Album review: U.D.O. – Steelhammer Live From Moscow

U.D.O. – Steelhammer Live From Moscow

AFM Records  [Release date 26.05.14]

It was thirteen years ago that ex-Accept frontman Udo Dirkschneider recorded his solo band’s first ever live album in Russia and, if the AFM Records press release is to be believed, the very same logic was applied to do the same for “Steelhammer – Live From Moscow” – U.D.O.’s fifth live album to date.

With Stefan Kaufmann no longer involved in live duties, Udo undoubtedly felt the need to convince the metal world that his latest line up is capable of keeping the flame alive, and a live record in a place where one is guaranteed a decent reaction seemed on paper like a good strategy.

So, how does “Steelhammer – Live From Moscow” fare, both as an individual entity and perhaps also in comparison with previous U.D.O. albums? Well, there is both good and bad news to report here, so let’s start with the former.

The newly acquired guitar duet of Andrey Smirnov/Kasperi Heikkinen have blended in pretty well and their interpretations of classic material such as “In The Darkness”, “No Limits” and “Go Back To Hell” are both fresh and exciting as they are respectful towards the nature and feel of the originals.

Udo is in very good vocal shape and his decision to mainly invest in material from the new album, of which the same-titled “Steelhammer”, “Never Cross My Way” and “Devil’s Bite” really steal the show, as well as in songs that are not part of what you would call ‘classic set list material’ provides a good incentive for fans towards purchasing this latest live release.

On a more negative note, I found the sound lacking in depth, with the guitars being placed fairly high on the mix while Fitty Wienhold’s bass guitar is almost completely inaudible – a real shame as said bassist has added a lot to the band’s sound since he first joined back in 1997.

Even worse, the Muscovites who attended said show came across in the audio recording (note: I was not provided access to the DVD/Blu-Ray material for the purpose of this review) as slightly lukewarm in their reactions, regardless of all of Udo’s marked efforts to get them to add their personal touch to expertly performed versions of “Cry Of A Nation”, “They Want War” and Accept’s magnum opus “Metal Heart”.

It was not at all difficult, on the strength of the above, to come to the conclusion that this album would have sounded much better if it had been recorded in a country like Greece or Spain – places where screaming one’s lungs out during a Metal show is still considered pretty much normal practice.

If the message that you got by reading this review is that you should not bother at all with “Steelhammer – Live From Moscow”, let me clarify that this was not my intention – especially in view of the fact that the Blu-ray/2 CD version of this release is already on its way to my letter box.

It is however true that, as far as U.D.O. live performances are concerned, this is not amongst the strongest and that is simply due to the fact that it isn’t that mind-blowing.

Let’s rejoice in the knowledge that Herr Dirkschneider has found the right people to help him continue his good work and patiently wait for the next U.D.O. album to come out, hopefully sometime soon.

John Stefanis

Rating: ***1/2 (3.5/5.0)

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