U.D.O. - 'Mastercutor'
Give the little devil his due - Accept's Udo Dirkschneider's stature isn't much removed from Ronnie James Dio's, literally or in the sense of his place in the pantheon of metal vocalists fans like me carry around in our heads. His voice has the raucous, spitfire attack of Brian Johnson and the larynx-ripping menace of Rob Halford, along with a sense of snotty in-your-faceness and incredibly catchy hookiness that's Udo's own.
I haven't really followed his career with his solo band, U.D.O. all that closely, even though Accept is one of my favourite classic metal bands. When I heard there was a new one out this year, I reckoned I might as well give it a whirl for shits and giggles. Of course, this album is worth a lot more than just a few laughs, if you've got any room at all for classic, kickass metal in your blackened little heart.
The introductory track 'Mastercutor' starts things off with a sort of game show theme song pastiche over which your host, the Mastercutor is introduced, and the festivities are kicked off as a huge, melodic power chord based intro shifts into one of those classic early 80s metal riffs. Udo is in fine form vocally - maybe just a little more raspy than in his earlier days, but more than just okay for a 55 year old. He launches into one of those huge, singalong choruses that manage to be both catchy and incredibly kickass at the same time, and that's it - I'm sold.
What follows is a very strong set of rocking metal songs with infectious, headbanging riffs, melodic guitar parts, and irresistably metallic vocal hooks. 'The Wrong Side Of Midnight' piles on the menace, 'The Instigator' is one of those fast, punchy songs 80s metal bands used to love starting their records with - you know the sort of thing I mean - 'One Lone Voice' and 'Tears Of A Clown' allow Udo to showcase a more melodic side to his voice, without wandering into the out and out cheese of some of Accept's early balladry attempts. 'We Do - For You' is a great arena-filling anthem, 'Walker In The Dark' is a stalker song with another irresistable chorus and great shifts between power chord riffs and arpeggiated passages, 'The Devil Walks Alone' and 'Dead Man's Eyes' are two more great distillations of classic metal attitude that make sure the second half of the album doesn't slump.
There are weak spots though - both 'Vendetta' and 'Crash Bang Crash' fail to really distinguish themselves melodically or by way of riffs. Also - and this is both a failing and a virtue - the songs are all so concise. Udo and his band rock out the under-5-minute thrashers as if it was 1982 all over again. Some of the songs have serious epic potential, and the lack of some really extended (some might say self-indulgent, but there's a place for that and this would have been one of them) soloing or perhaps an extra riff or three to take some of the songs a bit further does make the overall experience feel a trifle insubstantial.
Still, what we have here are 12 kickass pure heavy metal tracks from one of the genre's most distinctive and definitive singers, and a crack squad of talented musicians. If you're in that Balls To The Wall/British Steel sort of frame of mind, you could do a lot worse than to try out the Mastercutor's latest gig. Don't forget - you have to be in it to kill it!