MAY 20th 2013
U.D.O. : STEELHAMMER

Review by Anka

Udo Dirkschneider doesn’t really need any introduction. For me, his voice is one of the first metal voices I ever heard, growing up at a time when the German metal scene ruled the world (yes it happened and it was amazing). Obviously, over the years, his distinctively raspy voice stuck with me, even after his departure from Accept - the band he fronted, on and off, for more than three decades. With quite a solid solo career spanning from the mid ‘80s, U.D.O., as a solo project, gave us enough material to keep an eye on constantly. This year’s release “Steelhammer” brings a refreshing dose of the same heavy, fierce Udo. It is not a far throw from the previous 2-3 releases but it also brings back memories of earlier albums like “Animal House” or “Mean Machine”.

The album starts with the title track “Steelhammer”, and right off the bat there’s crisp riffing, then Udo’s rough, unforgiving vocals, it’s an anthem-like track that will get you pumped for the rest of the 13 songs on the album. The next song slows down the pace a little, going into a rather hard-rock direction. “Metal Machine”, the first single and video off the album, I must admit I didn’t like it much when I heard it before listening to the entire release, it seemed a bit too linear. With this listen, it made more sense within the entire album, but I still would have chosen another song for the first video.

It was quite unusual to hear Udo singing in Spanish on “Basta Ya”, a faster song with some 80’s metal flavor, but I can tell he’s actually good at it, no awkward German accent there; I understand the guest vocalist on this song is Victor Garcia from WarCry. On a funny note, I guess that concludes part of my search for good Spanish metal.
 
As usual, we get a couple ballads on the album. Udo’s ballad singing style is heart wrenching, emotional and powerful. I’ve always loved his interpretation on such songs, it sounds like a mix of resignation, strength and candor. There’s something so sonically pleasing in how his rough voice is contrasting the sweet melodies carried by guitars, or, often in his ballads, by piano. Choruses are sustained by layered vocals and choirs, pretty much an U.D.O trademark. The ballads of the album are the short but sweet “Heavy Rain” and “When Love Becomes a Lie”.

The second half of the album flows in the same direction it started, fast - with “Devil’s Bite”- and faster - with “Death Ride”, both melodic and as heavy as they can be. We have great choruses, crunchy riffs, heavily pounding rhythms. Despite his distinctive raspy voice, Udo’s quite a versatile singer and he lets that show occasionally with “cleaner” moments. One of my very favorite songs on the album is “Stay True”, it’s got the old-school sound, catchy riffing and a more modern twist in the bridge, then there comes a great anthem-quality chorus. The album ends in a somewhat unexpected note: “Book of Faith” leaves aside the traditional metal riffing and begins with a rather smooth jazz moment, only to evolve into a heavy rock direction with some added orchestral elements that make the end sound truly epic and bombastic.

Songs to remember: Steelhammer, Basta Ya, Timekeeper, Take My Medicine, Stay True
    
“Steelhammer” is an easy, pleasant listen and will definitely be one of the favorite releases for U.D.O fans. In its catchiness and smooth-flowing moments, it still remains heavy as hell. This is metal for everybody but not for the softies. U.D.O. are: Udo Dirkschneider – Vocals, Fitty Wienhold – Bass, Andrey Smirnov – Guitars, Kasperi Heikkinen – Guitars and Francesco Jovino- Drums. And they’re here to keep on rockin’ your world.