U.D.O. (i.e. Udo Dirkschneider), the voice of Accept is back with his umpteenth album of typically old school, Germanic heavy metal. As with all his previous platters, Steelhammer is Accept-ish in design, with nods to Teutonic power metal like Grave Digger. Sometimes speedy, sometimes mid-tempo, the man and his band traffic in meat and potato metal riffs with his now classic raspy snarl dropped on top thereof. While you have to admire his consistency, it doesn’t always lead to memorable albums, though you can usually count on a handful of above-average ragers. 2011s Rev-Raptor was a rather fun and engaging outing, and Steelhammer follows right along in the same cheesy, but familiar mode. Sure, there’s some staleness and not everything here hits hard and that’s inevitable with so much product and so little variation, but I’m not gonna call this Stalehammer. Instead, it’s a pretty enjoyable romp through all the usual Udo troups, from gutsy, fast-paced burners, to awkward and hilarious ballads. In the process, Udo stays true to the sound that made him famous and what his fans have to come to expect. You certainly should know by now what you’ll be getting from the man with the camo pants.
Things get off to a very U.D.O.-esque start with the ripping title track which is ballsy, angry and in-your-face. Udo sounds as agitated and flummoxed as ever and while it’s nothing new, it’s a fun, rabble-rousing kind of song. From there you get a foray into vintage Accept with the slower “A Cry of a Nation,” and a Spanish language ditty called “Basta Ya” which has a memorable, anthemic quality and an anti-terror message that should stick in your metal heart.
Other moments of metal merriment include the rollicking and hooky “Devil’s Bite” in which Udo seems to be screaming “let me bite you, Ironheart!” That makes my day, whether those are the actual lyrics or not. “King of Mean” is a tough grinder where Udo regales with a long list of badass things he’s similar to (pitbull, shotgun, chainsaw, missile, midnight-hellcat-bastard-S.O.B.) and the delivery almost make it “Son of a Bitch 2.0.” My personal favorite is “Never Cross My Way” which is a melodic, but edgy number, perfect to spin as you walk into a gunfight or go on some mission of personal wengeance.
Then there are the songs with some issues. “Heavy Rain” is an overwrought ballad with piano, string and lyrics so unbelievable maudlin, they had to be intended as ironic. When you add Udo’s “singing” to such an outrage, it can only lead to shock and awe. It’s not overstating things to say this would get him booed off the stage at a karaoke contest held in a greasy biker bar. It’s bad, but maybe so bad, it’s kind of good (or, just really fucking bad). “Book of Faith” is even further out there in oddworld, with a sort of jazz cabaret meets serial killer nightmare vibe that I find perplexing and a bit unsettling, though it does grow on you in a terrifying way. Props to Udo though for a diverse collection of tuneage.
There’s not much to say about Udo’s vocals except they remain essentially unchanged with time. He brings the war screech and puts his stamp on all the songs for better or worse. New guitarist Andrey Smirnov has chops, but mostly just gets to churn out the old timey metal riffs and leads. Still, the guy has a slick, polished style and many of his riffs are winners and he uncorks some fine solos on “Death Ride” and “Stay True.” He’s a good pick up for the band and his playing is a definite highlight.
As U.D.O. albums go, Steelhammer is a solid one and has a few interesting twists. It isn’t essential listening, but it’s certainly a fun, fist-in-the-air kind of platter for days when a fist needs to be in the air. It also exhibits strong growth potential if given the chance. Respect the man, respect the legacy, respect the Steelhammer.