Except for AC/DC, few acts are as unchanging, predictable and satisfying as U.D.O. Since departing from Accept in 1996, Udo Dirkschneider has been a one man Germanic metal sweat shop, mass producing albums with startling regularity and consistency. While his style never strays far from what Accept did in their prime, the unsinkable lawn gnome of metal has made it his mission to keep the 80s sound alive. The past few albums have even seen him up his game, possibly due to the reformation of Accept, and this new fire under his metal arse has been a boon to fans worldwide. That ass fire still burns here on Decadent, and despite one of the worst covers in recent memory (is that supposed to be Suge Knight?), the metal goods are delivered with Teutonic precision, craftsmanship and the bare minimum of Bavarian Muenster.
Decadent plays like a collection of metal anthems Accept recorded in the 80s and never released. Each has that classic Germanic style with simple, fat riffs and Udo’s legendary rasp n’ squeal front and center. “Speeder” opens the carnival in classic “Fast as a Shark” form, with meaty, semi-thrashy speed and ball-deflating aggression. Udo sounds as ageless as ever, and if anything, his nasally growls improve with time. The title track is 110% traditional Accept, and though it offers nothing new, if you’re a fan of the classic metal sound, you’ll buy in quickly.
And that’s how the rest of the album goes: mostly mid-tempo, crunchy odes to the old, with an anthemic bent and fairly catchy choruses. Standouts include “Mystery” which sees Udo doing a weird falsetto amid offbeat drumming and traces of electronica; “Breathless” has a strong lead guitar line; and things end well with the epic grind of “Words on Fire” where Udo sounds more urgent and serious. The best cut to these ears is “Pain,” which features a winning guitar line I know I’ve heard somewhere else and loved. This one jumps off the album into your ear and makes me want to run an angry marathon of I-ruhn.
There are a fewer lesser moments too, like the awkward, squirmy “Secrets in Paradise” where Udo goes against type for a cheese-tastic power ballad. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in a lifetime of metal appreciation, it’s that bands with cartoonishly froggy front men shouldn’t do ballads (Exhibit A: Grave Digger, Exhibit B: this song). It’s okay until the chorus arrives thanks to some emotional guitar noodling, but when it finally appears, hilarity ensues (Though I’m sure AMG will love it since that’s his bag). Also a bit under-decadent is the generic stomp of “House of Fake.”
At nearly 60 minutes, Decadent is too long, especially when there’s so little diversity in the material, but hey, ten out of twelve songs are good, so I can’t really bitch about relative length, though I really want to.
By now, everyone knows what Udo sounds like, and if you’ve liked his goblin cackle in the past, you’ll like it here too. The band behind the man is the same as on Steelhammer, except for the addition of guitarist Kasperi Heikkinen. Between him and Andrey Smirnov, there are plenty of charmingly old school riffs, pleasantly familiar harmonies and stadium-approved solos. U.D.O. sounds better with the dual axe attack and they use it adroitly to keep very similar songs sounding passably fresh and distinct. The music may not be inventive or technical, but they know how to rock the classic style and keep the party going.
No surprises, no innovation, just another oversized gift basket of Udo flavored metal. At this point, that sells itself, and much like the ShamWow™, either you need it or you don’t. Either way, U.D.O. isn’t going anywhere, and as long as that’s the case, neither is the classic Germanic metal sound. Hails to the man, horns to his metal heart, and may that ass fire burn forevermore.