The End Records
It was songs like “Turn Me On,” “Up to the Limit” and “Russian Roulette” that pounded in my head upon first playback of U.D.O.’s latest, Thunderball. Anyone who considers this album a legitimate successor to Accept in their heyday is selling short their prestigious and vindictive ’93 comeback Objection Overruled, which was Balls to the Wall with a bad attitude. They’re also discounting the fact that U.D.O., a legitimate successor to Accept in the first place, has done some classic material worthy of Accept-like status, namely “Animal House,” “Mean Machine,” “Solid” and “Holy.”
Thunderball meets expectations as do most of their records, but with more diversity; it’s a bit epic and uptempo, with plenty of sing-alongs — a very emotional record at all turns. And then there’s something uncharacteristically… Russian(?). The title track starts slowly, before unloading a shark-like attack into the systematic thrash level that’s been known to tear into an album or two. Though, this could be the first to open with the line “I ate the moon for breakfast/I had the sun for tea/I opened up the papers, and drank the oval sea…” Clever U.D.O.-styled wordplay that could mean something only to he who created it or the four-year old who’ll likely never see the paper it’s printed on in the first place. Not that this surprises me, I thought “You’re a two-faced woman, but I’m a three-faced man” was funny way back when.
“The Arbiter” is the mid-paced follow up, heavy and very U.D.O.-like. “Pull the Trigger” is reminiscent of “Bullet Proof” from the Death Row days of Accept. Udo Dirkschneider deserves credit for a number of things, the least of which is his longevity. But how has he managed to maintain his voice after years of garbled screaming and continual abuse? The solidity of the band and the fact that the line-up’s been together since the “Holy” days is remarkable. Why? They’re German, which suggests they should be making their annual leap to other groups. Jorg Michael would have approved. Ah, but as I write this I just learned that drummer Lorenzo Milani is off. Do I hear the familiar footsteps of one Stefan Schwarzmann yet again?
There’s more variety here with a nicely mixed set of prototypical metal tracks, a couple blazers, an eye-rub at the end and a head-scratcher called “Trainride to Russia,” which recalls a previous tour stop in the Moscow beer halls. For diehards, it sounds like a quirky wedding song that’ll go over maybe twice before they forward to “The Bullet and the Bomb,” which is a return to form with an evil twist.
To mildly complain: some songs are too repetitive and the production’s too clean. It’s too safe. They have superior playing skills that are drowned in simplicity. The guitars need some depth — they’re more Scorpions and less strength. Otherwise, Thunderball is another restatement of the obvious: U.D.O.’s a model of consistency, crafting classic metal with a sharp hook and ale-house chorus.