Part of me wants to say something like “It’s surprising that, forty-something years into his career, Udo — and by extension U.D.O. — is still cranking out albums as good as Game Over and making it look easy.”
But then the logical historian in me says, “Why is that even remotely a surprise? This is what Udo does, both inside of Accept and outside of it. Thus, this is what U.D.O. has always done. U.D.O. is not exactly full of surprises.”
But, well, actually, that’s almost irrelevant because he’s back inside it here. This is the Udo — and by extension, the U.D.O. — you know and love.
So yeah, U.D.O. is a workhorse, one that seems very content to churn out variations on a Euro-metal theme every few years or so, and hopefully they’ll do it forever. He’s certainly earned the right. The oddball blips of that symphonic album and The Old Gang EP notwithstanding, almost the entirety of Udo’s catalog is a dependable collection of Teutonic trad, stomping and riff-heavy beneath that distinctive curdled snarl, filled with the type of instant-hook choruses that are custom-made for fist-in-the-air festival shout-alongs.
Of course, for all the talk of consistency and comparisons to the likes of the eternally reliable AC/DC, no artist’s catalog is truly a flat curve — by nature, some albums are better than others, for whatever reason, be it inspiration or production or any confluence of events. Some are more melodic, some heavier; some have subtle hints of stylistic deviation painted along the curves of their trad-metal chassises, like the dashes of keyboards that floated around a few tracks on Decadent, or the metallized polka romp of Dominator’s “Devil’s Rendezvous.”
After a series of small lineup shifts that spanned a decade, Game Over is now an entirely different U.D.O. than the one that made Rev-Raptor in 2011 (except for the man, himself, of course), and it’s the first album composed with new inductees Tilen Hudrap on bass and Dee Dammers on guitar, joining up with returning guitarist Andrey Smirnov and drummer Sven Dirkschneider. Maybe it’s the new blood, maybe it’s his return to Accept days both with The Old Gang and his surname-titled side band, or maybe it’s just one of those things, but Udo seems refreshed over the course of the last few records, and U.D.O. seems speedier, heavier, more energetic. Fundamentally, it’s still very much U.D.O., but now spunkier, rejuvenated. Picking up the upswing from where 2018’s Steelfactory left off, Game Over is one of U.D.O.’s strongest efforts in quite awhile.
So if U.D.O. records are largely the same, save for subtle differences, what are those of Game Over that make it among the strongest? Well, the easy answer is: The songs are uniformly great, playing to the band’s strengths. U.D.O. traditionally has great album openers — “The Bogey Man,” “Steelhammer,” “Man And Machine” — and “Fear Detector” is another one in that lineage, all speed metal riff and relentless drive, hammered home by a simple-but-effective chorus. It’s not rocket science: It’s U.D.O.
And if you like that, there’s plenty more to come, from the moody and melodic “Prophecy” to the AC/DC-esque sociopolitical lament “Kids And Guns,” from Manowar-ian power-of-metal singalong “Metal Never Dies” to the blistering “Like A Beast.” Of course, there’s always a ballad, but “Don’t Wanna Say Goodbye,” while not the best song on Game Over by a long shot, certainly doesn’t embarrass itself, a nice semi-acoustic respite from the Teutonic trappings around it. Other U.D.O. albums have added dashes of experimentation — Game Over is a return to form, more about Udo being U.D.O. (and, of course, vice versa): Get in, rock hard, get out.
The relatively new guitar tandem of Dammers and Smirnov fits the U.D.O. mold nicely, all solid riffing and flashy solos, while the younger Dirkschneider and Hudrap keep the energy level up. The production is what U.D.O. fans expect: hefty, punchy, not too slick but still very crisp and clear. And most importantly, the man himself still has that gravelly shriek; even if time has stolen a bit of its feral power, that voice is still inimitable, still incredibly distinctive and real. It’s Udo, and thus, by extension, it’s U.D.O.
If there’s any minor criticism of Game Over to be had, it’s this: At 78 minutes in length, with 16 songs, it’s a lot to digest. That’s a bit of a weak criticism here, as it tends to be when discussing a good record, since there’s no requirement that Game Over be tackled in one sitting, but nevertheless, there’s a little bit to be said for the maxim of leaving the listener wanting more. Still, a lot of a good record remains a good record, and if classic, no-frills Germanic trad metal tickles your fancy, then here’s a damned fine example.