Reviews Round-Up August 2023
• U.D.O. – ‘Touchdown’
• PRIMAL FEAR – ‘Code Red’
• SIEGES EVEN – ‘Paramount’
• THE UNITY – ‘The Hellish Joyride’
• 3 INCHES OF BLOOD – ‘Here Waits Thy Doom’ and ‘Long Live Heavy Metal’
To the old adage that the only certainties in life are death and taxes you can probably add Udo Dirkschneider. At 71 years of age the vocalist who made his vinyl debut with ‘Accept’ in 1979 (and who’d been singing in Band X since the early years of that decade) shows no sign of slowing down. On top of the ten albums he put out with Accept, ‘Touchdown’ (Atomic Fire, 25 August) is U.D.O. the band’s twentieth studio release and although, to be fair, it doesn’t really spring any real surprises, it’s a solid metal outing with great songs, anthemic fist-in-the-air choruses and exquisite soloing from Andrey Smirnov and Fabian Dammers. And then there’s the voice, of course: Dirkschneider’s vocals have over the years become instantly recognisable, and as synonymous with metal as Dio raising the horns. ‘Touchdown’ is an album of the highest integrity, and for the icing on the cake it’s a nice touch that Peter Baltes, for so long one of the lynchpins of Accept, has reunited with Dirkschneider on this album.
‘Touchdown’ - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5bfVyWcaH8
‘Forever Free’ - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSoMZ3g5FcQ
‘Fight For The Right’ - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djP4REKX6dM
Sticking with ever-reliable German acts, PRIMAL FEAR are back in the racks after the enforced hiatus following July 2020’s ‘Metal Commando’, and album which went Top 10 in their homeland. ‘Code Red’ (Atomic Fire, 1 September) marks the return to action of co-founder/bassist/producer Mat Sinner after a serious illness which, it was famously reported, left him in eight hospitals over eight months, and although their fourteenth studio album doesn’t really break any new ground, it’s no slouch either. Aside from the tasty three-guitar attack courtesy of Tom Naumann, Alexander Beyrodt and Magnus Karlsson, the band’s other trademark is the immense voice of Ralf Scheepers, whose delivery on this release is exemplary. In the press release Sinner is quoted as saying “I actually think this is Ralf’s best performance so far,” and on the evidence here it’s impossible to argue with that sentiment. Of course, if classic German metal doesn’t float your boat ‘Code Red’ won’t change your mind, but with offerings like ‘Bring That Noise’ and the towering ‘The Gods Have Failed’ shedloads of fans are going to be more than happy.
‘Cancel Culture’ - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0RdyH99LsQ
‘Another Hero’ - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUISvCi3hyA
‘Deep In The Night’ - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7mT9i7_PnU
‘Paramount’ was SIEGES EVEN’s second album after the band’s wilderness years (a review of ‘The Art Of Navigating By The Stars came up a while back), and it is a creative masterpiece. Fluid and flawless musicianship flows through the album’s ten structured and painstakingly constructed compositions which twist with time changes and push beyond genre-defining conventions. At the more metal end of things, a point of reference is Fates Warning: heavy but calculated, blistering but tempered, and always gloriously melodic. Check out the likes of ‘Duende’ or opener ‘When Alpha And Omega Collide’. At the other extreme, ‘Paramount’ straddles the prog metal/prog rock divide, and nowhere is this better illustrated than in the final pair of tracks: ‘Mounting Castles In The Blood Red Sky’ is an excerpt of Martin Luther King Jnr’s epic “I Have A Dream” speech set against a laid-back groove, with a brooding, harsh staccato riff breaking the tranquillity early on and a simple piano refrain playing the song out; and the title track features a crushing riff, samples of President Kennedy’s aspiration to send a man to the Moon and sax solo. It’s clever, it’s beautifully performed, and, in particular, Menses’ vocals are spine-tingling at times. This very welcome re-issue by Golden Core adds a bonus track, a single edit of ‘Eyes Wide Open’.
Fans of THE UNITY are aware of the Germans’ sense of humour, so while ‘The Hellish Joyride’ (SPV, 25 August) opens with a bombastic piece of nonsense it’s immediately back to business with the gloriously pounding and aptly-named ‘Masterpiece’. The immeasurably-talented band – seasoned musicians, all – have the knack of coming up with heavy but accessible power metal outings, and it’s one of those eternal head-scratchers as to why they are not considerably better known. ‘The Hellish Joyride’ is their fourth studio album (‘The Devil You Know – Live’ is also well worth a mention) and they just keep getting better and better, as the likes of ‘Only The Good Die Young’ and ‘Always Two Ways To Play’ so ably demonstrate.
‘Always Two Ways To Play’ - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=da2XYJdTMTA
‘Saints And Sinners’ - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WqIsaDSyaKc
Formed in British Columbia in 1999, 3 INCHES OF BLOOD only recorded five albums in their relatively brief lifespan, a number vastly outweighed by the revolving door of musicians that passed through their ranks. ‘Here Waits Thy Doom’ and ‘Long Live Heavy Metal’ were the Canadian’s final two releases, issued in 2009 and 2012 respectively by Century Media, and thanks to Golden Core these are now available once more as limited edition LPs. Both are exceptionally good offerings – with a title like ‘Long Live Heavy Metal’ you pretty much know what you’re going to get before the stylus hits plastic – and, for those heretics who don’t have a record deck, quite often full CD re-issues do follow Golden Core’s LP releases. Both albums feature the original digipack bonus tracks, which in the case of ‘Here Waits Thy Doom’ are covers of Blue Öyster Cult’s ‘Cities On Flame...’ and ‘Not Fragile’ by Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Fabulous.
‘Metal Woman’ - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Y8xwttdjCc
‘Silent Killer’ - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Awk8RlFo6I8
© John Tucker September 2023