Consistency, thy name is Udo. For twenty-five years, under his eponymous faux-abbreviated band name, Udo Dirkschneider has cranked out a series of quality traditional metal records, thirteen of them now, all deeply rooted in the blueprint he helped create as the voice of the legendary Accept. Rock-solid riffs, that perfect Germanic drive, catchy melodies delivered in Dirkschneider’s inimitable gravelly growl… All the pieces fit brilliantly together, and on Rev-Raptor as on the twelve discs that precede it, the man delivers, even if (or perhaps because) he’s been creatively recycling the same formula for decades now.
So, first thing’s first, what the hell is a “Rev-Raptor”? A quick internet search tells me that it’s something called a Zoid, which is described as a “mechanical life-form from the fictional Zoids universe” – so that answers virtually nothing, and in fact, poses the further question of why a 60-year-old heavy metal legend from Wuppertal, Germany is writing tunes about Japanese toys. And the answer is: I have no idea. And while we’re at it, what the hell is going on with that album art? Besides the obnoxious neon green-ness of it, it’s got what one of my compatriots described as a “Borg-ed out Patrick Stewart” firing an arsenal of cartoon guns. While U.D.O. hasn’t ever been known for brilliance in the graphic arts department, this one takes the cake for eye-scarring strangeness.
But beyond its bizarre title and ridiculous artwork, Rev-Raptor is exactly what we’ve come to expect from U.D.O., with only a few minor differences to separate it from the remainder of the man’s rock-solid catalog. In tandem with its titular fictional life-form and cybernetic mascot, parts of Rev-Raptor sport a slightly mechanical feel – though by no means industrial or electronic, there’s a piston-like rigidity and a metallic sharpness to the title track and “Motor-Borg” that fits the robotic themes. Songwise, there are few surprises, as you’d expect – most of Rev-Raptor consists of straightforward U.D.O. rockers like the title track, “Dr. Death” and the catchy-as-hell “Renegade.” But there are a few small side-steps to keep things interesting: “I Give As Good As I Get” drifts menacingly on a moody melody and a mid-tempo drive, and first single “Leatherhead” shows some slightly unusual touches (unusual by U.D.O. standards, I mean). All in, U.D.O. has been on the upswing over the last three albums, not progressing at all but turning in strong sets of tunes on Mastercutor, Dominator and now Rev-Raptor, which is the strongest of the bunch.
Because of his shrill and instantly recognizable voice, I’ve long heard Udo’s work compared to that of AC/DC, and that comparison extends further, into the two bands’ shared ability to create interchangeable yet largely distinct and perpetually enjoyable records, to work within the same template time and time again to great results, to mine the same sound without fail or failure. Udo Dirkschneider is a legend in traditional metal for a reason, and Rev-Raptor once again shows why: The man rocks simply and simply rocks.