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Some solid, some not that solid German heavy metal - 70%

Lane, December 1st, 2016
Written based on this version: 2004, CD, AFM Records

So, my first ever U.D.O. review shall be for his 2004 album 'Thunderball'. I stopped following Accept back in 1980s, and never really paid any attention to Udo Dirkschneider, the legendary German vocalist, who formed Accept in 1976 and left it (for the first time) in 1987 and formed U.D.O.. Oh, those stormy teenage years; how many cool bands were forgotten..!

Anyway, in 2010 I noticed that Accept was back, albeit without Udo. Still, I got back into 'em, and some years later I also got my first U.D.O. album, which was destined to be this one. This month I evidenced Dirkschneider play a long concert playing only Accept songs. Well, this charismatic man of steel really managed to strike me again with those tunes! First, I feel I need to tell, that I'm not familiar with all U.D.O. albums (not as yet, that is) but let's get into 'Thunderball' anyway...

When the album came out, it was some of the heaviest stuff put out by the band. However, it doesn't exactly reinvent the wheel: It is Accept/U.D.O. heavy metal to the bone, as it always was. Stomping, headbanging German heavy metal, like Accept and Udo built it to be. Like Mr. Dirkschneider has put it himself: "Now you got two bands..." Hey, guitar player Stefan Kaufmann is also an ex-Accept guy, and this duo composed most of the material for this album. They just followed their hearts and here's the result.

The guitar riffs are in-your-face, hard and mostly rather simplistic affairs. They most probably bore into your brain. And if not, this classic German heavy metal style is NOT for you then!!! This album does not include classical guitar elements that Accept guitarist Wolf Hoffmann is known for, but still there's some tasty lead guitar playing frequently coming your way (the second axe is wielded by Igor Gianola). Some songs concentrate on riffs, e.g. 'Pull the Trigger', 'Hell Bites Back' and 'The Bullet and the Bombs'. Some songs include melodies one can whistle, e.g. anthemic 'The Land of the Midnight Sun', 'The Magic Mirror' and moody 'Blind Eyes' (added cello playing on it). Not surprisingly, first ones are faster while latter ones are calmer. Open-string guitars are often heard on the slower pieces. Some faster ones are closer to hard rock, such as 'Fistful of Anger'. Generally, some albums by U.D.O. are much more melodious. But as you headbangers know, a riff can be just as catchy as a melody... And this album ain't short on memorable heavy metal. However, on classic song department, the thing is the other way, sadly.

The drumming is about stomping beats, on and off with double kick drums, and not about technical show-off. It should punch the innards of every heavy metal freak. Simple as that. Same goes with the bass guitar. Generally, the compositions are rather straight x times verse - bridge - x times chorus - guitar solos - repeat verse/bridge/chorus pattern songwriting. There's no pace changes in songs, it's all so steady. One exception to safe style choice is 'Trainride in Russia (Poezd po Rossii)', which sounds like a Russian traditional song played with an accordion; it does borrow some, and yes, rock instruments are also included. I feel that the album simply isn't adventurous enough, and as aforementioned, it hardly includes any classic song material. Well, except the 'Trainride...' which is a hit in Russia without a doubt, and the title track itself deserves to be mentioned here, as well as totally solid 'Pull the Trigger' and 'Tough Luck II', plus the melancholic closer. The material here isn't very catchy, although there are some tasty choruses. The album's composition could have been a bit different, as at first there are four rockers, and later a slow and a faster song take turns.

So, Udo himself, then! The man with a bloody unique voice. His raspy and powerful croaking is something else, people. It's a total "love or hate" affair. I got used to it when I was around 10 years old, and I'm happy I did: Later there was such an amount of bands to be checked out, that maybe U.D.O. and Accept might have been too weird at the first, hasty glance. Some effects were clearly used in a few vocals parts. Manly gang vocals are of course happening. It wouldn't be U.D.O. if without 'em. The lyrical content emphasizes on reality. Despite two lauds (for Russian and other for Scandinavian people), the subject matter is familiar: war, history and corruption.

The production job is okay. It is pretty punchy and heavy. Hey, they've been doing this since 1980s! Thankfully it's not very compressed, but more like airy, giving some breathing space for elements. It is all fairly adequate, if basic. And no electronic/machinery vibes this time either. The bass drum kicks a bit too loudly, overwhelming other stuff, during those double kick drum parts. The band is experienced and know how to achieve different moods by using different sounds on instruments, so it definitely isn't a one-sided album moods- and production-ways.

While 'Thunderball' has balls, it lacks of truly catchy song material for a big part (for example 'Fistful of Anger' and 'Hell Bites Back' do not leave much memory to my brains). It's still easy to listen to for Udo Dirkschneider and Accept fans, and it is far from being bad, too. 'Trainride in Russia' lifts it above average, and as it is an U.D.O. album, it's well above average in my books. I just like this style of heavy metal.

(Originally written for ArchaicMetallurgy.com)

Not good at all... - 68%

Snxke, November 27th, 2004

U.D.O. finds himself slipping after from the glory of the "Holy" album with two live releases and a passable (but not exciting) "Man and Machine". While "Man and Machine" had been the tracks that werent' finished for "Holy" one might have found hope that the band would come up with yet another barn-burner following the completion of the previous cycle. Sadly...this was not to be. The production and peformance are typical U.D.O. but the timeless tracks just don't exist on this CD. Something about it seems flaccid and entirely uninspired when it comes to the actual songs themselves.

Opening with the exciting "Thunderball" but slipping quickly into a morass of pointless Kraut-metal that is devoid of any hook. There are no swinging choruses like "Holy" that will have you singing along for hours on end on this folks. The riffs aren't bad, but they aren't memorable either. In fact, "Thunderball" may be the only track I still remember upon multiple listens to the recording...

This may explain why Wolf Hoffmann has been asked to jump onstage for a few runs billing U.D.O. (plus Wolf) as "Accept". This record shows an U.D.O. running low and ideas but not dedication to the genre. Sadly, this may do some serious damage to his future as it's hardly even as memorable as "Man and Machine".

Hopefully the next one will be better?

Buy the special-edition "Thunderball" single CD if you can and avoid spending too much on this unless you are a DIE HARD U.D.O./Accept fan...