Sound — 8
German heavy metal band U.D.O. are tearing their way through all who stand in their way with their new studio album, "Steelhammer." Before we get into how great the new album is, let's step aside for a moment to talk about the band itself. This is going to be U.D.O.'s 14th studio album. They have been crafting heavy metal songs for several decades now. What more is left for them to do without just creating reruns of previous hits? How can they continue to sound fresh, yet remain intact to their own sound? Well, for starters, appoint a new set of lead guitarists, Kasperi Heikknen and Andrey Smirnov. Without a doubt, these two musicians brought some well welcomed energy and chemistry to the band.
For the fans who have been complaining about the sound and direction of U.D.O.'s past few studio albums, rejoice, because "Steelhammer" is the album you have been waiting for. This album is a proud collection of 14 new pulsating metal tracks that heavily resembles lead vocalist Udo Dirkschneider's original work in Accept. The most standout of the bunch that immediately comes to mind include "A Cry Of The Nation" and "Book Of Faith." The first of the songs is crafted around a meanousing guitar riff while Udo delivers some strengthy primal screams, while "Book Of Faith" begins with some jungle-style percussion playing before transforming into an instant classic with "Balls To The Wall"-style backup vocals and a racing guitar solo.
That doesn't mean the rest of the album isn't great. In fact, the entire album is consistently perfectionistic in quality, the only exception being "Heavy Rain," which is (to be honest) a sad attempt at a power ballad, which has Udo singing over an orchestra and piano accompaniment. The song isn't bad itself, but it's placement in the album makes it stick out like a sore thumb, as the songs before and after it are raging metal tracks. With "Heavy Rain" being the only exception, "Steelhammer" is a fantastic album, that only gets better after every listen.
Lyrics — 9
Lead vocalist Udo Dirkschneider gives a standout effort throughout "Steelhammer." Throughout the past four decades, what made him a standout heavy metal lead vocalist is his ball crushing falsetto soaked singing style. For a 60-odd year old singer, being able to come close to hitting those same notes an octave down would be an accomplishment, let alone matching them with the same intensity and passion. This is exactly what he does all throughout "Steelhammer," with little differences between his singing now and 40 years ago.
Overall Impression — 8
"Steelhammer" shows U.D.O. making a well needed return-to-form that heavily resembles lead vocalist Udo Dirkschneider's earlier efforts, and in the end makes for a powerful heavy metal album. For any fan of his previous albums, or any heavy metal fan in general, should look into picking up this record for themselves. Even if you skip "Heavy Rain" each rotation, it's undoubtedly a worthwhile listen.