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Dirkschneider's real solo debut - 78%

Lewton, August 4th, 2007

"Mean Machine", despite being the second album in U.D.O. discography, can be in fact considered the very first Dirkschneider's solo recording. That's because the previous CD released by U.D.O., "Animal House", was entirely written by Udo's bandmates from Accept, as a kind of a nice goodbye gift when he decided to left them in 1986 to establish his own band. But it turned out that Udo was able to make a very decent album on his own.

"Mean Machine" is a logical continuation of what we experienced on "Animal House". This CD may be a little more speedy than its precedessor, but it still contains all things that were remarkable on AH: great melodies, catchy choruses and, above all, very characteristic vocals by Dirkschneider.

What we get here is quite traditional heavy metal, so don't expect untypical song structures, surprising tempo changes or other innovative solutions. Most songs are built in a standard way and the only really astonishing thing here is the last track: "Still in Love with You", which is not, as the title might suggest, a tearjerking ballad, but a truly strange, short instrumental piece, consisting of a very chaotic drum- and guitarwork and some inarticulate shouts. But it is surely included as a kind of a joke or curiosity.

As for the "normal" songs, there are ten tunes, all with no exception on a very decent level, so melodic and catchy that each of them could have been chosen for a single. Video was made for "Break the Rules", but "Don't Look Back" or the title track are surely not worse. They are fast, energetic songs in a vein of Accept's "Fast as a Shark", "Aiming High" or U.D.O.'s "Go Back to Hell". We also get a ballad, "Sweet Little Child", which manages not to be totally cheesy in spite of not the best lyrics.

All instrumentalists, while not being particularly outstanding, do a good job. Mathias Dieth's solos are rather nothing exceptional, but they fit the songs quite well. Dieth may be not as good as Wolf Hoffmann from Accept but he knows how to play the guitar and is probably the best guitarist U.D.O. ever had.

Udo himself is such a type of a vocalist that if you like him on one of his records, you'll like him on all the others as he always sings in the same, harsh, screeching way. But in choruses he is often supported by his bandmates, whose clean voices create a nice contrast with him in songs like "Painted Love" or already mentioned "Don't Look Back".

Overall, "Mean Machine" clearly isn't a classic masterpiece or a breakthrough in heavy metal. Nevertheless, it's a really decent, well-written and enjoyable record. If you like other Accept or U.D.O. albums or if you just like traditional, melodic heavy metal in general, you shouldn't be disappointed with this one.