Metal Church - The Present Wasteland

When you are at the early stages of your musical career, being over-productive is somewhat expected of you – especially in an era where constant exposure through the media is the only way to ensure that you will eventually stand out from the crowd. What is quite surprising, and also very encouraging, however, is to see that a similar attitude is shared by some of the most accomplished artists in Metal music, people like Udo Dirkschneider; ex-front man and founding member of the legendary German outfit Accept and also a man who has been forging his own successful career since 1987 through the moniker of U.D.O. Two years since the release of the quite successful “Dominator” (2009) Udo is back with “Rev-Raptor” – a collection of thirteen compositions which, though sharing many elements with its predecessor, are the result of an attempt to further expand the band’s musical boundaries through the use of modern technology.

I know what you are thinking here: modern technology and Udo don’t blend in well together, right? Well, if that is indeed what you believe then you are definitely wrong! I mean, it is simply impossible for a band that has Udo as a lead singer and Stefan Kauffmann as a guitarist to create an album whose backbone is not totally dependent on crunchy Heavy Metal riffs, so that in itself should make you feel fairly confident that the end result will not be too different from what you are used to. Having said that, you ought to be aware that what these two fine gentlemen have done a lot in “Rev-Raptor” is to experiment with the sound of the guitars – sometimes tuning them way too low in relation to the band’s standards and at other times enhancing them with an ‘electronic’ feel that comes across as a harder interpretation of Judas Priest’s sound in “Turbo”. Finally, the relative shortness of the compositions on offer, together with the incorporation of a significant number of melodic tracks has resulted in “Rev-Raptor” becoming a release that is both direct and welcomingly varied.

I was not at all surprised to see that Udo has chosen to position three of the album’s most crunchy riff-orientated pieces, namely “Rev-Raptor”, “Leatherhead” and “Renegade”, at the very beginning of the album as grabbing people by the balls has been a strategy that “Mr. German Metal” has embraced throughout his long career. It is not long, however, before one is exposed to more melodic sounding material, such as “I Give As Good As I Get” whose harmonic guitar melodies are second to none. “Dr.Death” and “Terrorvision” are a must for fans of Accept, whereas “Rock N’Roll” soldiers also indulge in melodic catchy tunes but from a classic Metal perspective. More beautiful melodies and some epic narrative vocals can be found in “Underworld”, whereas “Pain Man” is a good example of simply crafted but truly honest Heavy Metal. Of all the melodic compositions that are featured in this album, “Fairy Tales Of Victory” is my personal favourite as I find its low-chorded riffs and its Axel Rudi Pell sounding twin guitar solos to be totally irresistible! The closing part of the album consists of the strange-sounding “Motor-Borg”, the Accept-sounding head banger “True Born Winners” and the keyboard-infused melodic opus “Days Of Hope And Glory” whose sing-along refrain still resonates in my ears!

Prior to writing this review, I had the pleasure of doing an interview with Udo and the one thing I discovered, much to my satisfaction, was that the same enthusiasm and passion for pushing the boundaries of classic Heavy Metal that I sensed while listening to “Rev-Raptor” is indeed what keeps Udo’s ‘world’ turning. I am pretty sure that there will be some people who will react to all this ‘messing’ with the sound of the guitar or to the addition of discrete keyboard melodies throughout the album, but these are the same people who would have made a negative comment even if Udo were to release “Animal House Pt II”. Ladies and gentlemen, the year, in case you haven’t noticed, is 2011 and this is how Heavy Metal music ought to sound in order to be both relevant and refreshing! A very good effort indeed!

John Stefanis

Rating: **** (4.0/5.0)

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