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U.D.O. - "Steelhammer" (CD)

U.D.O. - "Steelhammer" CD cover image

"Steelhammer" track listing:

1. Steelhammer
2. A Cry Of A Nation
3. Metal Machine
4. Basta Ya
5. Heavy Rain
6. Devil's Bite
7. Death Ride
8. King Of Mean
9. Timekeeper
10. Never Cross My Way
11. Take My Medicine
12. Stay True
13. When Love Becomes A Lie
14. Book Of Faith

Reviewed by on June 3, 2013

"The house of Dirkschneider is strong with the metal…metal that is pure, rolled in spikes, and stinking of leather and beer."

The riffs kick in….the siren induced whammy echoes through the speakers like a armor plated ambulance ready to rescue you from the pounding you are about to receive on U.D.O.’s “Steelhammer.” Uh-huh….Udo. Frankly, as much as some people grow tired of one man’s persistent ode to fashioning the “other other” Accept albums, I grow tired of many critics’ persistent degrading of one of metal’s most esteemed individuals. The house of Dirkschneider is strong with the metal…metal that is pure, rolled in spikes, and stinking of leather and beer. If you fancy Accept steeped long and hard in “Russian Roulette” and “Objection Overruled,” the era is re-renewed on “Steelhammer,” an album that drops “Rev-Raptor” and “Dominator” off at “boretown” and represents U.D.O.’s most relevant release since “Thunderball” (2004).

Not that we should judge any band by a live album, I must admit that I was very disappointed in the “Live at Sofia” double album that was released last year. The performance seemed lackluster, especially the solos of Igo Gianola and Stefan Kaufmann on the Accept tracks – which, though played in their own styles, were insulting when compared to Wolf Hoffman’s original (and duplicated to perfection to this day live). The announcement of the departure of Gianola and Kaufmann (who was also Accept's drummer for 14 years) was a welcome relief, especially with the knowledge that the Finnish master Kasperi Heikkinen (Ex-Amberian Dawn) was part of the replacement team along with Andrey Smirnov (Everlost).

Not coincidentally, “Steelhammer” is filled with that ultra-precise and memorable guitar crunch that seemed lost for a good long time, nearly paralleling Accept’s “Metal Heart” in subtle ways. “When Love Becomes a Lie” has backing vocals on the chorus which are reminiscent of the Accept classic “Screaming for a Love Bite.” “Book of Faith” is by far the most interesting song that U.D.O. and Accept have ever done since the “Metal Heart” track “Teach Us To Survive,” an oddity at the time. “Book of Faith” even has a touch of classic Bond movie sound. Again, the songs are not replicas…not by a long shot. It is just subtle, but very noticeable. “Basta Ya” then sees Udo singing in Spanish with the assistance of Warcry’s Victor Garcia Gonzales.

Now critics will surely point out the “heard it all before” and “more useless odes to metal” lines. Now I acknowledge the fact that “Cry for a Nation” comes wickedly close to the same rhythmic riffing as “Man and Machine” (2002). However, I expect “Cry for a Nation” to be just as prevalent in the U.D.O. live set as “Man and Machine,” if only for its ability to illicit head banging by sheer force. Additional anthems like “Stay True,” and “Devil’s Bite” have all the hallmarks of all time U.D.O. classics that fans have enjoyed over the years, such as “Thunder in the Tower,” “Man and Machine,” “Lay Down the Law,” and “Blitz of Lightning.” Before anyone cries about U.D.O.'s continuation of the classic Accept style, remember that this band was created with that sole purpose in mind when Accept decided to take a commercial turn with "Eat the Heat." U.D.O.'s first release "Animal House" (1987) was supposed to be the follow up to "Russian Roulette." Both bands have every right to the style.

The other very noticeable difference on “Steelhammer” is the return to proper production and sound quality. Udo and longtime bassist/songwriter Fitty Weinhold hit the sound perfectly compared to the muck of “Rev-Raptor.” Martin Pfeiffer’s mix brings perfect harmony to the sound and no instrument drowns out another. The added orchestration ("Book of Faith," "Heavy Rain," and a portion of "Take My Medicine") was very nicely done.

Now for some issues: for one, I could have done without the midi-ish keyboards on “Devil’s Bite,” though it has grown on me with time. Secondly, though I appreciate the wealth of songs that Udo packs on every album, there is something to making these releases a bit shorter. I like “Timekeeper” and “Never Cross My Way,” but I likely wouldn’t mind if they were Japanese bonus tracks (though I suspect there are even more for that).

“Steelhammer” is an absolute essential album to any Accept or U.D.O. fan’s collection. The great thing about 2013 is the fact that both bands are writing and recording the best music of their careers, with a slight nod to Accept (mostly because Wolf Hoffman is one of the best guitarists/composers alive). The silent competition has only caused these two to be that much better. The winners are the fans.

Highs: The most relevant U.D.O. album in years, a real return to the classic Accept style.

Lows: Way too many songs. The midi-ish keyboard on "Devil's Bite" takes a bit of getting used to.

Bottom line: All it took was a new guitar team and U.D.O. is back to making superior Accept albums!

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)