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U.D.O. - "Dominator" (CD)

U.D.O. - "Dominator" CD cover image

"Dominator" track listing:

1. The Bogeyman (4:03)
2. Dominator (4:45)
3. Black and White (4:08)
4. Infected (3:35)
5. Heavy Metal Heaven (4:20)
6.Doom Ride (5:21)
7. Stillness of Time (6:31)
8. Devil's Rendezvous (3:35)
9. Speed Demon (4:04)
10. Whispers in the Dark (4:26)

Reviewed by on October 12, 2009

"There is little difference between 2009’s 'Dominator' and 1987’s 'Animal House,' which is neither good nor bad, it just is."

Udo Dirkschneider began his metal career as the lead singer of Accept. After the early iterations of that band crumbled (but not without leaving their mark on the landscape), Udo founded his eponymous new band, U.D.O. Now releasing their 12th full-length studio release, it makes sense to call U.D.O. the AC/DC of the European metal arena. There is little difference between 2009’s “Dominator” and 1987’s “Animal House,” which is neither good nor bad, it just is.

“Dominator” kicks off with “The Bogeyman,” complete with the suspenseful synth opening melody, chunky riffs, and a plethora of guitar licks and fills. Udo himself sounds strong as always – his voice still a mix of Halford, Lemmy and Brian Johnson. He shows more variation than previous albums, using almost spoken sections along with his trademark growl and soaring melodies, and even mixes in some shrieks and throat roars for good measure. Sometimes it seems like he wants to go toward the more extreme metal styled dirty vocals, but just can’t make himself jump off the cliff.

Guitarists Stefan Kaufmann (also formerly of Accept) and Igor Gianola (formerly Jorn) lay down some solid riffs and solos. While there isn’t any new ground broken, Kaufmann and Gianola growl and shred with force and conviction throughout. The pair weaves riffs, melodies, leads, and solos together, conjuring ten distinct songs that all stand out from each other yet still hang together well as a set. Whether it is the Harley cruiser of the title track, the fist-pump of “Black and White,” the interplay of “Infected,” or the cheesy-but-still-well-done “Heavy Metal Heaven” - complete with medieval style melodies and sing-a-long chorus - all the songs bang out well from the stereo.

The album continues this way for all ten songs, and then ends. With all the history, all the flash and dash, all the sturm und drang, it really is that simple. U.D.O. delivers ten songs of exactly what we all expected, no more and no less, just like they have been doing since 1987. There aren’t any songs on the album that will go down in heavy metal history, nor are there any songs that will get skipped every time the disc is put in the player. Ultimately however, it is an U.D.O. album. You know what to do.

Highs: The album is very even, although the back half of “Infected” is particularly fantastic.

Lows: Just like the highs, the album is so even there aren’t really any lows, although “Stillness of Time” gets a bit tired.

Bottom line: It’s a U.D.O. album – what else did you expect?

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Reviewed by on October 9, 2009

"…'Dominator' is refreshingly classic U.D.O., and an excellent choice for fans of old school metal."

Though some readers may be too young to recognize the name, Udo Dirkschneider is one of metal’s icons. The man behind the phenomenal tune that three or four generations of future metalheads have jammed out to, "Balls To The Wall," is at it again with U.D.O.’s latest installment, "Dominator."

When Accept parted ways in the mid-80’s, it was easy for a lot of fans to follow Dirkschneider with his new project, U.D.O. For years the band pumped out tunes very similar to the classic metal sounds of Accept, but then they started mixing things up a bit, with orchestral elements, and a little bit of a quirky flair with their 2008 release "Mastercutor." Though "Mastercutor" still did well on the German charts, it just wasn’t the same brand of in your face, aggressive metal that Dirkschneider’s fans expected. All that has returned though on "Dominator," and the end product is a phenomenal experience for fans of gritty, fist-pumping music.

For those wondering, yes, there are moments of keyboards on "Dominator," (something Dirckschneider once vehemently opposed), but they are brief. Still, they add an element of beauty, ironic though it may sound, particularly in the intro of the opening track, "The Bogeyman." And the closing ballad – yes I said ballad - "Whispers in the Dark," showcases keyboards in a way virtually never seen in non-symphonic metal.

Of course, the highlights of U.D.O. have always been the guitar shreds and the distinctive vocals of Dirkschneider. Once again, guitars are provided by producer Stefan Kaufmann and Igor Gianda, and the end result is, not surprisingly, incredible. At times spiraling up the scales, as in "Doom Ride," and at other times, such as "Stillness of Time," just offering up a full out shred, there’s not a moment of dullness to be found.

The drums are never showy, but the work is still solid, and the pulsing tempos on all the tracks are just the right blend to have you shouting along and moving your body. Though the focus of "Speed Demon" is actually the guitar work, the drums veer away from their usually formulaic approach, and enter the realm of speedy thrash, with an end result that is like downing an energy drink.

As for Dirkschneider’s vocals? Well, nothing much has changed in twenty years, and he still delivers a shot in the arm for those who like aggressive, nearly growling, alternating shrieks and demon summoning sounds. Though "Devil’s Rendezvous" is a bit of a throwback to the sound on "Mastercutor," the rest of "Dominator" is refreshingly classic U.D.O., and an excellent choice for fans of old school metal.

Highs: Dirkschneider's vocals never fail to impress, and the guitar work on "Infected" is killer.

Lows: None really, though "Devil’s Rendezvous" sounds more like it should have been on the last album.

Bottom line: A return to the sound that made "Balls To The Wall" famous makes this installment of U.D.O. a great choice for fans of classic styled metal.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)