By JAY ROBERTS
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.
U.D.O. – FACELESS WORLD (1990)
It’s a funny thing to me that despite the fact that I’m a really big fan of Udo Dirkschneider’s solo band U.D.O., I never once bothered to pick up one of their albums until 2004’s Thunderball which was the band’s 9th studio release.
Earlier this year, I was able to see the Dirkschneider band live in concert. It’s basically the U.D.O. lineup but they played an entire set of songs from Udo’s time in the band Accept. This was due to it being a two year world tour where he was playing the songs live for the last time before retiring them from his set list.
The show was simply freaking amazing and while I’ve picked up all the albums post-Thunderball, it lit a fire under me to go back and get the earlier material as well. I grabbed four CDs from the merchandise table at the show, but I also had picked up the cassette edition of this album, the band’s 3rd studio release, on one of my music buying excursions.
The first thing I noted upon listening to Faceless World is that the material has a much more considered and measured feel to it. According the Wikipedia post about the album, it has far lighter feel than the two albums that preceded it or any of the ones that came after it. At times, it feels more like a rock and roll album that one of the band’s more go-for-broke metal offerings.
In fact, I’d be hard pressed to call “Trip To Nowhere” anything other than a straightforward rock and roll song. Yes, there’s more of an edge to it because of Udo’s instantly identifiable vocal style but there’s really not a whole lot of metal aggression to the track. However, you will find that whether rock or metal, it is a very cool sounding song. I found that “Restricted Area”, while a fast moving rocker, also had a strong rhythmic feel to it as well.
The album opening “Heart of Gold” is a decent track but the way the vocals alternate within each verse from soft to hard felt a bit weird. Luckily, the song’s chorus was really good and helped give an overall lift to cut. Speaking of songs with stand out choruses, “Blitz of Lightning” has a very lyrically impressive one.
For the majority of the material on Faceless World, the songs range from mid-to-uptempo with a few songs really earning more of a sense of the all out aggression metal feel. But as is the case, there’s always a ballad track. Unfortunately, “Unspoken Words” was more than a bit hard to get into. There’s been a number of strong ballads in the course of the U.D.O. discography but this one pales in comparison. Also, the title track…totally flat and lifeless!
Of course, if you want to really stick your head into the speakers to make your ears explode with metal goodness, you would need to do it on the songs “Born To Run” and “Can’t Get Enough”. Both are intense pieces of music with the latter song being the most fiery example of pure metal. Lyrically strong, each of them is just over three minutes long. They get in, rock you into next week, and then blaze their way out again.
I’d have to say that I liked this album overall, despite the seeming attempt to be more reined in with the songwriting. There’s only a couple of down tracks out of the 12 on the cassette and honestly, it’s extremely hard to go wrong with any of the music that features the inimitable Udo Dirkschneider.
NOTES OF INTEREST: There was an anniversary edition of the album released on CD in 2013 that included two live bonus tracks and the video for “Heart of Gold”.