U.D.O. – Decadent

U.D.O. - DecadentOk, everyone knows who Udo Dirkschneider is, right? For the few who don’t, try google, because if you’re a metal head and clueless of who Udo is, you don’t deserve an explanation. No to be rude, but the guy is a god damn metal icon, for f**k’s sake!! What I can babble on about is that with his solo outfit – called U.D.O. (the dots don’t mean anything, btw…) – this album is studio effort no. 15 since his debut with Animal House in 1987. Said album was actually meant as the follow-up to Accept’s Russian Roulette (1986), all the songs were written by Accept – but Udo got the album when he parted ways with the band as Accept wanted to go in a more melodic rock direction. Other than the studio albums, he has also released five live albums, three compilation records, toured like crazy and no less than two reunions with Accept which spawned three studio albums, Objection Overruled (1993), Death Row (1994) and Predator (1996). No matter what you think about Udo as a singer and his music, you gotta hand it to the man, he’s a really productive and hard-working guy. It needs to be mentioned that Udo has also suffered from a stroke some years back, but that never held him back. Now 63, Udo shows no signs of slowing down one bit and he is as dedicated to the melodic metal that made him and Accept a household name (in metal circles anyway) all those years ago. What can be said of Udo’s solo career, though, is that it has been a quality roller coaster and that it sometimes felt that it was more important to have a new product out than to wait it out and make it genuine and in high quality. His first four albums, Animal House, Mean Machine (1988), the brilliant Faceless World (1990) and Timebomb (1991), were all solid efforts that were all smoking and you could almost touch on the love they had for metal. The song writing was faultless and ideas were coming out in a never-ending stream. But it took a halt after that. U.D.O. never made a bad album, but they have made far too many mediocre ones, albums that went in one ear and out the other, repeating themselves endlessly. Fact is, even though U.D.O.’s albums were a bit up and down around this time, not even the records that came out on the “good side” felt interesting enough and it would take them all the way until 2013 and their last album Steelhammer to sound interesting again. All of a sudden, there was a spark in the performance I hadn’t heard in ages and even though the sound was very recognizable and wore a “repeat” warning sign, the melodies and the riffs felt high-spirited, like the band had a new start of some form. So with the release of the new album it was the first time since the 90’s that I actually looked forward to a U.D.O. release. Well, looked forward to might be to exaggerate things, but this time I was at least interested to hear a new U.D.O. album.

“Speeder” opens the album and it brings a smile to my face instantly. I’m getting a huge Accept vibe from it and it sounds like it could have been one of the faster tracks from Metal Heart (1985). The title track was released as a single / video prior to the album and even though the video itself is supposed to be a sort of wake-up call for humanity, or something, I wasn’t that impressed by the song itself and I thought that it didn’t bode well for the coming of the release. The song has a good message lyrically but musically the song is dull and monotone and never lifts at all. I started to think about Accept’s Death Row album and that is never a good thing. Sadly enough, the song hasn’t grown on me since then at all. But “Mystery” picks things up a great deal. The song is a bit of a mold-breaker that floats away from the typical U.D.O. / Accept standard and I find that refreshing. On  “Mystery”, Udo sometimes sounds like Lemmy and I hear both Alice Cooper and King Diamond in the arrangements here – very good indeed. With “Pain”, they are back in the classic U.D.O. mood, a catchy metal tune with a nice pop melody on top of it. Same old, same old, but it still sounds relevant – and fresh, actually. But the metal power ballad “Secrets In Paradise” falls pretty flat. The song doesn’t go anywhere and Udo sounds strained. But at least it has a really good guitar melody. “Meaning Of Life” liven things up again. It’s a pretty cool song that reminds me a lot of Helloween around Walls Of Jericho (1985). I was never a fan of that album, but mostly because the production sucked almost as much as Kai Hansen’s horrible lead vocals did.  “Under Your Skin” is a classic U.D.O. metal basher – hard, fast and aggressive with his and his band’s new-found spark added – I love it! “Untouchable” has a riff and arrangement that sounds almost like a “Balls To The Wall” rewrite. It’s not bad at all, but it’s too obvious. “Balls To The Wall” is a huge metal classic and if you wanna steal from yourself, steal from a song that is more obscure. They close the album with a slow, heavy and pretty rough tune that is very close to being a ballad. It’s called “Words In Flame” and it is a really good song, but I find it a bit weird to close a metal album with such a slow and ballad-like tune.

After a few spins, it stands clear that Udo and the band has kept the spark that they found with Steelhammer. Udo will always be Udo and it’s not likely that he and his boys will stray away from their classic brand of metal and I guess there will always be a repetitive way of thinking when it comes to writing songs in the U.D.O camp, but it feels real good that the passion is back and that they have stopped going on simple routine. To say that this and its predecessor holds the same quality and fire that the first four albums did would be to exaggerate things a great deal and they don’t come up to par with any of the three albums Accept has made with Mark Tornillo (that’s why I’m a bit puzzled about the fact that Udo refused to be part of the Accept reunion this time…), but it sure feels like Udo has decided on that quality beats quantity any day of the week and that it’s not necessary to release one album a year. It was a few years since I saw U.D.O. live, but then they felt as tired and jaded as their albums, so hopefully the new material and their latest band members will make U.D.O. a world-class gig once again.

Jon Wilmenius (7/10)

Tracklist:

1. Speeder
2. Decadent
3. House Of Fake
4. Mystery
5. Pain
6. Secrets In Paradise
7. Meaning Of Life
8. Breathless
9. Let Me Out*
10. Under Your Skin
11. Untouchable
12. Shadow Eyes*
13. Rebels Of The Night
14. Words In Flame

*Bonus Tracks on Ltd. Edition

 

4 comments on “U.D.O. – Decadent

  1. I didn’t know about Udo’s stroke! That fact that he is still doing it, wow, good for him!

    I always liked Udo. Never understood why he says “never” to ever working with Accept again.

    • I think it has something to do with their managare, Gaby, who also happens to be Wolf Hoffmann’s wife. I think they’re not getting along at all. Plus, Wolf and Peter Baltes has more or less taken over that band completely and I guess Udo’d not interested in being on their pay roll.

      • I can understand that, and I am sure Wolf is happy with his current situation anyway.

        For me this means that Mark Tornillo has been promised a little bit of job security. That’s fine!

      • Yeah, well, as long as they put out records that doesn’t make them sound like sorry hasbeens…
        Their latest album Blind Rage is magnificent. Had Udo sang on it, it would have been listed as a Accept classic next to Balls To The Wall, Metal Heart, Restless & Wild and Breaker. It should be even with Mark Tornillo.
        But if you’re into Udo, I’d recommend this album and Steelhammer.

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