Sunday, April 21, 2013

In The Animal House With U.D.O.

Recently on the Decibel Geek podcast hosts Chris and Aaron mentioned how sometimes the stars align perfectly. They were referring to the fact that the topic was 1979 Year In Review (spread over two weeks episodes) and it was actually podcast episode #79 as well, but little did they know that there was a bit more alignment than just that.  So far during week one they played song clips and chatted about a lot of great music, including two of my all-time favourite bands, whose logos even appear in my sleeve tattoo, UFO
 (Mechanix was my first purchase as a kid) and Accept.  The guys featured the song Tired of Me from Accept's self titled first album, released in 1979.  They discussed the album artwork and I agree that it showcases a great rock & roll album cover, something that has unfortunately fallen by the wayside in today's market.  I used to love listening to the record and studying the artwork and liner notes, sometimes thumb tacking the record sleeve on my bedroom wall if the artwork was awesome.  It's a shame that everything comes in a digital download now and the attention is not spent on artwork and liner notes....but anyway that's a rant for another day!

Accept released their first record in 1979, simply titled Accept, but the band's beginnings were about ten years earlier when they were formed by Udo Dirkschneider.  In these early years there were many players in and out of the band in a revolving door line-up that included original guitarist Michael Wagener.  Wagener left the band when he was drafted into the German army, getting into the production side of the business after his tour of duty, working on many many successful and influential albums throughout his career.  Wagener had left before the début record which featured a line up of U.D.O., Wolf Hoffman (guitar), Peter Baltes (bass), Gerhard Whal (guitar) and Frank Friedrich (drums).  Friedrich and Whal left after the album, making room for Stefan Kaufmann on drums and Jorg Fischer on guitar, both of whom would remain involved with Accept for years to come.  This new line up released I'm A Rebel a year later in 1980 and Breaker in 1981 before Fischer would move on allowing Herman Frank to join for Restless & Wild (for which he was credited on, but did not actually play).  Restless & Wild also featured former member Michael Wagener engineering and mixing his second Accept record, having been involved with Breaker before that.  The lead-off track on Restless & Wild is Fast As A Shark, which is often cited as one of the first speed metal songs.  Accept broke world wide with the song Balls To The Wall and the album of the same name in 1983, Wagener again mixing the record.  Two years later Accept was back with Metal Heart featuring Jorg Fischer returning to the fold in place of Herman Frank.  This same line-up put forth Russian Roulette a year later with Wagener again in the studios.  Russian Roulette would be the last Accept record to feature founding member Udo Dirkschenider as vocalist for several years.  U.D.O. unleashed his solo record, Animal House in 1987, which featured the whole Accept song writing team writing the entire album.  American David Reece was chosen as U.D.O.'s successor and Eat The Heat hit the shelves ten years after their début in 1989, featuring Jim Stacey on guitar in place of Fischer.  During the resulting tour Kaufman sustained a serious back injury and the tour was finished with Ken Mary from House of Lords.  In 1993 Accept returned with Hoffman, Baltes, Kaufman and Dirkschneider for the album Objection Overruled.  1994 saw Death Row released featuring the song Generation Clash II which was a re-recording of the song Generation Clash from the Eat The Heat album with David Reece on vocals.  Kaufman's back injury returned to haunt him again and Stefan Schwarzmann recorded a couple of the tracks on Death Row.  For 1996's Predator, Michael Wagener was back in the fold, producing this time and Damn Yankees Michael Cartellone handled most of the drumming duties.  After Predator, U.D.O. once again left the band and concentrated on his solo career.  While
U.D.O. continued recording and releasing albums throughout the late 90's and 2000's, Accept was silent until they reformed in 2009 with new vocalist Mark Tornillo, formerly of the band T.T. Quick.  The new line up of Accept was Hoffman, Baltes, Schwarzmann, Herman Frank and Tornillo and they released Blood of the Nations in 2010.  I've said it before in my review of Accept's Toronto show back in August (ACCEPT in TORONTO) and I'll say it again now........Blood of the Nations is the best album cover to cover that Accept has ever recorded in my opinion anyway.  2012 saw them unleash the follow up of Stalingrad.

You may be wondering what the hell I was on about at the start with stars aligning and things working perfectly, but you see U.D.O. was playing in Toronto last week.  While Mr. Dirkschneider may not be with his Accept counterparts any longer and they have moved on with Mark Tornillo leading the charge, recording some of the best work of their career, U.D.O. is alive and well with a slew of albums in his non-Accept back catalogue.  U.D.O. has released as many albums in his solo career as Accept has released with all their vocalists and the newly posted set times show him playing for at least an hour and a half, so we're sure to hear lots of Accept classics as well as his new material.  Check out my concert review below.

Local Toronto band Axxion took the stage with a blistering start.  Being unfamiliar with them I had searched out a couple of their tunes on the ole' you-tube prior to getting to the show, so I already had an idea of what to expect and quite frankly I enjoyed what I heard.  One of the first things that I noticed about Axxion was the drummer.  She was a very attractive blond girl and what guy doesn't love a hot chick in a band, especially a drummer!  I tore my eyes away from the kit and to the rest of the group who had a very 80's look and sound reminding me at first of Thor for some reason.  The guitarist had a kind of Ron Jeremy look going on that actually worked quite well for him and the dry ice smoke was flooding the stage during the first song, very 80's indeed.  Although it was very difficult to hear the vocalist on my side of the stage, I was able to 
discern that the second song was from their EP (which I intended to purchase after the show) and was called The Rite.  I looked around and noticed that several folks in the crowd now had a steady head bob going, starting to get into Axxion and catch their buzz.  The singer removed his vest for the third number showing off his hairless and beefy chest.  I suspect that he may fancy himself a bit of a beefcake, but a word to the wise here....keep your shirt on bud!  As the dry ice smoke continued to fill the stage, Stallion, also from the EP was played in the fourth song position.  Following that was what may have been called Wild Racer (?) and the set closer of Crazy Nights, which was one of the tracks that I had checked out on the net and many in the crowd seemed to know it also, singing along.  So guys, don't let the beefy singer deter you, especially if you want to see a hot chick pounding skin and no, that's not some kind of euphemism, this girl hits hard! Or maybe you just want some good simple 80's sounding heavy metal check
out Axxion's next show.  In a brief chat with bassist Chris Riley at the end of the night I learned that the band had only been together since September (6-7 months) and that the guitarist and drummer had joined them from another local band, SkullFist.  I also learned that a new CD was in the works and that they were playing a large festival in Germany soon.  I look forward to catching them again and watching them progress as a band, I just hope that lead vocalist Dirty D Kerr keeps his shirt on in the if drummer Alison Thunderland wants to remove hers, well that's a different story!

Up next was Halcyon Way who I didn't get the opportunity to check out beforehand and they were off to a late start with what appeared to be some sound or equipment issues.  They finally entered one by one to a recorded intro and started with some slow, sluggish head banging music that my friend likened to a bad Dream Theater.  There were not anywhere near as many heads bobbing in the crowd as there had been for Axxion and their progressive style is not really my preference, but they did have some cool riffs to head bang to.  The third song, Inversion, had a heavy bass start and they did have a clear sound.  Inversion was decent and I started to warm up a bit to Halcyon Way.  They were all wearing a matching shirt, black work shirt style with an HW logo on the right breast.  Web of Lies, from the new album we were told, followed
and was another good song.  Halcyon Way started to lose it again here after Web of Lies.  They had just started getting me warmed up to their sound and then they proceeded to introduce each band member, with each one wasting set time with a few seconds of instrument playing.  A poor move in a short set for their fans, if there are any here that is!  They just killed whatever momentum they had begun to build and the crowd in front of the stage was a lot more sparse than it had been for Axxion.  Death of a Dream started out well, but then there was more time wasting with getting the crowd to scream for who wants to see U.D.O.  Two more songs, Desecration Day and On Black Wings finished up Halcyon Way's set.

U.D.O. followed his band on stage during a recorded intro a little before 10pm, charging into Rev-Raptor, the title track from his 2011 record.  Thunderball, which I was not overly familiar with came next with They want War from U.D.O.'s first solo record close on it's heels.  I noticed that the band, two guitarists and a bass player all backed away from the front of the stage towards the drum riser during the verses of the songs and came forward to perform backing vocal duties during the choruses.  U.D.O. himself would also take to the rear of the stage during musical breaks, standing with fist clenched around his microphone, eyes closed tightly just hearing and more than that, feeling the music.  Metal Machine from the forthcoming record, Steelhammer, due to drop in May was next and then back to Rev-Raptor for Leatherhead.  U.D.O. and his band were sounding awesome and this was what a rock & roll show should be, with very little talking, no crowd gimmicks and just straight playing, song after song, kicking your ass and this was
only song #5 into the set!!  U.D.O. broke into his first Accept track of the night with Screaming For A Lovebite and his gravelly vocals were still strong, holding up to the test of time as his band performed a well practised synchronised guitar sway.  Vendetta from the Mastercutor CD (although I would have rather heard The Wrong Side of Midnight from that disc) took us into another Accept track with Head Over Heels, which had the crowd singing along, fists raised high in the air.  Guitarist Kasperi Heikkinen then took us through his guitar solo, allowing the band a short breather before the German invasion continued with Burning Heat, not one of my favourite U.D.O. tracks.  "Mr. German Metal" himself almost looked in pain as he continued to back away from the front of the stage during singing breaks, allowing his band to take the limelight.  He could be seen off to the side of the drum riser, eyes closed, foot tapping mouthing along with the rhythm of the song.  Man And Machine brought us to 24/7.  Now, I mean no disrespect to U.D.O. in any way shape or form here
and 24/7 is certainly a great song.  I'm glad he gave it to the rock world, however I feel it is so much better recorded and played live by Swedish outfit Sister Sin, but in any event I was happy to hear the band tear through it here in Toronto that night.  This brought us to Andrey Smirnov's guitar solo, getting a reaction from the crowd as he finished up and the rest of the band returned to the stage to rip through Animal House, Break The Rules and Timebomb to close out the set.  The band emerged from the shadows of the side stage after a few moments and charged into the Accept classic Metal Heart, driving the crowd wild.  While U.D.O.'s stocky frame and age prevent him from jumping around on stage he is still a very charismatic and animated performer with his facial expressions and arm movements, I have heard him
described as "like a robot on stage", but I don't see that comparison so much.  Accept's signature song, Balls To The Wall was next up and the guitarists were all quite obviously having a great time as they had been all show long, especially Andrey who was sporting a goofy expression on his face and all smiles the whole time.  Balls To The Wall had everyone's fist in the air and lungs strained to the limits as we screamed out the chorus along with U.D.O.  They shut down The Virgin Mobile Mod Club in Toronto that night with Fast As A Shark, one of the early pioneer songs in speed metal and bassist Fitty Weinhold was absolutely ferocious here, as were the rest of the band.  As the band all aligned front and centre stage to take a bow I marvelled in the euphoria of just having seen a blistering concert set, those of you who share my passion for this music will understand just what I mean there. As the band retreated and began to exit stage left, Fitty Weinhold handed me a guitar pick and drummer Francesco Jovino tossed a stick in my direction, but being short and with other scavengers reaching over my head, it bounced off of my hand (and several others) and rolled back on to the stage.  The stick was picked up and tossed further out into the crowd this time dashing my hopes of securing it for my collection.
My first experience with U.D.O. was almost magical and certainly up there with the best shows of the year so far for me.  I can't wait until Steelhammer is available, but until then I've just ordered the DVD Live In Sofia to tide me over.

The Meister

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Great review!! I almost felt like I was there!! (Wish I had been!!)

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