From the outset I have to point out that I wasn’t planning on reviewing an U.D.O album. It’s just that it was looking a little unloved and neglected on the Ave Noctum review pile, and after a career striding through forty years of metal our plucky tank commander surely deserves more love than that. I mean he has one of the most distinctive voices of all time in heavy metal, still pulls in the crowds in Europe and holds a hoard of classic songs under his belt so show the man some respect, huh?

Well Steelfactory is the latest in a long line of albums that the ever restless (and wild) Udo Dirkschneider has knuckled down to releasing and I think it’s safe to say it won’t disappoint his existing fans at all. I mean this is Teutonic heavy metal in its full pounding charge at its best. At its worst? Ah, well…

Opening with ‘Tongue Reaper’ it’s looking good. A weighty and good paced bit of metal. Now a mate once described Udo Dirkschneider as sounding and looking like he had a strangled colon. I mean, yeah, harsh. But I genuinely love the gent’s voice and he sounds utterly in top form here. It’s a good, full toothed opener with a hard riff and a classic Udo snarl. ‘Make The Move’ is a fun follow up too. All good. This is class heavy metal.

I get a little bothered by track four. It’s not just the odd Middle Eastern/North African kinda guitar melody here, but The World Does Not Need Another Song Called In The Heat Of The Night!!! It must be the third I’ve heard This Year alone…enough already. Jeez. It’s a bit take or leave too. ‘Raise The Game’ is pretty similar, again with the guitar melody which just does not suit the voice or the song. Hmm. It’s weirdly kind of Melechesh trying to play commercial heavy metal and doesn’t work for me sadly.

‘Blood On Fire’ cements two things. Firstly, again how great a voice this man really has, showing the classic vibrato snarl and a quieter tone as well. Sadly it also shows that there are too many songs here that are slipping into the ‘OK but forgettable’ and I have no fucking idea what the tango interlude is about. In fact it’s these odd, out of place guitar melodies that bug the most, stripping the song away from the iconic clenched white knuckle stance of the man himself. You want stuff to rage or get sinister with Udo at the helm. Not get all Strictly. There’s also a tendency here to drift into power metal territory in things like ‘Rising High’ which is OK in itself but the only highlight of the song is the voice in the verse. At least ‘Hungry And Angry’ is a right good stomp of a song with some superb half spoken bits that brings a real grin to my face. The ‘One Heart, One Soul’ dumps me back into the ‘meh’ though.

Hmm. No it’s not going too well. Too up and down, never a real purple patch and with thirteen songs around the four to five minute mark it’s inescapable. It drags. For every ‘Eraser’ speeding out of the gate there’s another ‘A Bite Of Evil’ and a ‘The Way’.

Again I stress I can’t see anything here bothering existing fans but for the rest of us? The voice is still fantastic, the man goes on and that makes me kinda happy. But Steelfactory is more Hardware Store – too many things I’ll never use.

 (5.5/10 Gizmo)