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If I’ve counted correctly then ‘Steelhammer’ is the 14th studio album from U.D.O. and it proves once again that Mr Dirkschneider has no intention of mellowing as the years pass. Initially, and I have to be honest, I thought it was a step backwards from the fantastic previous album ‘Rev-Raptor’ (2011). With the loss of guitarist, producer and long time friend Stefan Kaufmann in 2012 due to ill health (he is still producing bands at his own studio), ‘Steelhammer’ was always going to feel different, and it does. That was my first concern because it sounds quite digitised and restrained and not “more organic” as the press release states, but...and there is a huge but, once I had listened to this half a dozen times it slowly dawned on me what an absolutely great album it is, with a few surprises song-wise added to the tried and tested U.D.O./Accept sound.

Firstly, there are two new guitarists to introduce, Russian Andrey Smirnov (who plays all guitar parts on ‘Steelhammer’ and is a revelation) and Kasperi Heikkinen from Finland, who joined after recording had been completed but is now a fully fledged member of the band. Secondly, Dirkschneider has found a new writing partner in bass player Fitty Weinhold and this has resulted in some great songs. ‘Metal Machine’, ‘Timekeeper’, ‘Take My Medicine’, ‘Book Of Faith’, ‘Basta Ya’ (sung in Spanish) and the quite beautiful piano based ballad ‘Heavy Rain’ all add a new flavour and it doesn’t stop there! Usually, a really good album from U.D.O. will smack you in the face pretty quickly but ‘Steelhammer’ is a grower and it works incredibly well. That has been a surprise for me as I’ve been a fan since ‘Animal House’ in 1987 and, of course, during the Accept days as well. One thing it has definitely taught me is that you don’t always know what to expect when listening to a band such as U.D.O. and that this change in personnel and sound has been a refreshing one for me (and obviously the band as well) without it sacrificing the sound that I love.

At just over sixty minutes ‘Steelhammer’ is, however, probably 2-3 tracks too long. The title track itself is not a patch on the song ‘Rev-Raptor’ and ‘Never Cross My Way’ is pure filler but, overall, this is another top class album to add to the U.D.O. legacy, a legacy I hope will continue for a few years yet!
AFM Records
Review by Rick Tilley
24th May 2013
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
"...another top class album to add to the U.D.O. legacy..."