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Thursday, January 07, 2010

CD Review: U.D.O. - Dominator

U.D.O. - Dominator
2009 AFM Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

God bless Udo Dirkschneider and Stefan Kaufmann. They helped write the rules of power metal as two of Accept's cornerstone performers. Still together in U.D.O. in 2009 and now '10, listening to these guys go at it is almost as if time stood still. No fall of the Berlin wall, no thaw in the Cold War, Reagan is still alive and shooting satellites into the sky with Rocky Balboa fighting commies alongside his alter ego John Rambo in Dutch's honor. The Terminator replicant ridiculously boasting Udo's head on the cover of his group's latest album Dominator is eighties cheese at its best--despite the fact we had the eye-popping Terminator: Salvation in theaters last year.

Listen to the pummeling bars of valor U.D.O. sets into motion after a whispering piano intro on "Stillness of Time" from Dominator. As justly titled as its projected sound, an industrial montage of the Big 80s might as well roll concurrently with this loud 'n proud rock blast which could've been a sleeper hit for Survivor if they'd stuffed their trousers with a bit more iron.

Likewise, the stamping din of "Heavy Metal Heaven" is a Teutonic blare straight out of 1985 with a nirvana-flecked optimism headbutting against a slate gray dystopia, two diverse outlooks of life hovering over minds of the decade. "Heavy Metal Heaven's" verses are cold but the lyrics are uplifting to the tune of an Orwellian overthrow. This song could've been outrageously silly by the title alone, yet Udo Dirkschneider and company believe that much in themselves and what they're doing to sell 1985 as if it never fell out of fashion.

1985 was the year Accept's immortal Metal Heart was unleashed upon the world, and while U.D.O. has manifested themselves a crafty and boisterous identity outside of Udo and Stefan's alma mater, Dominator takes a couple obvious steps backwards into the glory days.

Point blank, "Black and White" is a strict rewrite of "Dogs On Leads" from Metal Heart with a pinpointed merge of Accept's signature classic "Balls to the Wall." Listen carefully and you can time both songs almost in perfect sync with "Black and White." Of course, Stefan Kauffman showers a spectacularly noisome guitar solo on this song to differentiate it.

Everything about the opening number "The Bogeyman" is cornball drag straight down to the nutty chorus, yet the hammering drive of the song has you singing along as Uncle Udo lures you right in with his undying throat rasps. Same goes for the title track, which provokes enough fist pumping and hair swishing to legitimize Udo and Stefan's wherewithal to write hook-oriented metal jams in the same manner as they did more than 20 years ago. It works, man, it just works!

2007's Mastercutor saw U.D.O. branch out just enough to ignite that album full of raw juice and note-swerving innovation ("The Wrong Side of Midnight" being a prime example). Dominator, however, takes the pace down just a click from Mastercutor's bouncing jive and goes right to the textbook of Udo and Stefan's power manual on chugging songs like "Infected" "Doom Ride" and the stepped-up "Speed Demon." Honestly, there's been so many metal songs called "Speed Demon" it hardly seems interesting to do another one, yet in the hands of U.D.O., you're banging submissively along with the band.

Each U.D.O. album does cast a test die; for instance, the delightful oom-pah chug driving "Trainride to Russia (Poezd Po Rossii)" from 2004's Thunderball. Dominator is no different. This time we get the cabaret-flavored "Devil's Rendezvous" and yet again it works fluidly on the heels of Udo's downtuned emcee delivery and the cut's bobbing tempo. Campy yet wildly showy.

Dominator wraps on the lucid "Whispers in the Dark," which morphs from a sullen exposition featuring Udo and the band backing his haunted vocals (as they do all over this album in the ultimate gang shout party) and slowly punches out a distortion-railed drag. Layered with piano and wailing guitars from Kaufmann and Igor Gianola, "Whispers in the Dark" works its way out of a metal ballad prototype into a swaying, melancholic bob to the finish.

If you've been around this scene a long time, doesn't it bring you comfort to hear Udo Dirkschneider's voice? It has to. He and Kaufmann have lost none of their desire whatsoever over time and their enthusiasm allots for their redundancy from album-to-album, Accept or U.D.O. Dominator's only guilt is its obviousness, plus an obstinate refusal to grow up. Then again, who the hell wants to do that?

Rating: ****

1 comment:

demolishmag said...

I agree with your sentiments exactly.

Although I was not a big fan of some of UDO's solo outings - it's sure great to hear his unique metal voice as good as ever in 2009/2010!

*"Black and White" is a slice of that great melodic, catchy ACCEPT trademark sound that I missed with killer vox (and not-to-mention choice background vocals).

IMO there is nothing better than late 80's Metal Music and Hard Rock -I am so glad that so many older bands from that great era are still around and able to jam!

Great blog and site BTW.

Rock on...

Curt King
Demolish Metal Fanzine

"All things hard rock/metal & thrash from the 80's"