UDO band photo

U.D.O. – Steelhammer

UDO - SteelhammerUdo Dirkschneider needs no introduction. The guy is more or less an icon in the metal community and his years with German metal band Accept has made him a both loved and appreciated singer and frontman. He was one of the original members of Accept and was with them from the start in 1979 and sung on classic albums like Breaker, Restless And Wild, Balls To The Wall and Metal Heart. He left the band in 1987 after the underrated Russian Roulette, but reunited with the band in 1993 and the brilliant Objection Overruled and for two more albums, Death Row and Predator before they split again in 1996. Accept has since then made a come back with singer Mark Tornillo in 2010 when Udo declined to take part. However, Udo wasted little time when he left the band in 1987 and the same year he released his first album with his new band U.D.O. The album was called Animal House and sounded exactly like a new Accept album, because, well, it was. That album was actually the album that was meant to be the sequel to Russian Roulette before the band scrapped it in sake of their new more American sounding style, a style that was the sole reason for Udo’s departure.

Since then U.D.O. has released no less than thirteen more albums, this one being number fourteen. Udo and his ever-changing line up has proven to be a very much productive bunch of musicians, releasing an album a year (almost) except for the years when he was back in Accept. All that could have been well hadn’t it been for the fact that after his four first albums, a lot of the songs and ideas were just repetitive and in some cases carbon copies of older songs. I have always been a fan of Udo, both as a singer and a performer and every album has been good, but too many of them, forgettable, specially their last four or five albums. Quality should always prevent quantity and that hasn’t always been the case with this band. That’s why my expectations wasn’t very high while listening to this album – thought it would be just another of those U.D.O. albums where you have heard it all before. And in some ways this album is just that – Udo and his band (that also features old Accept drummer turned guitarist / songwriter Stefan Kaufmann) has their own brand which they will never shy away from. But on this album the band seem to have found a new spark and some new directions to take their sound in.

The title track storms off like an angry elephant on dope, but with a killer melody and this could easily have been an early Accept classic, they go all political on us on the dark and heavy “A Cry Of A Nation”, “Metal Machine” is one of those typical U.D.O. tracks, very much metal, but so damn catchy and “Basta Ya” is catchy as hell. It is also sung in Spanish – a cool and brave move that works surprisingly well. In “Heavy Rain” they provide us with a ballad, but not one of those usual metal ballads. This one is jazzy and there is both strings and keyboards used here. I say well done on that. Keyboards are also used in “Devil’s Bite”, a move that makes this hard and edgy metal track take an unexpected pop turn – and I embrace that. “Time Keeper” is the usual, catchy Udo stuff – in a good way, “Never Cross My Way” is an amazing melodic rock track, not even metal, with a chorus that sticks to your brain after just one listen, “When Love Becomes A Lie” is very good, almost poppy, but still very metal and “Book Of Faith” is a brilliant closer – big, epic and orchestral.

For the first time in many, many years, U.D.O. does not release the same old album all over again, it’s so nice to hear that they dare to try new things – and that they work. Not only that, it feels like they feel like they were on a creative high, that they’ve tried really hard to make an absolute beast of an album. And they have managed to come up with the best U.D.O. album in years and years, actually in my book, since Timebomb in 1991. The last time I saw this band live – a few years back – they both looked and sounded tired and jaded and I got the feeling that they have reached as far as they could. I didn’t feel any spark or sensed any fun. This album is the exact opposite of all that. Udo and they boys feels hungry again – let’s just hope that they will deliver live as well in the future to come.

Jon Wilmenius (8/10)

Tracklist:

01. Steelhammer
02. A Cry Of A Nation
03. Metal Machine
04. Basta Ya
05. Heavy Rain
06. Devil’s Bite
07. Death Ride
08. King Of Mean
09. Time Keeper
10. Never Cross My Way
11. Take My Medicine
12. Shadows Come Alive (bonus track)
13. Stay True Stay You
14. When Love Becomes A Lie
15. Book Of Faith

2 comments on “U.D.O. – Steelhammer

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