Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Review: U.D.O. - Rev-Raptor (2011)

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U.D.O. - Rev-Raptor
Mentioning the name Udo Dirkschneider to any true metalhead will be greeted with expressions of recognition, and perhaps even a smirk or two. Although short in stature, the former frontman of Germany's Accept stands tall among heavy metal icons - camouflage pants and all. Made a (metal) household name by the success of Accept's "Balls To The Wall" anthem, Dirkschneider departed that band in 1987 and developed a successful career fronting his own outfit dubbed U.D.O. With a sneering, gravelly voice that is as recognizable as Ozzy Osbourne's or Brian Johnson's (AC/DC), Dirkschneider's twelve studio albums with U.D.O. have consistently embraced a sound that remains true to the Teutonic sound of '80s power metal. Rev-Raptor is the band's thirteenth album and signals little change to U.D.O.'s overall style, though there are some surprises.

Although Dirkschneider fans know what they're going to get - for the most part - with Rev-Raptor, the album is the strongest effort from U.D.O. in years. Songs like "Pain Man", "Terrorvision", and "Dr. Death" vary little from the crushing style the band is known for, delivering plenty of crunchy twin-guitar riffs and sizzling solos from Stefan Kaufmann and Igor Gianola. As the album's odd name and somewhat cartoonish cover art implies, however, there's a distinctly futuristic quality to some of the tracks. "Leatherhead", for example, bears riffs that are quite industrial-like while "Renegade" has a digitized quality to the guitar tone that gives it somewhat of a sterile sound. While such over processing might elicit disapproval from some fans, these tracks burn with just as much heat as classic U.D.O. tunes and strengthen Rev-Raptor though their variety.

Another pleasant surprise found on Rev-Raptor is the track "I Give As Good As I Get", a mid-paced ballad that finds Dirkschneider significantly altering his vocal style. For a guy pushing 60, he's still got a great set of pipes and can hit those high notes with ease. On this particular track, however, Dirkschneider dumps his trademark shrill growl in favor of a clean crooning style and pulls off a big win. The song itself, with a wistful guitar tone, strong solo, and infectious refrain, is an endearingly well-written composition that's made even more noteworthy as a display of Dirkschneider's versatility. There are other points where the album slows a bit, such as the distinctly '80s "Fairy Tales Of Victory" and the lighter-waving anthem "Days Of Hope And Glory" (which is actually the weakest track on Rev-Raptor), but none can hold a candle to "I Give As Good As I Get".

Overall, Rev-Raptor is a crunchy album full of anthemic choruses (such as on "Rock 'N' Roll Soldiers", with its "Balls To The Wall" riffs), extensive solos, and all-around classic heavy metal ass-kickery. If you're already a fan of Dirkschneider or the style in general, then purchasing Rev-Raptor is a no-brainer. For those unfamiliar with this metal legend, the album will serve as an excellent introduction.

Track Listing
4I Give As Good As I Get4:29
5Dr. Death3:56
6Rock 'N' Roll Soldiers4:27
9Pain Man4:04
10Fairy Tales Of Victory4:11
12True Born Winners3:36
13Days Of Hope And Glory4:38
Total Runtime53:24

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