U.D.O. - Mission no. X 3/5

Reviewed: 12-16-05


1. Mission no. X
2. 24/7
3. Mean streets
4. Primecrime on primetime
5. Eye of the eagle
6. Shell shock fever
7. Stone hard
8. Breaking down the border
9. Cry soldier cry
10. Way of life
11. Mad for crazy

The mini-reunion tour of German traditional metal legends Accept this summer had the European metal hordes all aflutter. Not this metal scribe. Sure, it was satisfying to see photos of diminutive, gravel-throated pitbull drill sergeant vocalist Udo Dirkschneider gracing the same stage as lanky wunderkind guitarist Wolf Hoffman once again. But there was no need for a nostalgia trip to reminisce about days gone by for the mighty Accept, because the fact of the matter is that, while Hoffman has turned his back on the music business for nearly a decade to pursue a photography career, U.D.O. has been keeping the spirit of Accept alive for all these years without ever missing a beat. For those not familiar with the band, U.D.O. features the characteristic love-them-or-hate-them vocals of Dirkschneider, the songwriting and 6-string contributions of Stefan Kaufmann (who converted from an excellent drummer in Accept to a competent axeslinger in U.D.O. after back problems forced him to abandon the kit), and the solid leadwork of Igor Gianola. Musically and attitude-wise, U.D.O. play straight-up Accept-styled anthemic, sing-a-long heavy metal that is consistently good, albeit a step or so beneath the pinnacles achieved by the latter act at its most inspired.

As the not-so-subtle title reflects, 'Mission no. X' represents U.D.O.'s 10th studio outing. At this juncture in their career, U.D.O. do what they do, with minimal surprises or evolution from one CD to the next. This homogeneity has attracted some flak in the international heavy metal press, but such criticisms are misplaced. U.D.O. is not a band one listens to for musical progression or surprises. Instead, like Motorhead, Axel Rudi Pell or Running Wild, U.D.O. soldier forward relentlessly from one CD to the next, consistently offering high-quality stout metal anthems that may not shake your foundations, but that absolutely get the job done, sounding like comforting old friends from the first spin to the last. So if you're looking for a cutting-edge act that pushes boundaries, your hunger will not be satiated by U.D.O. Those who are fond of the style, however, are guaranteed to enjoy every CD in the band's discography to a greater or lesser extent.

With these background principles in mind, the only way to rate an U.D.O. CD is to see how the songs stack up. The 'Mission no. X' tunes fall into 3 categories, which for simplicity's sake I'll dub smashes, yawns and groans. In the "smashes" department, this CD includes several songs that compare favorably into any material to which Mr. Dirkschneider has ever lent his voice, including the electrifying "Mad for crazy", the infectious single "24/7" (unapologetically sporting its true metal cred on its sleeve with a chorus declaring "You know we live it / 24/7 / 24 hours 7 days a week") and the stupendous double-bass heart attack "Shell shock fever". The "yawns" are the 2 ballads and the sturdy, mid-paced numbers like "Primecrime on primetime", which are not bad but are too "stock" to get the blood pounding or the noggin nodding. ("Way of life" deserves special mention here. The opening riff sounded awfully familiar the first time I heard it. By the time the chorus rolled around I realized that was because I had heard it before. This same song appeared on U.D.O.'s 1999 CD, 'No Limits'. I cannot fathom why they opted to do a straight remake of a decent-but-forgettable track that they had previously recorded and released 6 years ago.) Finally, the "groan" category is confined to just one song, the stillborn "Mean streets", in which Dirkschneider's ill-advised spoken-word verses just don't work at all. Incidentally, the U.S. edition of the CD comes with the dubious "bonus" of the "Mean streets" video, which is packed with repulsive and disturbing imagery chosen for its shock/schlock value rather than for any redeeming artistic purpose. Thumbs down there.

In the pantheon of U.D.O. releases, 'Mission no. X' is no better and no worse than a middling CD. If you've enjoyed the band before, you will find this CD a worthwhile listening experience, but don't expect to be bowled over, except on a handful of standout tracks. If U.D.O. is a new entity to you, however, I highly recommend that you pick up 'Timebomb', 'Animal house', and even 'Thunderball' before reaching this point in the U.D.O. catalog.




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