U.D.O. – “Steelfactory” (AFM Records)
Will this guy ever quit? I mean, does Udo Dirkschneider have molten metal running through his veins?! Well, clearly from the title of this 16th album and his reputed nickname of ‘German Metal Tank’ it would seem so!!! After more than 40 years in the business and recently honouring Accept’s songs live with his other project Dirkschneider, Udo the man and his band has returned with not only another top notch release, but his most Accept sounding album in many a year. In fact, some of the songs and even the sound and style are very much in the vein of classic 80s Accept, so clearly the recent touring must have made quite an impression on the 66 year old vocalist, who despite his years puts on a searing vocal performance just as he did all those years ago, complete with his trademark cat purr vocals to sultry tones and of course, powering screams! In fact, the musicianship on “Steelfactory” is really what impressed me especially in the outstanding guitar work of Andrey Smirnov, clearly a man on a mission to prove that one guitarist can outdo two and on the very Accept sounding ‘Blood On Fire’, the classical piece is no doubt aimed at you know who ha ha! With Udo’s son Sven recently joining on drums, this album marks his recording debut and he equally puts on a sterling performance, complete with double drumming speed runs very much in the old Accept style. Topped off by renowned Jacob Hansen’s production, the sound is equally colossal while being clear, so all the instruments and Udo’s shredding vocals sound even more potent. I have to say I found it very hard to pick out standout tracks given all the 13 songs here were excellent, and not all atom smashers attesting to Udo’s composing skill and able to lure you in with the more melodic stuff while headbanging the hell out’ve you through the consistency of his catchiness and hooks. Right from ‘Make Your Move’ with its chopping riffs graced by Scorpions guitar melody, Udo sultrily swaggers out with ‘…I’m sick and tired of being mr nice guy…I don’t give a damn about mr no one…’ as he kicks ass on a monster groove while Smirnov breaks like a wild surfer while pumping out more licks than a shotgun – cheesy it may be but dead on catchy it certainly is! If it’s atmosphere you want then ‘A Bite Of Evil’ with its moody vocals and dark guitar build to an irresistible chorus, mixing the best of Lordi with AC/DC while Smirnov blows you away again with his own smouldering bluesy guitar. As Sven’s double bass beats hammer in on ‘Eraser’ Smirnov’s guitar once again rips and roars in grabbing the soul while Udo unleashes his cat purr to deadly effect as the melodies and harmonies on the chorus take their turn this time to do the damage – and Smirnov’s solo is just OTT molten metal complete with screaming wang bar – yeah!!! A definite contender for album of the year, “Steelfactory” is nothing short of a steaming panzer, smashing its way through while grabbing you with its catchiness and not without touching your soul – what more could you ask for!?