U.D.O. – Steelfactory

Here’s a guy that needs no further introduction so we’ll skip that. If you, by any chance, is clueless of who Udo Dirkschneider is, then you’re probably born yesterday and have a shitload of googling to do. My relationship with Udo goes back to 1982 when I heard “Fast As A Shark” (Restless And Wild, 1982) by Accept and they knocked me right into next week. It only took the length of that song to make me an Accept fan and I have been one ever since. To me, Udo was such a pivotal part of Accept that I just couldn’t believe it when they decided to part ways back in 1987 – Accept wanted to go more Arena Rock and Udo wouldn’t have it. So Udo went on a solo trip, named the band U.D.O. and while Accept’s venture as a more commercial laden Arena Rock band with American singer David Reece became a catastrophe, hit shit-creek and later split up, Udo did what he always did – played melodic Heavy Metal in the vein of old Accept and have been very successful at it.

To be honest, the way I feel about U.D.O. is that it became a bit samey over the years and I have more or less lost interest, even though I have heard all of his albums. The debut, Animal House (1987) – recorded by Accept and originally meant as the follow-up to Russian Roulette (1986), Mean Machine (1989) and Faceless World (1990) are all stellar Metal records where Udo & co sounded hungry and alive but after that, there have been loads of ups and downs and to date, U.D.O. has released 16 albums, including the new one. Even though I don’t think that U.D.O. has released any bad albums per se, some of them has been really good actually, I have had a hard time keeping my interest in his band up – and both times he reunited with accept, in 1992 and 2005, I found it a blessing. But it wasn’t to be. In the last few years, Udo has been touring with his band Dirkschneider, playing old Accept tunes – with his son Sven on drums – but now Accept and Udo are history and Udo will be giving U.D.O. his full attention. And with that comes a new record.

Opening track “Tongue Reaper” starts with an intro reminiscent of “Metal Heart” and when the tune blasts away, “T.V. War” comes to mind. Accept shines through throughout the whole tune – heavy, fast, hard and with melodic and memorable melodies and the guitar melody is catchy and hummable. It sounds and feels like the band is on fire and can’t wait to show that they have a whole lot left to offer. Very good. There’s more Accept for taking – second single “Make The Move” is “Living For Tonite” rewritten and almost too close for comfort. But there’s a spark here and the Metal groove is intense and the whole tune is so good I couldn’t give a rat. Bang on target! “Keeper Of My Soul”, on the other hand, is more rhythmic in a mid-pace with a striking groove, a punch and a distinct and direct refrain. The tune is one of those fist-in-the-air stompers and very headbang-friendly. A great tune!

“In The Heat Of The Night” is an uptempo Metal ballad. It’s full of acoustic guitars, memorable melodies, a melancholic and dark atmosphere and a Pop-laden chorus that actually borders to AOR, that catches on right on the spot. With a more standard Stadium Rock band, this kind of song runs the risk of getting cheesy but in the hands of these elderly metal heads cheesiness is never an option. A brilliant song and clearly single-material. We get treated with an Middle Eastern flavour in “Raise The Game”, a heavy and tough Metal groover that’s not a far cry from his old band’s “Dogs On Leads”. It’s a catchy as hell number that makes for a good headbang anytime – brilliant. “Blood On Fire” hits high score with a big groove, a steady and punchy rhythm and big, catchy melodies that makes the song swing like crazy. We also get a tango influenced beat in the middle section and guitar melodies that would make Wolf Hoffmann jealous. Very heavy, very catchy, very awesome!

“Rising High” comes with verses similar to “Breaker” but also “Painkiller” (Judas Priest) comes to mind while its chorus brings on the sound of the Russian Roulette album. It’s a fast, heavy and aggressive song that holds an irresistible refrain. This is the kind of song that makes an old fan like me wish for yet another Accept reunion. Udo and band keeps on rewriting old Accept tunes with “Hungry And Angry” and this time we get “Up To The Limit” in the verses but it stops there and the refrain is purely its own. Heavy drums, pumping bass and edgy and raw guitars makes this song a punch in the gut, just the way we like it. Another great tune. The reason why “One Heart, One Soul” is the first single becomes very clear as soon as you hear its chorus. This mid-paced rocker’s refrain is so overly catchy it’s almost ridiculous and it sticks after only a second. It’s a melodic Metal track that brings on a big Pop feel and my mind travels back to Faceless World. Brilliant.

“A Bite Of Evil” is slow, heavy and dark but also holds all of those memorable and hummable melodies that Accept were (and are still) known for. It’s a very catchy song but not in a Pop way and it do bring on some tough punches – a very good Metal stomper. The aggressive and ferocious “Eraser” takes us back to the early days of Accept, when the guys were hungry and lean and only wanted to smack your head in. And as it turns out, by the age of 66, Udo still wants to kick your ass. It sounds very youthful and alive but it never loses its sense of melody. Killer! “Rose In The Desert” is a bit more laid-back and softer albeit not quite a full-on ballad. The tune holds a punch and a groove when the pre-chorus gets more bouncy and the refrain is brilliantly catchy. How awesome! Closing track “The Way” is a stripped, mellow and laid-back ballad but gets tougher when the rest of the band comes in. This is the kind of ballad Peter Baltes used to sing in Accept’s early days but Udo has proven since – and proves here and now – that he too can sing a song like this with all the glory. Fantastic.

What more do we get then? Well, if you open your wallet and spend some extra dough on the Japanese version, you’ll get a bonus track. Put in the middle of the album, “What A Hell Of A Night” is an uptempo Metal meets Melodic Rock track brings on an enormous Pop feel and the catchy chorus is what you could hear in the charts back in 1986. To be honest, it’s not that U.D.O.-like at all but it’s a brilliant tune that I think should have been on the original album. It could even have been a single as it smells hit a long way. And if you instead put your money on the digipack, you get two bonus tracks. The first, “The Devil Is An Angel” is a classic Metal stomper with a “Balls To The Wall” influenced riff. It’s very Metal groovy with pre-chorus that’s catchier than the actual chorus. A good track that brings Objection Overruled (1993) to mind. The other one is called “Pictures In My Dreams”, a mid-paced more laid-back Metal tune that borders to a ballad. It’s quite groovy and the refrain is spot-on. Very good. I can easily recommend both of those special editions.

Judging by the quality of the songs on this album, the Dirkschneider tour has done Udo good and it stands pretty clear that the purpose of this record is to make the Accept album that Accept can’t make without him. Sure, he borrows shamelessly from himself more often than not – Metal Heart seems like the template for this record – but that’s trivial here. Why? Because the songs on this album is so damn good and as a whole, U.D.O. has released one of their best records of their entire career – this is easily the best U.D.O. album since Faceless World. And not only the quality of the songs sparks here – the whole production sounds fresh and hungry with lots of attitude and self-confidence. This is a heavy album, make no mistake about that but there are also hooks, memorable melodies and catchiness for him to sell. If the point is to prove that he’s back and ready to kill, then point taken. There’s lots of life left in the iconic singer and his band. Highly recommended.

8/10

More U.D.O. reviews:

Steelhammer
Decadent

Tracklist:

1. Tongue Reaper
2. Make The Move
3. Keeper Of My Soul
4. In The Heat Of The Night
5. Raise The Game
6. Blood On Fire
7. Rising High
8. The Devil Is An Angel (digipack bonus track)
9. Hungry And Angry
10. One Heart One Soul
11. Pictures In My Dreams (digipack bonus track)
12. A Bite Of Evil
13. Eraser
14. Rose In The Desert
15. The Way

16. What A Hell Of A Night (Japan Bonus Track)

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