The German heavy metal legend Udo Dirksneider just keeps on rolling, proving that you’re only as old as you feel and as long as the passion for music burns in your soul, you can keep the reaper back for many years to come. Just ask Ozzy, Gene Simmons, Dee Snider, Biff Byford, Rob Halford and a slew of others in the old guard. I daresay that the might and power of heavy metal has kept them alive and this smashing release is proof positive that UDO are far from losing steam. In fact, Steelfactory might very well be one of the best classic heavy metal albums I’ve heard this year along with Judas Priest’s electrifying output, Firepower.
Starting things off with “Tongue Reaper” which I’d consider the quintessential heavy metal cut, as its thrashing grooves and anthemic choruses are more than enough to sell the record from the start. But it gets better, as “Make The Move” not only flows with memorable riff-melodies, but features an even catchier chorus than the opener. The territory becomes more interesting with the world music experimentation present in “Keeper Of My Soul” which I’d consider a major highlight in it’s almost ritualistic nature. I’m almost reminded of some of Saxon’s excursions in this area, which is definitely not a bad thing. After a killer solo, we’re then treated to “In The Heat Of The Night” which is not a cover as you might expect; but a real kicker of an AOR number that will suit fans of acts like The Scorpions and Dokken rather well. This is the kind of cut that I feel is made for the stage and is right up there with some of UDO and Accept’s classic ballads. After that one, we’ve got “Raise The Game” which is a real thumper of a track, also showcasing a little of that Middle-eastern instrumentation previously expressed in “Keeper Of My Soul.” This is a rather heavy one though, so you’re going to end up turning up the volume and raising your fist in the air pretty mightily when this begins to hit. “Blood On Fire” rolls on next, with yet another potent performance and even more Middle-eastern experimentation. Couple that with notable guitar melodies as well as some brilliant neoclassical influence in the solo effort and you’ve got another winner.
We’re on the seventh track now and I don’t have a single word of complaint. That’s a very good sign as the Painkiller-esque appeal of “Rising High” seems to continue the awesomeness of this listen, making for what might be one of the best records that UDO have ever released. “Hungry and Angry” gets chunky from the very beginning, making me think a little bit of ACDC in some areas. It features yet another powerful anthem within the chorus and certainly won’t be easily cast aside. “One Heart, One Soul” features yet another notable set of leads, with yet another catchy chorus. You start to see the formula here and it makes perfect sense as to why it works. UDO experiment, but they don’t sacrifice quality in the process. More often than not, we get straight-forward cuts that pull no punches and this is just another one of those. “A Bite Of Evil” offers some of the best instrumentation on the disc in the form of a tremendously powerful solo and by far the longest on the disc. “Eraser” throws back into speedy thrash, with “Rose In The Desert” nearing the end of the performance in the form of a relatively heavy ballad. The piece features an anthemic chorus, though isn’t quite a fist-raiser. That being said, it still rounds out pretty well and features a quite tasteful solo. The disc ends with “The Way” which is a full-on ballad that heats up towards the middle with an unexpectedly shreddy solo number as it slowly fades out in acoustics.
Overall, I can say that of UDO’s many releases over the years, Steelfactory is exactly what it aims to be – an example of classic heavy metal might in the modern era of extreme technicality. I’m glad that we still have records like this in a sea of extreme acts that are constantly trying to copy one another while ultimately amounting to what I’d consider to be rather banal racket with very little drive and passion. I blame that on a generation almost completely unaware of and casting off the greats; some who actually believe that the music made in metal’s heyday is outdated and inferior to the compositions performed today. I’ve heard many jokes in my life and would consider that one to be quite funny. I sincerely hope that one day this new generation will decide to give this classic sound and style a chance and Steelfactory is just one of those albums in which to do it, along with a sound and production value that certainly doesn’t sound out-of-date to my ears, at least. Without a doubt, UDO may very well have made one of the best albums in their career. Steelfactory is a must listen for all fans of classic heavy metal thunder.
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