UDO – STEELHAMMER

 

udo_steelhammer

Released 24th May 2013 on AFM Records

Writing an UDO review can be as easy as copy/pasting your last review, really.  Some albums have more of an Accept vibe, others are slightly more contemporary, but basically you know what to expect. Does their latest release break the pattern?

“Steelhammer” is a fairly safe release, with some keyboards thrown in for added flavour and some excellent guitar playing. Unfortunately, precious few of the songs manage to ignite the spark. After the strong opening salvo of the title track, things start going downhill. “Metal Machine” is as pedestrian as metal gets and they manage to follow it up with the even more groan-inducing “Basta Ya”… Fortunately there’s tracks like “Death Ride” to even things out a bit. The second half of the album is actually better than the first.

It doesn’t help that Udo’s voice is starting to show serious signs of wear (ballad “Heavy Rain” is painful), or that the guitars sound very synthetic.

Personally, I liked predecessor “Rev-Raptor” a lot better, as that one sounded far more inspired.

If you’re an UDO fan, chances are this album won’t disappoint. If you’re looking for an introduction to the band, you’d be better off checking some other releases first.

Rating – 78%
Review by Sancho

ACCEPT – STALINGRAD

Out now on Nuclear Blast

After their excellent comeback album “Blood Of Nations”, every metal fan has to be curious to see if Accept can keep the momentum going with the follow up, sensibly titled “Stalingrad”. Ahem.

Whereas “Blood Of Nations” was a bit long, at 15 or so songs, “Stalingrad” clocks in at a sensible 47 minutes spread over 10 tracks. There’s very little to criticize about the songwriting. Solid Teutonic metal fare. Unfortunately, none of the quirkier moments that graced albums like “Metal Heart” or “Russian Roulette”. The title track sums up 21st century Accept and indeed this entire album. Overall it’s a well paced album, with fast tracks like the fiery “Flash To Bang Time” or “Revolution” balancing the more epic fare like opener “Hung Drawn And Quartered” or album closer “The Galley”. The melodic second half of “Hellfire” is a pleasant touch.

The band’s performance is obviously beyond reproach, and overall production is quite good. Except for the artificial guitar tones. Cheap, almost. Apparently, this album is a showcase for the Kemper Profiling Amp. Don’t quit your day job, guys…Is it me, or does Mark Tornillo sound more like Udo than he did before?

“Stalingrad” confirms Accept as leaders of the European metal scene.

Rating – 87%
Review by Sancho

UDO – REV RAPTOR

Released 20th May 2011 on AFM Records

A new UDO album is a rather unchallenging affair for any reviewer. Mostly because you can write the review before hearing the album. As per usual, UDO has not deviated from the template : solid Germanic metal.  Choruses are catchy in a Viking-chant-singalong way, and most songs are based on a foundation of thundering drums and chugging metal guitars. Of course you can’t help but think of Accept at times…

What differentiates between UDO albums is basically how much you like the songs on offer. Opening track “Rev Raptor” is so typically UDO I’d almost call it generic. “Leatherhead” wouldn’t have been out of place on “Metal Heart”, one of Accept’s more adventurous albums. One of the album’s highlights for me. “Rock n Roll Soldiers” may be a bit pedestrian, but songs like “Terrorvision” and “True Born Winners” more than make up for it.

Overall, this is one of the better UDO releases. The songs are catchier and somewhat less cliché than the last couple of predecessors.

Production and performance are beyond reproach, as you’d expect. UDO sounds a bit gruff, no doubt his age is starting to catch up with him. I do prefer this over the sometimes exaggerated screeching of the past.

There is some particularly good guitar playing on this album. I think it’s the first time the guitar leads on an UDO album have made me sit up and take notice. Check “Pain Man” for a good example.

Another solid addition to UDO’s ever expanding discography. Recommended for fans and a good starting point for those new to the band.

Rating – 85%
Review by Sancho

OVERDRIVE – ANGELMAKER (REVIEW)

Released January 21st 2010 on Lion Music

The Overdrive reunion seems to be an ongoing concern. And that’s a good thing.  “Let The Metal Do The Talking” was a great album, and “Angelmaker” continues in the same vein.

Solid, traditional heavy metal. Not power metal, not neoclassical, not medievalinspiredprogfolkspeed metal. HEAVY METAL!!

Opening track “Signs All Over” is a plain kick in the teeth.  Or what to think of Frieda’s “There’s Something Going On”, which is turned into a heavy bruiser. Not quite as extreme as Nevermore’s take on “Sound Of Silence” but equally crafty. “Under The Influence” owes more than a little to Iron Maiden’s glory years. Album closer “The Wavebreaker” runs an epic 10 minutes and is the most European sounding track on the CD.

Overdrive’s brand of metal is refreshingly uncontrived. The band steers clear of banal chant-along choruses and doesn’t rely on triggered bass drums to create an impression of heaviness or urgency.

Rather, they deliver finely crafted songs that rely on strong melodies, powerful riffing and spot on leads.  This album will take you back in time without even trying to be retro.

A killer heavy metal album. This may well be Overdrive’s strongest release so far.

Rating – 94%
Review by Sancho

POISON SUN – VIRTUAL SIN (REVIEW)

Out now on Metal Heaven

Hermann Frank has been keeping busy. Between Victory, his solo album and the Accept reunion, he has found the time to do this band.

When I see a female vocalist in a metal band, my defenses go up. I have very little time for the typical “female fronted metal” band.  Fortunately, we are spared faux-opera vocals, bombastic arrangements and all the usual trappings of this vile trend.

The Franks (for the singer in question is Hermann’s wife) deliver a solid slab of traditional metal.  If you enjoyed Victory or Frank’s solo album, you’ll like this release.  It’s not a big stretch of the imagination to picture the song “Hitman” being on any random UDO album or “Killer” being sung by Mark Tornillo.

There’s plenty of wailing guitars, hummable (or shoutable) choruses and lots of headbanging opportunities. Hermann Frank is an accomplished guitarist and he gives it 100% here. The rhythm section does a good, unobtrusive job. Martina Frank is a good singer if not spectacular. The label’s bio hints at Girlschool, Rock Goddess and of course Doro. That’s insulting, really. Martina is a lot better than Doro, the queen of accents. If you expected this to be a vanity project you’re in for a pleasant surprise.

A very good traditional metal album. Not quite up to the level of Accept’s latest masterpiece but rock solid in its own right.

Rating – 83%
Review by Sancho

 

BANGALORE CHOIR – CADENCE (REVIEW)

Released 24th September 2010 -Metal Heaven
 
After his rather uneventful stay in Accept, singer David Reece formed his own band Bangalore Choir. The debut “On Target” is something of an overlooked gem, chock full of kick ass hard rock. Unfortunately the last thing I’d heard from Reece was the dire solo album he released last year. This did not bode well…

With three of the original members in the band, this new Bangalore Choir lineup manages to recapture most of the charm of the debut. The gloomy cover had me fearing the worst, but I’m glad to say this album sounds like the logical evolution.
Punchy hard rock with catchy melodies and some killer guitars (Curt Mitchell is a monster!)

David Reece has an instantly recognizable voice and uses it to full effect . Slightly more subdued than “On Target” there is plenty to enjoy on this album. “Still Have A Song To Sing” is a big ballad in a sea of even bigger rockers (Power Trippin”, “High On The Clouds”,…). “Sweet Temptation” is blessed with an irresistible chorus.

At 49 minutes running time the album doesn’t outstay its welcome either, which is a nice change of pace in these days of ridiculously long and inevitably boring albums.

In an ironic twist, this album features the services of former UDO axeman Andy Susemihl. Yes, the same Udo Reece replaced in Accept…

I feared the worst, but got a lot more than I expected.

Rating – 89%
Review by Sancho.

ACCEPT – BLOOD OF THE NATIONS (REVIEW)

When I were a lad, Accept were a force to be reckoned with. Denim jackets were adorned with Accept back patches, they topped the album charts with releases such as “Metal Heart” and “Russian Roulette” and they filled the biggest venues. After Udo’s initial departure however, it all started to fizzle out. Not even the reunion could reverse the downward slide. Udo, as we all know, managed to get quite a healthy solo career going. The others mostly disappeared from the public eye. Until 2010 that is. With a rock solid line-up, formed around the song writing nucleus of Hoffmann/Baltes and featuring ex-TT Quick singer Mark Tornillo, Accept have released this new album. And what an album it is.

Opening track “Beat The Bastards” is the aural equivalent of a smack upside the head. A fast paced metal song with lots of guitar solos. Showcase track “Teutonic Terror” (don’t tell me you didn’t catch the video on youtube) does much the same, only at a slower pace. We get our first sniff of teutonic backing vocals on this one. “The Abyss” continues much in the same vein. The title track is classic Accept fare, only with a better singer. Sorry Udo… “Shades Of Death” has some very cool rhythm playing. This one wouldn’t have been out of place on “Metal Heart” for instance. The heat is turned on once again for “Locked And Loaded” an up tempo track so scorching it peels paint! Bonus track “Time Machine” is another slab of vintage Accept. “Kill The Pain” is a ballad the guys just wouldn’t have been able to pull off with Udo still in the ranks. Tornillo really shines here. So does Hoffmann for that matter. “Rolling Thunder” and “Pandemic” pick up the pace again, doing what it says on the tin. “New World Coming” is groovy and melodic. “No Shelter” is another fast track that has those trademark clean rhythm guitars that let the music breathe a bit. A nice extended solo section is the icing on the cake. Album closer “Bucket Full Of Hate” completes the circle. It’s another killer metal song much like the first three tracks. A shame the album ends on a fade out rather than a bang though.

Overall the performances are kick ass. Hoffmann plays like a man possessed, there is some nifty guitar work on this platter. Mark Tornillo is actually a huge improvement over Udo. He can do the sneer but he can also sing, which helps the band in the more melodic moments. Accept sound very much like a current band, without losing their identity, which is at least partially due to Andy Sneap’s excellent production.

So is there nothing bad to say about this album? Well, at 72 minutes it’s too long. Unlike many other bands though, it’s not just a case of cutting some filler tracks. All the songs are good in their own right. There’s just a couple too many of them.

If you call yourself a metal fan, you owe it to yourself to get this album.

Hot Spots : Beat The Bastards, Teutonic Terror, Kill The Pain.
Rating : 90% (review by Belgian Leatherboy Sancho)