I've never been as much of a fan of U.D.O. as I am of Accept, even though I still think of Accept with the voice of Udo Dirkschneider in front of it, however good Accept albums like January's Too Mean to Die happen to be. They've certainly kept themselves busy over the years, this being their seventeeth full length studio album since their founding in 1987, but maybe that's part of the problem.
There are Accept albums that are just killer throughout; I still play Restless and Wild and Metal Heart reasonably often. And I don't believe there's an Accept album without at least a couple of killer songs, even the least of them, but there has been a lot of filler in there too over the years. And, while I can't say that I've heard every one of those seventeen U.D.O. albums, the same seems to apply. Every one is elevated by a killer track or three, but there's filler to back it up.
Here, the killers all arrive early on, as tends to be the case. Fear Detector and Holy Invaders are both strong openers and Prophecy is even better still. By that point, this is a stellar release, but then filler starts to creep in. Metal Never Dies is exactly what you think it is from its title. Let's face it, if you've never heard a heavy metal song with a title like that, maybe you'll get something out of it, but, if you grew up listening to songs like Metal Never Dies, this is, well, another one and nothing more.
Now, that doesn't mean that it's a bad song. I'm not ashamed to say that I enjoyed it, but it didn't do anything for me that a hundred similar songs haven't done in the past. I have no doubt that there'll be another song that does exactly the same thing on the next U.D.O. album. The same goes for a song such as Like a Beast, which is the same vaguely misogynistic belter that you've heard from a hundred different German bands. Midnight Stranger and Speed Seeker are enjoyable but so generic that I had forgotten them the moment they ended.
In other words, this is roughly what you might expect from an U.D.O. album. It's enjoyable throughout but there are really only a handful of songs that are worth focusing your attention on. If it wasn't for a couple of oddities that I'll call out, you could really just stop this after fifteen or twenty minutes and not miss out on a thing. Maybe you'll want to stay through Empty Eyes and I See Red, the latter being as close to Accept as anyone other than Accept gets. Of course, you'll want to listen to those fifteen or twenty minutes over and over again because they frickin' rock.
The first oddity is Kids and Guns, because it ditches the Accept without being Accept mindset and goes instead for an AC/DC approach, merely with a more raspy voice than even Brian Johnson's leading the way. It's not a bad song, but it doesn't have the spark that someone like Angus Young might bring to it and so it feels a little lacking through no fault of its own.
The other is Don't Wanna Say Goodbye, which is a ballad. I'm not going to say that a voice as perfectly suited for up tempo in your face heavy metal as Dirkschneider's shouldn't sing ballads, because I'm all for it in principle, but every time I hear one it just sounds wrong. Then again, when Angry Anderson did a ballad, it was a huge hit, and he's just as inherently up tempo and in your face as Dirkschneider. Then again, I didn't care for that either. Give me the first couple of Rose Tattoo albums, not the Neighbours wedding theme. Similarly, Dirkschneider was born to sing such non-ballads as Fast as a Shark, Son of a Bitch and Balls to the Wall. Prophecy and Holy Invaders work on that front. Don't Wanna Say Goodbye doesn't.
And so I think this is a not unexpected 6/10. Udo sounds like Udo and I love that. His band are certainly capable and they all do their jobs here. The problem is that this is a generous release, almost seventy minutes of music translating to twenty that grabs you by the balls and fifty that promptly forgets that it did so. It's definitely not game over because it's a damn good game, but it spends far too long on pause.