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The diminutive Udo Dirkschneider, a native of Wuppertal, had been a founding member and lead vocalist of German Metal legends ACCEPT since their inception in 1972, but he chose to sensationally quit the group at the height of their success in order to form U.D.O. Dirkschneider's almost uniquely abrasive vocal had without doubt played a major part in setting ACCEPT up as a world class contender. Rumours of splits in the ACCEPT ranks had been filtering through for a number of years so Dirkschneider's break was hardly a surprise. Viewed very much as Dirkschneider's solo project, despite constant protestations from the band he had assembled, U.D.O. debuted in December 1987 with the hard hitting and uncompromising Mark Dodson produced 'Animal House'. This was an album, according to quotes from Dirkschneider himself, comprising ACCEPT composed tracks deemed "too heavy" for the act.

Although the initial U.D.O. line-up comprised former WARLOCK men guitarist Peter Szigeti and bassist Frank Rittel plus drummer Thomas Franke, ex-SINNER guitarists Mathias Dieth and ANDY SUSEMIHL were later recruited in favour of Szigeti, who would subsequently found CORACKO and STONEWASHED. Pre SINNER, Dieth had played guitar for GRAVESTONE recording three albums. With U.D.O. his extreme guitar talents would come to the fore.

Touring showed Susemihl's preference for lighter material and he in turn was superseded by Wolfgang Böhm of DARXON. April 1989's 'Mean Machine', once more produced by Dodson and hitting number 37 on the German national charts, served up more of the same fare but was a record penned by the band themselves. The band also benefited from a complete new rhythm section of former RUNNING WILD members bassist Thomas Smuszynski and drummer Stefan Schwarzmann as U.D.O. went on to open for OZZY OSBOURNE on his British tour of that year. However, in 1990 the chain smoking Dirkschneider suffered a massive heart attack which came close to claiming his life. The man himself put it down to working too hard as during the making of a new album, 'Faceless World' recorded at Dierks Studios, Cologne, issued in April 1990. In addition, the band was without management, increasing the singer's work load.

Both 'Faceless World' and the subsequent May 1991 'Timebomb' album were produced by ACCEPT drummer Stefan Kaufmann. Touring for 'Timebomb' saw Susemihl back in the ranks but sustained fan pressure on ACCEPT's members to reform was almost unrelenting.

Indeed, in 1993 Dirkschneider could resist the lure of an ACCEPT reformation no longer and teamed up once more with his old act as Smusynnski and Schwarzmann rejoined RUNNING WILD for the 'Pile Of Skulls' album in 1994. Böhm created UNIVERSE with erstwhile DARXON and AXE VICTIMS personnel. ANDY SUSEMIHL founded MR. PERFECT for a 1993 album and issued a solo album 'Life Among The Roaches'.

Despite the new link with ACCEPT, Dirkschneider still kept his group on the side and contributed a worthy cover of 'Metal Gods' to the Century Media Records JUDAS PRIEST tribute album in 1996. Line up for this one off track was Dirkschneider, Dieth, Schwarzmann, Michael Voss of CASANOVA and DEMON DRIVE on bass and Stefan Kaufmann on rhythm guitar. Media expectation was high and interest was rewarded with a new U.D.O. album titled 'Solid'.

With the record released through new label G.U.N. Records in 1997 a tour of Germany in the fall ensued finding Stefan Kaufmann and ex SIN CITY and BULLET man Fitty Wienhold on bass, Jürgen Graf on guitar and a returning Stefan Schwarzmann on drums. Dirkschneider was then once more involved with ACCEPT as a further reunion occurred the same year on the back of a live album. October of 1997 found U.D.O. on the road in Europe supported by RANDOM, BLACKSHINE and M-FORCE.

The 1998 U.D.O. album 'No Limits', recorded at Roxx Studio in Pulheim and retaining the previous line-up, again saw strong sales and is of note for including a re-recording of the ACCEPT classic 'I'm A Rebel' and a version of the SUPERMAX track 'Lovemachine'. Adding Swiss former SLEEK and GOTTHARD guitarist Igor Gianola and fellow Swiss native drummer Lorenzo Milani U.D.O. toured America in late 2000 sharing a bill with SAXON.

A welcome live album 'Live From Russia' arrived in October of 2001. The U.D.O. band at this juncture comprising of Dirkschneider, guitarists Stefan Kaufmann and Igor Gianola, bass player Fitty Wienhold and drummer Lorenzo Milani. Another addition to U.D.O. fans collections was the release of Nuclear Blast's second ACCEPT tribute album which novelly witnessed U.D.O. tackling 'X.T.C.', a track culled from the only Udo Dirkschneider-less ACCEPT album, 1989's 'Eat The Heat'.

U.D.O. returned in 2002 with the new studio album 'Man And Machine'. The record included a duet with German Metal queen DORO on the song 'Dancing With An Angel'. Japanese variants came with two extra tracks, namely live versions of 'Metal Eater' and 'Heart Of Gold'. Touring in Scandinavia during March found VANIZE and CYBERYRA as support. Earlier, Kaufmann had been responsible for producing the September 2001 CYBERYRA album 'Mindcontrol' released through Dirkschneider's own Breaker label. Later gigs in mainland Europe thoughout November saw CRYSTAL BALL as opening act.

In 2003 U.D.O. guitarist Igor Gianola was to be found as part of the EDGE OF FOREVER side project, an eighties Rock venture in union with keyboard player Alessandro Del Vecchio, bassist Christian Grillo and AXE frontman Bob Harris.

U.D.O. fans would be in for a treat in 2003 as a live DVD billed as 'Nailed To The Metal' was all set to include a bonus live CD album 'Metal Mayhem - The Missing Tracks' comprising performances of ACCEPT classics and JUDAS PRIEST's 'Metal Gods'. German gigs into May of 2004, dubbed the 'Thunderball World Tour' in promotion of a new studio album of the same name, saw the band hooking up with REBELLION and MAJESTY. Subsequent dates found the tour extending through the Ukraine, Russia, Greece, Bulgaria and into Scandinavia. A mini DVD 'Thundervision' would be delayed when it was discovered the first manufacturing run of 5,000 included not only band material but also accounting financial software 'Income Tax Pro'. This first run had to be destroyed and a second batch produced.

Autumn European gigs would find U.D.O. drummer Lorenzo Milani forced to sit out due to "personal problems". Filling in for the tour behind the kit would be Francesco Jovino, and subsequently joined up full-time. ACCEPT's Summer 2005 reformation line-up, comprising the well known figures of Dirkschneider, guitarists Wolf Hoffman and Herman Frank with Peter Baltes on bass and Stefan Schwarzmann manning the drums. Meantime, U.D.O. set 'Mission No. X' as their new album title for Summer release via AFM Records. Schwarzmann joined the live band of fabled ex-SCORPIONS guitarist ULI JON ROTH for live work later that year.

Dirkschneider notably cut two duets with Russian acts, featuring on ANJ's '100 Miles Straight Ahead' album on the track 'Pugachev' and with Pop band FAKTOR-2 on the U.D.O. song 'Cry Soldier Cry'. The singer also guested on Finnish Heavy Metal band LORDI's 'The Arockalypse' opus.

U.D.O. announced a major live campaign for early 2006. Support on Scandinavian gigs came from Norwegians MEMORIZED DREAMS. The tour included the group's first ever show in Israel, at the Theatre Club in Tel Aviv on 22nd April. Further appearances included gigs at the 'Rockzinante' festival in Madrid, Spain on September 30th and the 'Monterrey Metal Fest' in Mexico on November 18th, alongside BLIND GUARDIAN, CATHEDRAL, BLUDGEON, EDGUY, OBITUARY, DEICIDE, LEAVES' EYES, SADUS, VAINGLORY, HYDROGYN and JOE STUMP'S REIGN OF TERROR. U.D.O. then performed at the Stadsgårdskajen, 'Rock At Sea' event in Sweden on the 24th.

December 2nd saw Udo Dirkschneider forming up a one off "all-star" Metal band assembled for a 'Sweden Rock' concert at Stockholm's Nalen venue. Joining him for this performance would be guitarists Ryan Roxie, of the ALICE COOPER band, SLASH'S SNAKEPIT and ELECTRIC ANGELS, Oscar Dronjak of HAMMERFALL, Janne Stark of OVERDRIVE, LOCOMOTIVE BREATH and MOUNTAIN OF POWER, Mia Coldheart of CRUCIFIED BARBARA, bass player Nalle Påhlsson of TREAT and ZAN CLAN plus EUROPE drummer Ian Haugland.

A stripped down acoustic version of 'Balls To The Wall' was contributed to the 'VH1 Metal Mania Stripped Volume 3' compilation album issued through Sidewinder Music in March 2007. However, it transpired that, although credited to ACCEPT, this version had been recorded by U.D.O. Bassist Peter Baltes was quick to publicly slam the version of the band's classic song as "the biggest piece of garbage I have ever heard."

U.D.O. issued a an EP, entitled 'The Wrong Side Of Midnight', in April 2007. The follow up studio studio album 'Mastercutor' entered the German Media Control chart at no. 39 — the highest German chart position in the band's history. U.D.O. released a compilation album, 'Metallized - 20 Years Of Metal', on November 30th via AFM Records. The first 12 songs on the collection were chosen by fans on a poll conducted through the official U.D.O. website, whilst additional tracks consist of two unreleased songs, an acoustic version of the ACCEPT classic 'Balls To The Wall', and a live version of 'The Bullet And The Bomb'.

U.D.O. celebrated its 20th anniversary by playing two special shows in Germany, on April 30th in Dirkschneider's hometown of Solingen at the Cobra venue and May 3rd in Tuttlingen's Stadthalle. The three hour Tuttlingen concert was filmed for a DVD and live album.

A limited-edition single, 'Infected', preceded the full-length 'Dominator' album on 26th June 2009. The single was released as a limited edition of 2,222 pieces worldwide and included the title track, two non-album cuts, 'Systematic Madness' and 'Bodyworld', a remix of 'Platchet Soldat' and a livein Moscow version of 'Poezd Po Rossii'. 'Dominator' entered the official chart in the group's home country at no. 27, marking the highest German chart entry in U.D.O.'s history.

European headline concerts commenced in Oslo, Norway on 23rd November.

Garry Sharpe-Young

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