U.D.O. – Game Over (Album Review)

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The game will never end.

The chaotic state of the world might be likened to a raging storm cloud above the heads of all humanity, but if there is a silver-lining to the sad state of affairs that is the present, it is that it has provided much inspiration for heavy metal’s many contributors. Few can boast the level of experience that former Accept front man Udo Dirkschneider has attained in this world, having toured the world over from the Iron Curtain nations during the 80s to the mountain heights of Peru, seeing the world both at its best and its worst. In keeping with this, the now 69 year old primal screamer and Teutonic metal titan has always kept his music strongly affixed upon the current state of affairs, often forsaking the fantastical subjects often covered by his contemporaries. Yet while his solo project U.D.O.’s 17th studio LP “Game Over” is a consistent exercise in keeping it real from a lyrical standpoint, the music that surrounds it is about as out of this world as they come.

With the militaristic poise and precision of a seasoned veteran of some bygone struggle, this quintet of largely newer recruits deliver up what can be best described as a steel-clad love letter to 80s hard rock and heavy metal with a colossally modern suit of armor. The highly skilled kit work provided by 2015 acquisition – and Udo’s son no less – Sven Dirkschneider proves one of the band’s greatest assets, combining the steady rocking grooves that one might expect out of former Judas Priest drummer Les Binks and the wild metallic flair from said band’s current percussionist Scott Travis. On the flip-side, bassist Tilen Hudrap goes beyond mere support role status after the Ian Hill tradition and gets pretty busy, which is no small thing considering Udo’s current and former projects often being compared to the rustic simplicity of AC/DC. Then again, the flashy lead breaks and generally elaborate riffing combinations put forth by Andrey Smirnov and newcomer Dee Dammers rival Tipton and Downing’s contributions to metal at just about every point while all but completely resembling their approach.

“Game Over” Album Artwork

But when all is said and done, this is a fold that lives and dies by the performance their foreman turns in, and Udo’s voice carries all the diamond-like charm with rough edges that made him a staple of 80s heavy metal. Combined with some mercilessly catchy and aggressive songwriting that one comes to expect from the man who brought us “Fast As A Shark” and “Balls To The Wall”, it becomes hard to tell which project involving former members of Accept shines the brightest. Coming like a freight train running off the tracks, the opening crusher “Fear Detector” brings that driving speed metal goodness with a vengeance, only being upstaged by the “Timebomb”/”Painkiller”-inspired thrasher “Like A Beast” and the busy shuffling riff machine “Thunder Road”, each being intense enough to rival recent output from Grave Digger and Primal Fear. Coming it at an only slightly slower tempo and chock full of Iron Maiden-like harmonized guitar themes, “Prophecy” also proves a formidable offering in a swift package.

Naturally all is not relegated to speed metal territory here, as Udo’s penchant for turning the clock back to when metal and rock’s borders were not so clearly drawn has resulted in a pretty eclectic collection of bangers. Dialing it back to a mid-paced groove, the celebratory ode “Metal Never Dies” sees our esteemed front man’s Brian Johnson-like shrieks meshing perfectly with the slower rock-base yet still technically geared trappings of Balls To The Wall. Returning to the subject of AC/DC, the band’s single and song covering the sad reality of child soldiers in the 3rd world “Kids And Guns” sounds like it could have been a B-side off “For Those About To Rock.” The more modernized and mystical elements of “Empty Eyes” sees some Sabbath-like bottom end to the principle riff mixed with some highly expressive lead guitar work, while the crunchy grooves of “Holy Invaders” reminisces heavily on past Udo solo efforts both old and new. But the song that just steals the show and is sure to keep the listener coming back for more is the Hammerfall-like nod to Ronnie James DioMarching Tank”, definitely one of the best out of this fold since the early 2010s.

With a highly auspicious collaboration last year featuring the concert band of the German armed forces and a brilliant live release earlier this year, recorded at the height of the pandemic no less, there are no signs of this mighty tank slowing down, let alone stopping. Truth be told, at first glance the album title “Game Over” might indicate that Accept’s original voice was toying with the idea of hanging it all up, but thankfully it’s more along the lines of the usual socially aware and quasi-dystopian message that U.D.O. has consistently served up of late. The only real break from the consistent lyrical message of a world in a state of tumult with the extremely (no pun intended) low key and downright serene acoustic ballad “Don’t Wanna Say Goodbye”, which sees a more melancholic air being established, complete with metal’s most incessant screamer opting for a more deep and crooning approach. While there is very little that can be considered new in the stylistic sense, the variety of older elements keeps things interesting, and fans and newcomers alike will be pleased to find a near 70 year old Udo that still kicks butt like he’s in his early 30s.

Released By:
Release Date: October 22nd, 2021
Genre: Heavy Metal

Band Members:

  • Udo Dirkschneider / Vocals
  • Andrey Smirnov / Guitars
  • Sven Dirkschneider / Drums
  • Tilen Hudrap / Bass
  • Dee Dammers / Guitars

“Game Over”  Track-listing:

  1. Fear Detector
  2. Holy Invaders
  3. Prophecy
  4. Empty Eyes
  5. I See Red
  6. Metal Never Dies
  7. Kids and Guns
  8. Like a Beast
  9. Don’t Wanna Say Goodbye
  10. Unbroken
  11. Marching Tank
  12. Thunder Road
  13. Midnight Stranger
  14. Speed Seeker
  15. Time Control
  16. Metal Damnation
8.6 Great

The iconic former front man of Teutonic metal legend Accept and unrelenting man of steel Udo Dirkschneider proves once more that age is nothing more than a state of mind and his mind seems to be singularly focused on vintage, high grade steel with a modern glimmer if his 17th studio LP is any indication.

  • Songwriting 8.5
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 8.5
  • Production 8.5

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