The Cassette Chronicles – U.D.O.’s ‘Animal House’

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.

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U.D.O. – ANIMAL HOUSE (1987)

Normally when I choose which albums to write about in this series, I try to avoid using any particular artist in back to back weeks. This week, however, I am purposely repeating an artist choice because I have seen my admiration grow and grow for singer Udo Dirkschneider. 

I would say that a good part of that increasing admiration stems from seeing him live for the first time. He delivered such an amazing performance that it might just end up being my favorite concert of 2018.

So, when I remembered that I had a copy of the first U.D.O. album Animal House, I had thought to hold off a week. But then I said to heck with that! I didn’t want to wait to listen and write up my thoughts about the album.

This is the first “solo” album for Dirkschneider, but when I was reading the liner notes I had to wonder just how much of a solo album it really was. All the music is credited to “Accept and Deaffy” and while it doesn’t say it in the liner notes, the Wikipedia page for the album says the song “Lay Down The Law” credits its performance to Accept and U.D.O.

Don’t get me wrong, I actually quite enjoyed this album but it did strike me a bit odd for an album that was Udo’s declaration of independence after leaving (or was it a firing?) Accept that they’d write an album FOR him.

As for the music, I thought the first side of the album was a bit of a mix. The title track opens the album and a creepy opening piece is used before the song launches into a faster paced rocker. Meanwhile the song “They Want War” has a big keyboard sound as well as the use of a children and youths choir to fill out the finished product. It seemed a bit weird at first but it actually worked in the end.

Otherwise, the first side of the album rocked hard with “Go Back To Hell” and “Black Widow” then closed out with the ballad “In The Darkness”, which thankfully was pretty enjoyable.

Side two was much more of a full on metal slobberknocker. That “Lay Down The Law” song explodes in your ear like a few dozen sticks of dynamite. There’s little subtly in the title of “We Want It Loud” but that’s fine because it’s an energetically paced rocker. 

The band downshifts a little on “Warrior” but the song still manages to be rather heavy. “Coming Home” is blazing with Udo’s vocals fueling the fieryness of the song.

I really like when an album closes out with a fast-paced cut, leaving you at an adrenaline high point as it takes its leave from you. But “Run For Cover” was far slower than that. It straddles the line between a ballad feel and a more anthemic sound. I’d be lying if I told you if I was disappointed in the song as a closing track though. It actually turned out rather well.

So, while I do wonder how much of a solo album you can really call this one, Animal House was a no doubt smashing way to introduce U.D.O. upon the world. 31 years later, the band is still going strong and this album laid the foundation for all that came after it.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Guitarist Peter Szigeti and bassist Frank Rittel were only a part of the band for the Animal House album, but they each played on the first three studio albums from Warlock (Burning The Witches, Hellbound and True As Steel).

The CD edition of the album had a bonus track called “Hot Tonight”. In 2013, Animal House was among the albums given anniversary edition reissues. It included four live bonus tracks and the video for the song “Go Back To Hell”.

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