U.D.O. - Dropping The Hammer On North America
by Martin Popoff

Accept legend Udo Dirkschneider and his crack U.D.O. band have been flying the flag for metal for years, issuing like clockwork some of the sturdiest, shiniest, pure, pure metal albums this side of Saxon. There's a new one around the corner called Steelhammer, but just as exciting, the band is currently headbanging its way through North America (Hardradio.com will be at the Toronto date set for April 14th at The Mod Club).

"We've got two new guitar players," begins the Teutonic throat that roared, Herr Dirkschneider, offering comments on both situations. "Stefan Kaufmann is not in U.D.O. anymore; he's got some big problems with his back. And Igor, he also quit the band; he couldn't handle the timing and the scheduling of U.D.O. anymore. And he had a side-project. And so Andrey (Smirnov) from Russia, and Kasperi (Heikkinen) from Finland. So yeah, I'm really happy with these two guys. They're very young and they fit into the band, and Andrey is playing all the guitar stuff on the new album, Steelhammer."

"Let's say Rev-Raptor, the sound for me was a little bit cold," reflects Udo, asked to give shape to the bludgeon that is Steelhammer. "And Stefan, now that he's left the band, he says he doesn't want to be involved as a producer or songwriting this time: 'Give me a break; maybe on the next album I come back again for producing and songwriting.' And so then I started writing the songs together with Fitty, the bass player, and yeah, the point was, who will be the producer? (laughs). And I mean, I was producing already back in the '80s, together with Michael Wagener, and then I said okay, let's give it a try. Let's just step into the water and do it. And so, here we go. I'm very pleased with the result. It's more down-to-earth; it's more live-sounding. We were working with the musicians live in the studio, face-to-face, with a real amplifier, playing the songs and all that stuff. So that makes the sound definitely different from the last one."

"And so Andrey did all the guitars in this album," continues Udo. "And he did a very good job. That wasn't the plan that he would do all the guitar on his own. It was the original plan that Igor would do some stuff on it, but he had no time, and it was already a big problem, during the recording sessions. And then so we were really happy-or I would say happy and lucky-that Andrey was glad to come over for an audition. But then he stayed for four or five weeks, and then he did all the guitar stuff."

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