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The grinding wheel - 70%

kluseba, September 16th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, AFM Records (Limited edition, Digipak)

U.D.O. offers yet another solid heavy metal record with Steelfactory. It's already the sixteenth solo record of the former Accept singer. Despite being sixty-years old, his raw, mean yet at times pitched vocals still sound timelessly charismatic. Udo Dirkschneider has made a few interesting changes to his line-up in the past few years. Young guitarist Andrey Smirnov has been on board for the past two studio albums and he delivers his best performance yet on this quite versatile release. His mixture of gripping heavy metal riffs and a few neoclassical influences certainly recalls Accept's Wolf Hoffmann but isn't a far cry from Victor Smolski's style of Rage fame either. Since Dirkschneider is particularly popular in Russia and even collaborated with local heavy metal heavyweights Aria, it made sense to hire a Russian musician. New on board is Udo Dirkschneider's son Sven who has already played the drums for the side project Dirkschneider focusing on reinterpreting classic Accept material. His style isn't particularly skilled but very tight and fits the mid-paced heavy metal material rather well. He isn't only there because he is the son of a famous singer but actually a decent musician, inspired by drummers like Mikkey Dee of Motorhead fame or Saxon's Nigel Glockler. The quartet is completed by bassist Fitty Wienhold who has been in the line-up since the mid-nineties and who plays his instrument accurately if unspectacularly.

The fact that Udo Dirkschneider was touring the world performing Accept songs for one last time might have influenced the songwriting on this album. The influence of neoclassical elements can be heard in the exotic ''Keeper of My Soul'' with its Middle Eastern soundscapes or the closing half-ballad ''The Way''. Well-paced heavy metal stompers like the energetic opener ''Tongue Reaper'' or the quite rhythmic ''Make the Move'' that will make listeners move indeed present the more traditional hard rock and heavy metal soundscapes of the band. The record is overall quite balanced even though there are more heavy metal influences than neoclassical elements on Steelfactory.

The record's middle section is losing some steam and especially the singles ''Rising High'' and ''One Heart One Soul'' are predictable at best and unspectacular at worst. The other four aforementioned songs that sound quite fresh would have been much better single choices.

In the end, Steelfactory is a solid classic heavy metal record featuring Udo Dirkschneider's unique vocals with a few successfully employed neoclassical elements performed by Andrey Smirnow. Sixteen songs were written for this record and three of them can be found on different import and limited editions. About half of these songs sound energetic, fresh and tight while the other half reminds of more or less successful attempts to go back to the classic Accept style. A shorter record focusing on eight to ten songs would have been much more efficient in my opinion. Fans of Accept, Dirkschneider and U.D.O. will of course get what they expect and should purchase the album without any hesitation. Occasional fans should however rather start with one of the group's numerous live records released over the past ten years such as Back to the Roots, Navy Metal Night, Live from Moscow, Live in Sofia or Mastercutor Alive.

Still Loud and Proud - 79%

hardalbumreview, September 15th, 2018

Many years and many albums have come and gone since Udo Dirkschneider, one of the biggest names in the history of heavy metal, and in particular in German heavy metal scene, released his first studio album with Accept in 1979. Never has he bent down, nor given up on his true inner call; never has he been defeated (as a heavy metal figure) and maybe, never has he been more earnest about himself on an album.

The new album by this German untiring voice is a pure heavy metal journey through decades; all along the album, it’s the classic 1980’s metal that rings in your ears. If you are a stalwart fan of the Golden Age of metal, just like I am, you will enjoy this album. From the album cover, which screams heavy metal in every inch, to the title of the album, Steelfactory (honestly, this could not get any more heavy metal), to the sound of the instruments and the voice of Udo, they are all classic heavy metal.

But don’t, not even for one second, assume that this album lacks originality and grandeur. It offers everything a listener might expect from an album within this genre. But most outstanding of these, beside Udo’s signature singing, is the guitar playing, both in electric and acoustic forms, carried out by Andrey Smirnov. In several tracks (Tongue Reaper, Raise the Game, The Devil Is an Angel) we can see strong classic heavy metal riffs.

Besides such riff-centered pieces, several anthemic songs also exist which comprise most of the highlights of the album too. They have kind of a heroic tone, catchy and memorable choruses (essentially simple and easy to remember) performed in the form of a sing-along by several backing-vocals to represent that of a crowd of audience, and solid guitar solos. On this album, Rising High, The Devil Is an Angel, One Heart One Soul and Tongue Reaper are more in this vein. Such stage-friendly songs could drive the crowd literally wild when performed live. You can vividly picture how the company of metal heads is going to throw their hands up in the air, or bounce up and down and go nuts with these fast, easy and accessible chorus. The key for the bands is to keep repeating the same lines to make sure they get into your subconscious until you can’t fight them anymore and find yourself singing them in your head or, if you are like me, out loud when you’re going around.

There are also these slower, more ballad-like songs on the album too, which can break the “monotony” of rock-hard riffs (Pictures in My Dreams - The Way). And as it is expectable, one of them is the closing track of the album to give the listener a tender goodbye kiss.

But the guitar isn’t the only instrument they can use to their advantage. Fitty Wienhold on bass shows his presence on A Bite of Evil, Hungry and Angry, Make the Move and Blood on Fire; but the point that caught my attention was that drumming, performed by Sven Dirkschneider (Udo’s successor), is very much typical of the genre and very well executed. Though the guy is rather young (34) and from the next generation of metal drummers, he can still carry out the same style and let out the same vibe as the contemporaries of his father. Eraser, Make the Move and The Devil Is an Angel are examples of Sven’s outstanding drumming skills.

Lyrics-wise, unfortunately the album doesn’t have much to offer. The great majority of the lyrics are short, lackluster or at best mediocre (Keeper of My Soul, Make the Move, Blood on Fire, Eraser) except for the ones that recite the story of Udo’s life and which are the most personal yet most relatable songs (Pictures in My Dreams, Rose in the Desert). But the songs whose lyrics I liked the most were In the Heat of the Night, which narrates the heart-touching story of an old but proud “rock and roll soldier” which reflects the true heart and soul of metal and rock music, as well as The Way, which you could say is the most accurate portrait of the man himself: “My voice is growing older/ My mind is staying young/ So proud I did it my way/ The road where I belong”.

Something peculiar I noticed on this album was that all the 15 songs (except two consecutive songs Pictures in My Dreams and A Bite of Evil) clock between 4 to 5 minutes. These 15 songs in some section do not flow well, just like the two longest songs on the album are put one after the other, and in a few other parts, the similar sounding songs are adjacent. In addition to this drawback, after the first track (Tongue Reaper) some weaker tracks are placed that demotivate the listener; besides, most of the good songs are laid in the second half on the album. So if you don’t give up hope and hang in there, the brighter side will be up and you will enjoy more than an hour of Classic Heavy Goddamn Metal.

Lyrics: 6.0
Artwork: 8.5
Musicianship: 8.0
Vocals: 9.0
Overall: 8.0