Live In Sofia
Released: 2012, AFM Records
Unless you’re a forest-dwelling black metal orc, winter is a time to find a warm place to hide, and what better place than a packed club filled with people head banging to heavy metal? To get you comfortable, this month we’ll be covering six recently-issued live albums from the likes of: Gamma Ray, Helstar, Mr. Big, U.D.O., Vicious Rumors, and Y&T. Grab a beer (or your drink of choice), get warm, and enjoy the music!
Note: some of these were released as CD/DVDs; however the reviews cover the CDs only.
The venerable Udo Dirckscheider has been belting out Teutonic heavy metal under his own banner for a long, long time, releasing more full-length albums than he did with Accept by a margin of 13-to-10. During his 25-year solo career, he’s never been shy about releasing fan-service albums, although some would call them cash grabs. Indeed, the number of live albums and official compilations nearly rivals his studio output. By my count, LIVE IN SOFIA represents his fourth live album, and third in the last decade. Still, one can never have enough U.D.O., can they?
Released as a 2CD/DVD package, LIVE IN SOFIA captures the band’s huge show in Hristo Botev Hall in Bulgaria back in 2011, packing a whopping 21 songs (plus two solos) into the set. U.D.O. commands one of the tightest, most professional bands around, so there’s no question that the band’s playing is incredible, and Udo’s vocals are as potent as ever. Where fans will pick nits is, of course, in the track list. To his credit, Udo has never been shy about his past with Accept, but neither has he leaned too heavily on it either. Given his extensive solo career, you can decide for yourself if 9 Accept songs out of 21 is too many, but I give him credit for dusting off some lesser-appreciated Accept cuts like “Up to the Limit” and “I’m a Rebel”. That said, it would have been nice to hear some more U.D.O. songs instead of yet another version of “Princess of the Dawn” and “Balls to the Wall”.
The album gets off to a ripping start with five excellent U.D.O. tracks. The opening one-two punch of “Rev-Raptor” and “Dominator” really gets the blood flowing! I was also really happy to hear “Heart of Gold”, one of my favorite U.D.O. songs. However, the album grinds to a halt right at the end of disc one, starting with 10 interminable minutes of “Princess of the Dawn”, followed by rote ballad “I Give As Good As I Get” and then another endless 10-minutes of guitar soloing. Ugh. Similarly, disc 2 suffers from lengthy overkill with a nearly 5-minute drum solo and another 10-minute sing-along of “Balls to the Wall”. I get it, fans want and expect Udo to play “Princess” and “Balls”, but on here, they’re quite skippable. And the solos? Cut ‘em out!
All in all, these are minor complaints. LIVE IN SOFIA delivers 21 solid heavy metal songs from a master and is more than worth the price of admission.