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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.