably pull it off. The thing we had to do was write a killer album or people would have thought that we were just going out for the money.
The resulting disc, “Blood of the Nations,” was Accept’s first album since 2005 and the band’s most aggressive collection to date, featuring razor-sharp guitars and an artillery battery of drums. But perhaps most impressive was Tornillo’s sharp, raspy vocal attack, which endeared him to the doubters.
Tornillo is confident that fans will be equally pleased with “Stalingrad.”
“It’s really a continuation of “Blood of the Nations” but it also has its own vibe,” Tornillo said. “Accept isn’t one of those bands that writes the same song 20 times.”
The first half of the 10-track album focuses on the Battle of Stalingrad, in which the Russians successfully defended their city against the Nazis. The battle proved to be one of the turning points of World War II.
“We really wanted the album to be about humans and human emotions and the struggles of war,” Tornillo said. “Those guys grew up in post-World War II Germany, so it was very fresh in their minds.”
Tornillo, who now lives in Hunterdon County, grew up surrounded by music. One of his grandfathers played the mandolin and the other sang in a barbershop quarter and played piano.
“He had me playing the piano when I was two-years-old,” Tornillo said. “I had nine years of classical piano training. That’s how I got my musical foundation.”
Tornillo spent his formative years going to concerts at the old Sunshine Inn in Asbury Park, where he saw Black Sabbath, Mountain, Grand Funk Railroad, Humble Pie and other Seventies heavyweights. He has fond memories of growing up in Brielle.
“You couldn’t ask for a better childhood,” Tornillo said. “We had the river in the backyard, fishing, water skiing, the beach. It was a great time.”
Accept is currently touring Europe but will take the summer off. Tornillo, who continues to work for the union when he’s not on the road, said he looks forward to pursuing his favorite Jersey pastimes in the months ahead.
“I’ll be going to the beach, going to concerts, working on my house and enjoying my family,” he said.
Mark Tornillo Discography
Blood of the Nations (Nuclear Blast, 2010)
Stalingrad (Nuclear Blast, 2012)
More info: www.acceptworldwide.com
With T.T. Quick
Metal of Honor (Megaforce, 1986)
Sloppy Seconds (Halycon, 1989)
Ink (Ocean, 2000)
More info: www.myspace.com/ttthequick