STEELHAMMER - LIVE FROM MOSCOW
I really have no idea why U.D.O. is not a much, much bigger band than they are. Without question, everyone is all too quick to celebrate Accept, both with and without vocalist Udo Dirkschneider in the band. And yet, for all the love fans have for Dirkschneider's era of Accept, U.D.O. has really remained an afterthought instead of an equal to the current band that features Mark Tornillo on vocals. For the life of me, I don't understand it. U.D.O. has put out nothing but great to awesome releases The last decade has seen this band release six discs that have been absolutely awesome, without a bad one in the bunch. Still, U.D.O. stays more as the answer to the trivia question of "whatever happened to Udo Dirkschneider" than it does to a band being considered one of the elite in old school, traditional heavy metal. Maybe it's just me, but that's just criminal.
With STEELHAMMER - LIVE FROM MOSCOW, Dirkschneider and company once again reaffirm what I've seemingly known all along; that U.D.O. is a great band - in my opinion, a touch better than Accept today. If you can listen to this blazing double live release and not find your head banging, then I'd argue that you never liked classic metal in the first place. The stuff that you would want from U.D.O. is there of course. Songs like "Holy", "Metal Machine", "Timebomb" and the obligatory Accept cover (this time being "Metal Heart") round out the end of the set, which works well. That said though, the guts of this release are in the middle. It's so cool to hear one of their best, yet largely unheralded songs like "Cry Of A Nation" and "Devil's Bite" from his hugely overlooked 2013 release STEELHAMMER featured.
For their part, the band sounds great. Guitarists Kasperi Heikkinen and Andre Smirnov are new to the band for STEELHAMMER, and they add a new dynamic to the sound. On past releases, especially the studio releases, U.D.O. had an almost electronic, mechanical sound to their guitars. With Heikkinen and Smirnov, they really stretch out and have more of a dirty arena rock groove in their sound. Songs like "Trip To Nowhere" reaches back to the early roots of U.D.O., and yet has a very powerful and fresh vibe to it here. The rhythm section of bassist Fitty Weinhold and drummer Francesco Jovino have a big, arena sound as well. While the band is tight, there's a bit of an old school, majestic sound that dominates songs like "They Want War". As for Udo himself. Well, he's Udo. He's sounded like he had a throat fully of sticky blood from gargling razor blades since he started. He still sounds exactly the same now. As tough as his voice is to imitate, he's flawless and strong here.
PITRIFF RATING - 91/100 - While the world sits back and waits impatiently for the next Accept release (and I won't lie...I'm one of those impatient souls), we are treated to the other band coming from their split so many years ago. For me as a classic metal fan, Udo Dirkschneider leaving Accept and the new Accept emerging so strongly is the best of both worlds. Now I get two bands, and literally new music every single year from one or the other. STEELHAMMER - LIVE FROM MOSCOW is a great collection that showcases just how strong the retooled lineup of U.D.O. is. They are as good or better than ever. That's very clear. Good stuff.