U.D.O - Thunderball 2004 AFM Records Reviewed by: EC
|Track Listing1. Thunderball |
2. The Arbiter
3. Pull The Trigger
4. Fistful Of Anger
5. The Land Of The Midnight Sun
6. Hell Bites Back
7. Trainride In Russia (Poezd Po Rossii)
8. The Bullet And The Bomb
9. The Magic Mirror
10. Tough Luck II
11. Blind Eyes
If Ozzy Osbourne and Ronnie James Dio can be looked to as metal's grandfathers, I would call this little German Uncle Udo. For twenty five years Udo Dirkschneider has been delivering his brand of sleek metal mayhem, with his main hint of success being with superstars Accept, seeing tours with the likes of Guns 'N Roses and Scorpions in the 80s. After his split from the group in '96, Udo went back to his side-project, the aptly titled U.D.O, where he had released four records prior to his departure from Accept. Since '96 he has released four records and a live album. Now we see record number five, "Thunderball", which shows up this time around on the AFM label, his debut for the company and first to hit US shores through The End Records distribution.
Any fan worth his weight knows U.D.O, and really doesn't need the play by play from me. U.D.O has always been Accept version 2.0, enlisting the services of Accept drummer turned guitarist in Stefan Kaufmann back in '97, letting even more of that band's sound creep into the U.D.O ideology of songwriting. "Thunderball" marks the band's third record using this lineup, something Udo himself really isn't all that familiar with. His band has always had a revolving door, and now it looks like he has a pretty solid lineup, with Kaufmann on guitar, Igor Gianola on second guitar, Fitty Wienhold on bass, Lorenzo Milani behind the drums, and Uncle Udo at the helm. This is probably my favorite lineup of the band's history, and I for one would really consider U.D.O to be the very next step of Accept, never giving the Accept discography a listen without throwing in a U.D.O record or two. He continues to play Accept songs in his live set, and always carries on that sound with his records. U.D.O is Accept, Accept is U.D.O, let's move on.
I really hate to see this man get passed around by the labels, with Udo signing contracts with GUN ('87-'98), then Nuclear Blast ('99-'02), and now AFM Records. But he always seems to find a home, and he has a zillion fans worldwide standing in line to purchase his albums. With this new record, U.D.O pretty much stays in the same musical formation as his past two records, "Holy" and "Man And Machine". The production is always state of the art, this time around being produced by Stefan Kaufmann at Roxx Studio, and just like prior albums, this one is very groove heavy with a high-end drum sound. People complain that every U.D.O record is just more of the same, and that really could be up for discussion. Call it cookie-cutter metal, or rehashed Accept, either way it is fine to me, as I enjoy every record and can conceivably tell the difference from one album to the next. Your average metal fan really won't care, and to the legions of diehards, U.D.O does no wrong. So let's examine "Thunderball" in detail...
As I mentioned earlier, this fits the same mold as the last two records. You won't find any real speed racers here, but there are plenty of solid hard rockers to be found. I always enjoy the German's rock sensibility, and with each U.D.O record the sound is intensified. Every song is a groove friendly affair, with shiny, classy production values to make each cut sound bombastic and heavy. Take a look at the flashy title track, or the Accept-like "Pull The Trigger" for a perfect example in German sophistication. I love the use of "gang chorus" sing-alongs, and with this album we get plenty. "The Bullet And The Bomb", "Fistful Of Anger", and "The Arbiter" all feature the big chorus chants, making this an easy album to play just about anytime. While the above tracks hammer home the heavy, songs like "The Land Of The Midnight Sun", "The Magic Mirror", and "Blind Eyes" stray from the German hard rock to incorporate a nice dose of atmosphere and mood. I wouldn't call these tracks ballads, but they are slower numbers that really help to mix the album up a bit. Udo even throws in some heavy metal polka with "Trainride To Russia".
Once again U.D.O prove they are on top of their game, with this group of veterans keeping the same pace as previous records. Fans of "Animal House", "Holy", and "Man And Machine" should really enjoy this one. It's not quite as fast as "Timebomb", and certainly not as heavy as "Solid", but still keeps manages to keep that same sort of songwriting intact. Udo knows what his fans want, and this particular formula works well each time. Hopefully Uncle Udo can keep the metal faith happy for many years to come, but as a metal fan always looking ahead, what are we going to do when these types of legends go away? Heroes don't live forever, but let's hope this German has a few more albums left in him. I can't get enough.
Note - Interesting to see this that this album cover closely resembles this year's Metal Church-Weight Of The World and Pink Cream 69's "Thunderdome" releases. All feature steel globes on the cover.