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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

UDO

Mastercutor

Review by Mike Korn

People are always talking about Ozzy, Rob Halford or Dio being the most legendary frontmen in heavy metal. Actually, the most consistent is Udo Dirkschneider, the pugnacious former leader of the German metal masters Accept. Every year without fail, Udo releases another dose of his rock solid and peculiarly Germanic brand of heavy metal, either with Accept or his own longstanding solo project. Granted, Udo vocally doesn't reach the god-like heights of a Halford or Dio, but that distinctive schnauzer-like bark is instantly recognizable and can be mistaken for no one else.

Mastercutor is the 14th effort to bear the UDO name and one of the better ones. Where some of Mr. Dirkschneider's recent releases have sounded a little bit like going through the motions, Mastercutor has a freshness and vitality to it that many younger bands could do well to emulate. The production is outstanding, the musical performances are top notch and Udo himself sounds revved up and ready to go. What makes this effort particularly outstanding is that the band is not afraid to inject new influences and sounds into their trademark framework, resulting in classics like "The Wrong Side of Midnight" and "Walker of the Dark.”

If you've never dived into the metal world of UDO before, Mastercutor is the perfect entryway. And if you've followed his career for years, you may be surprised at how many tricks the old boy still has up his sleeve.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Mastercutor
What exactly is a "Mastercutor?” Judging from the corny spoken intro to this track, I'm thinking it's a combination of a game-show master of ceremonies and an executioner. As far as the track itself goes, it’s a crunching, surging metal anthem that makes an immediate impact. Great choruses have always been a trademark of UDO and this boasts an extremely memorable one. There's also an awesome twin harmony guitar bit that's pure old school metal heaven. This is a terrific opening attack that tells you right away UDO is dead serious about jamming out some quality metal tunes this time around.
The Wrong Side of Midnight
The crackle of old vinyl and a kind of Middle Eastern motif soon give way to killer chugging metal riffs. This cut is really different for UDO and emerges as the most memorable on the entire disc. This is as good as anything Accept did in their heyday. The chorus is just amazingly memorable: "The wrong side of midnight / The beast walks alone / No time for the hour / There's blood on the bone." This has some great guitar work and superb vocals from Dirkschneider. The whole band clicks on this one.
Instigator
If "The Wrong Side of Midnight" shook things up a little bit, this cut is pure traditional UDO...fast and mean. A whole album of tracks like this would have been tedious, but placed between the melodic "Wrong Side of Midnight" and the ballad "One Lone Voice,” it kicks severe amounts of butt. Long time Accept fans who loved "Fast As a Shark" will really dig this one.
One Lone Voice
Ballads have always been a part of UDO's oeuvre and some of them have been pretty bad. This one, though, has genuine catchiness and emotion without going overboard. The multi-tracked chorus sounds really huge and again worms its way into your head. Though it is very melodic and melancholy, this has its moments of heaviness as well and Dirkschneider, who has sometimes sounded terrible on the soft stuff, does well here.
We Do...For You
Mid-tempo singalong anthems are also an integral part of the UDO experience and here's another one. The riffs are familiar and the lyrics seem a little on the dumb side, but songs like this are made for the live show and that's where they're heard to best effect. "We do..for you...everything you ask for / We do...for you...now you're gonna get more."
Walker of the Dark
This could be the heaviest song Dirkschneider has ever performed on. A grinding, distorted but hooky guitar riff underpins this song and is hammered into your brain through repetition. The track seems to be about some sort of night-haunting monster and has a spooky feel to it. The guitar solo is extremely bizarre and reminds me of the buzzing synthesized stuff you'd hear in 80's horror movies.
Master of Disaster
UDO meets Fear Factory? That's what this track sounds like, mixing robotic, staccato thrash riffs and industrial programming with the traditional UDO sound. I'm not sure it works 100% because the choir-like pre-chorus seems to stick out like a sore thumb, but the verses are punishing and most of the cut is as hard as tungsten steel.
Tears of a Clown
This is the second ballad of the album and it's much softer, more melodic than "One Lone Voice.” It's not a remake of the Smokey Robinson classic but a completely separate tune. Melancholy piano and strings dominate the music and Dirkschneider 's vocals are very restrained. The lyrics are beyond corny, but the song does build up layer upon layer of vocals until it reaches a soaring crescendo. This is certainly not one for the head bangers but again shows UDO's versatility.
Vendetta
Another very traditional sounding track, this hearkens back to Accept's "Princess of the Dawn" with its chunky, mid-tempo riffs. The lyrics revolve around organized crime wars and are some of the best on the disc. I really like the riffs on this one and the guitar work is outstanding.
The Devil Walks Alone
“Tough and sleazy” is the best way to describe this one, which almost sounds like Motley Crue toughened up to UDO standards. It's not what I'd call a great track but again, on an album full of variety and well-performed songs like Mastercutor, it's not a detriment at all.
Dead Man's Eyes
This rivals "Walker of the Dark" for the title of "heaviest UDO track.” The guitar sound is raw and rabid but it’s mixed with some more atmospheric parts. I really like the sing-song pre-chorus which is executed perfectly. "What is it we'll find / When he's deep inside your mind? / Come and take a look through dead man's eyes."
Crash Bang Crash
High energy rock and roll meets heavy metal with this jacked up tune. You don't have to dig deep to find the rockabilly core of this cut, but its beefed up with UDO's metal roots. The chorus is silly and yet it imprints itself on your mind: "I'm not dead yet, dead yet / Gonna have a crash bang crash". The guitar solos are pure rock n' roll and remind me of something off a Motorhead album. This is good, fun stuff to cap off one of the best works of UDO's career.
 
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