After three years and some change the Mighty U.D.O. is back with new album Steelfactory (out now, AFM Records). A lot has gone on since the band’s last release Decadent, from member changes to two Back to the Roots Tours where singer Udo Dirkschneider played sets of nothing but ACCEPT classics for one last time. I was at two of those shows and they were fucking incredible! But now the man and the band will solely focus on what U.D.O. is capable of. And what they are capable of is headbanging metal anthems all the livelong day. Also of note is the ACCEPT-like nature of some of these tunes. And how is that a bad thing???
Right from jump opener “Tongue Reaper” puts on display the band’s no-bullshit approach to their songs. Again, how could that be bad, right? It’s off and running at a breakneck pace, the band locked and loaded. Next up is one of my favorites with “Make the Move,” THE most ACCEPT-ish of all! With one foot squarely in the Metal Days of Yore and a sing-along chorus that you’ll be humming for hours and days afterwards this one hit me right away. The mid-tempo groove anchored by Fitty Wienhold (bass) and Udo’s son Sven Dirkschneider (drums) sets the table for guitarist Andrey Smirnov to lay out an all-you-can-eat riff buffet, featuring an excellent solo as well as this fluid lead over the hook.
“Keeper of My Soul” is one of the more unique tracks here, and when listening I had visions of the slaves in ancient Egypt being forced to build the pyramids in the long, hot sun for some reason. I could almost hear the whips cracking on the backs of the downtrodden. I’m weird, I know. Smirnov’s guitars light the way on ass-kicker “Rising High”, another instant favorite. In fact, let me just say this right now: he is without a doubt the MVP of this whole record. Songs that are great become excellent, songs that are good become great, and the ones that would normally be just OK turn out really good, largely due to Smirnov’s mastery of the fretboard.
Wienhold is the straw that stirs the drink for “Hungry and Angry”, his fluid bass lines accentuating everything, including that hook. “One Heart One Soul” was the second single released I believe, and yup, you guessed it…I love it! Put this one in the win column with a quickness. The horns will no doubt be raised high in concert venues all around the globe whenever the band heads out on tour. Bonus track “Pictures In my Dreams” is somewhat predictable, but there’s no denying it’s still a pretty damn good song. Meanwhile “Eraser” just hits the gas and gives the cops in pursuit the middle finger from start to finish!
“Rose In the Desert” manages to blend the hard rockin’ with the hauntingly beautiful, and is one that I would love to hear in a live setting. Acoustic number “The Way” closes out the proceedings; this one threw me for a loop. It’s a hard left turn compared to the rest of the album, but it somehow fits alongside the other tracks. Look, at the end of the day Steelfactory is a pretty good record. Is it probably three or four songs and about ten minutes too long? Absolutely. But still, U.D.O. get in there with an “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality and they give it their best shot. It’s a very sincere offering, and one I think longtime fans will be very pleased with.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Rising High”, “One Heart One Soul”, “Make the Move”, “Eraser”, “Rose In the Desert”, “Keeper of My Soul”