U.D.O. – Steelhammer

U.D.O. Steelhammer cover
AFM Records
I never really accepted ACCEPT without UDO, not the first time, and not now. While Nuclear Blast was more fortunate and the band has turned up with two rather decent “fAUx-ceept” albums, complete with a very good UDO clone in Tornilo, for me the only proper ACCEPT reunion album that really, mushed my brains – well that was the incomparable” Objection Overruled” back in 1993. These newer albums however good, are only half good. Don’t get me wrong, UDO has not constantly been pulling rabbits out of his hat, but being able to both do the ACCEPT catalog, with his own voice and at times decent guitarists and in addition also play some of his own cool songs... from his now, quite, also “noticeably long” catalog instead of just deciding to get back to metal after a long 10 years off it... well he’s done far more for it.
The first thing that makes an impression right from the start, is the cutting edge guitars. UDO had both his guitarists depart, but, the “guitar duo” transplant was more than successful and the “METAL HEART” now beats with renewed vigor.
“Steelhammer” the title track opens the album and simply – CRUSHES, no other word to describe the song. It’s a metal hymn.
“A Cry of a Nation” is a little reminiscent of “Man and Machine” riff wise, but so what, quite a few bands have done “slight re-writes” (lol) plus the lyrical content of this one, lands close to home, and hits hard, condemning all the banker and politicians, that seem to not give a fuck about the people. Totalitarianism and thinly veiled economical “fascism” on en ecumenical scale, leading to global misery…
“Metal Machine” came out as the first single and it rolls just like a super heavy tank, ready to annihilate, anything in its path… (TT, my ssa... - the only thing I can say is that video clip wise, the former comrades have outdone Udo.) But song wise... WOW, just WOW!!! This is HOT!!!
“Busta Ya” sees Udo singing in Spanish with the help of some other guy named, Victor Garcia Gonzalez. You know what? It’s pretty damn good fun and catchy as hell too!!! When is he going to do something similar in Greek then hahahhahaa!
“Heavy Rain” is a piano ballad... that’s not too bad, but it doesn’t reach the real heights, of some earlier stuff that the man has done. It’s done in a slow pace and without much pressure, so it’s very much filled with regret, not passion, it’s devoid of that sentiment.
“Devil’s Bite” starts with some bizarre “Techno”/cheap ass/sampled casio style keyboards, that sort of fit, and create a demonic semi-industrial atmosphere... and is not bad at all. I am sure the band and UDO would have loved to do something like, “Beyond the Realms of Death” but it ends up, being a little “cheaper”...
“Death Ride” is a fast, double bass song, but it sort of marginally passes the criteria of inclusion on the album... I suppose, with the album, seemingly beginning to show some signs of “weariness” at this point.
“King of Mean” changes the pace and tries to treat that, with some “mean machine” type of lyrics... it partially succeeds... as it’s changed pace and correct doses of melody and nice solos take your mind away from any cares.
But unfortunately the rather boring and uninspired “Timekeeper” that only has a few good ideas about it, mostly rhythmical and a soloistic one sort of dumpens things down once again. While it could have been a quite interesting song potentially, it ends up being quite a dud, possibly because of the many spoken parts…(?)
“Never Cross My Way” is a melodic ballad, with double vocals, this time, but it’s a little underwhelming too... too simplistic and again not passionate, but regretful... well it’s not bad though.
“Take My Medicine” is a more masculine mid-tempo riffer, but for some reason it’s not really amazing...
While “Shadows Come Alive” (bonus on the Digi) which is a slower mid paced track, even with all the crackles in Udo’s voice, is far superior, since it has a wicked... atmosphere…
“Stay True” is a decent headbanging tune, that’s however not an absolute highlight, but at least is quite enjoyable largely due to its nice rhythmic parts and brilliant solo.
“When Love Becomes a Lie” is at last the more “passionate” ballad... but Udo has to employ some “second” more melodic vocals by a guest vocalist on the chorus, as apparently, he’s not able to convincingly sing in that range, cleanly, without breaking. It’s a good song, no matter…
Finally “Book of Faith” begins with some mysterious spoken part and continues, shrouded in mystery with Udo singing in a very pressed chesty voice, that sounds quite thin and not entirely as convincing as before… all the strings and the orchestral arrangements... just too weird I must say... (I’d have kept this as a non LP thing for maybe an EP really if AFM still does those… as it’s hard not to call this filler.)
Right... “Steelhammer”, is mostly a GOOD album, that is just a few songs too long… one could omit 4-5 songs and at 10 songs it would have been PERFECT! At 15, it has some extra “fat” that sort of makes it sound a little odd. Obviously one can argue that one can program his favorite songs on the CD and press play – but one could also argue that the producers job is to tell the artist which songs to use and which ones to not use… the production is good, the new guitarists are good and very worthy replacements and Udo, is probably the LAST man standing in traditional metal... he’s the last institution, apart from the Dickinsons and the Halfords, the super heavyweights, but mind you, ACCEPT, were not really far behind them in the 80s… so yeah… I mean... UDO WE SALUTE YOU! LONG MAY YOU LIVE AND METALLIZE!