Any true fan of heavy metal of heavy metal knows of the band Accept, the German Teutonic Terrors came roaring into the metal scene of the early 80’s with classic anthems like Fast As A Shark, Metal Heart, Restless and Wild, and of course, their classic anthem Balls to the Wall. Of course one of the reasons why Accept gained such acclaim with 80’s metalheads was the raspy shrieking vocal of Udo Dirkschneider. If you’re reading this review than you are most likely aware of Dirkschneider’s acrimonious split with Accept and the formation of his own band U.D.O. in 1987, releasing 14 studio albums of old school meat and potatoes heavy metal.
Their 15th studio album, titled Decadent, has just been released by AFM Records. Decadent deals mostly with the decadent behavior of the rich upper classes, with the main theme of the album basically that of social criticism. I wouldn’t call this a “concept” album ala Operation: Mindcrime, just an album with an overall theme when it comes to the subject matter. When discussing the new album, Dirkschneider states:
“Decadent behavior by privileged society exists in the whole world in completely different shades,” says Udo. “Decadence is almost like a universal language. What bothers me the most is the egocentrism that goes along with that. People who have everything seem not to really care about the world around them anymore; it’s like they use their own privileged status as an absolution for that. Also they do not seem to see that there’s a correlation between their own luxury and the poverty of others.
On to the important part; the music! If you’re already an U.D.O. fan you know what to expect. No frills, headbanging, foot stomping, balls to the wall heavy metal. The album kicks off with the hard driving metal of Speeder featuring a heavy melodic guitar riff and Dirkschneider’s trademark vocal snarl. The guitar tandem of Andrey Smirnov and Kasperi Heikkinen show off their chops with some great solo work. The title track is a bass heavy throwback to the classic Balls To The Wall attitude that spotlights the rhythm section of Fitty Wienhold (bass) and Francesco Jovino (who has since split with the band, Udo’s own son Sven Dirkschneider replacing him). The chorus is a highlight with a melodic hook, an amazing harmony guitar solo, and there is a breakdown mid-song with a bass line that sounds like classic Accept. This song is sure to incite crowd participation in a live setting.
House of Fake is a energetic powerful metal song filled with aggression and Udo vocals convey that in his delivery. Although none of the songs on Decadent are going to win any awards for originality, for the most part they work extremely well. That cannot be said about the track Mystery, which is a slower, plodding song with some odd-time signatures and a chorus that I found a little repetitive and boring.
Thankfully, the next track Pain redeems the previous glitch with a great guitar hook and a huge anthemic chorus that shows Udo at his best vocally, while Smirnov and Heikkinen deliver another blazing guitar solo section. Another bump in the road for me is Secrets in Paradise, a semi-ballad that only becomes interesting when Dirkschneider turns up the anger during the chorus. Despite some fine guitar work on this track, call me old school, but I don’t want to hear Udo singing a tender ballad, I want him to rip my head off with his razorblade growls. The proto-speed metal of Under My Skin is more like it, heavy and fast as a shark (pardon the pun, I couldn’t resist!). The same can be said of Rebels of the Night, a powerful metal anthem that brings classic Accept to mind. The diminutive Dirkschneider sounds as vibrant here as he was when he began his career over three decades ago.
The main thing I took away from listening to Decadent is that if you are a fan of Udo’s work with Accept and his past output with U.D.O then you will appreciate the majority of the album, even with some minor bumps in the road. The album is not perfect but it has enough highlights for me to recommend picking it up. The bottom line is Udo the man and U.D.O. the band show they are still a force to be reckoned with.