Although his name will be rightfully forever prefaced with “former Accept vocalist,” metal veteran and Elmer Fudd lookalike Udo Dirkschneider has fronted this eponymous outfit since the late 1980s. With this twelfth record, he’s now released more studio albums under the U.D.O. banner than Accept has, with or without him. Of course, what U.D.O. does isn’t far removed from what Accept did in their glory days, in the years after they found their feet and before they lost their footing. U.D.O. the band brings us traditional metal, lumbering and rock-solid beneath Udo the man’s trademark snarl. As with Accept, U.D.O. gets comparisons to AC/DC inevitably, usually because of the shrill vocals, but it’s an equally apt comparative because of the sheer dependability of the band—U.D.O. records are simple, catchy, fun, and relatively interchangeable; some are better than others, but all are mostly the same; and no matter what, the formula never really grows old. One does not look to Udo Dirkschneider for envelope-pushing innovation or brain-twisting progression; one looks to Udo Dirkschneider to simply rock like hell, and for that, Dominator delivers perfectly.
From the opening stomp of “The Bogeyman” through the groovy “Black And White” to the jaunty “Devil’s Rendezvous,” there’s nary a dud in the pile here. Guitarists Stefan Kaufmann (also formerly of Accept) and Igor Gianola (of Jorn) rip through some simple but highly effective riffage, and the rhythm section of Fitty Weinhold and Francesco Jovina keeps everything tight and energetic. Dominator is fist-pumping, sing-along Germanic metal, melodic and anthemic—just listen to the infectious (and admittedly cheesy) “Heavy Metal Heaven” and picture yourself in a club filled with drunken punters, arm in arm with beer in hand, singing that chorus at the top of your collective lungs… Unlike many of their trad-metal peers, U.D.O. doesn’t typically strive for epic or intricate compositions—there’s no lengthy paeans to historic battles or elvish legions. Like Holy, most of Dominator inhabits mid-tempo ground, although closing ballad “Whispers In The Dark” is a surprising highlight, as is the album’s orchestral moment in “Stillness Of Time.”
Thirty-eight years into his career, Udo Dirkschneider is still going strong, and after 2007’s masterful return in Mastercutor, Dominator makes back-to-back successes for the man and the band after a brief stretch of weaker records in the first half of the decade. Creating records of this type and of this quality within a very well-worn framework whilst sounding modern and not at all dated is an accomplishment, I’d say, so credit where credit is due and a hearty congrats to U.D.O. Dominator harbors no bullshit, no frills; no surprises; Dominator is just metal. Recommended.