After touring Australia and Japan as well as kicking off this year's festival season by introducing new bassist Peter Baltes last month, U.D.O. — the heavy metal five-piece led by former ACCEPT vocalist Udo Dirkschneider — let the next cat out of the bag today: In between various live activities throughout the year, the band have been very productive having recorded a massive, 13-track album, at various locations. Crafted with producer and mixing engineer Martin "Mattes" Pfeiffer at Redhead Studio (Wilhelmshaven, Germany) and mastered by Stefan Kaufmann at ROXX Studio (Solingen, Germany),"Touchdown" is scheduled to land in the end zone of the heavy metal world on August 25 through Atomic Fire Records. The record also includes a guest appearance by violinist Stefan Pintev on the closing track, and bass tracks were recorded by Baltes. Artwork was provided by Martin Häusler who was also responsible for shooting band photos in support of the new album campaign.
"Touchdown" track listing:
01. Isolation Man
02. The Flood
03. The Double Dealer's Club
04. Fight For The Right
05. Forever Free
07. Sad Man's Show
08. The Betrayer
09. Heroes Of Freedom
10. Better Start To Run
11. The Battle Understood
12. Living Hell
The LP's first single, "Forever Free", as well as album pre-order options, will become available on Friday, June 23.
Last month, Baltes officially joined U.D.O. and DIRKSCHNEIDER, the two bands fronted by Udo Dirkschneider. The former ACCEPT bassist had been playing bass for U.D.O. since last September, initially as a temporary replacement for U.D.O.'s then-bassist Tilen Hudrap who was hospitalized after the band's show in Munich, Germany.
Baltes said in a statement: "Since my departure from ACCEPT, I kept myself very busy writing and recording for film/TV productions and various artists around the globe. That's how I reconnected with Udo working on his solo album 'My Way', the U.D.O. album 'We Are One' and the DIRKSCHNEIDER & THE OLD GANG album 'Arising'. Since Stefan Kaufmann [guitar; ex-ACCEPT drummer] was also involved, it all had a very familiar feeling. That's why when Udo called me in September to fill in for his injured bass player I did not hesitate. The set list had mostly U.D.O. songs which I was not familiar with and a few ACCEPT tunes. When I arrived in Berlin a few days later for the first show, I was nervous and had no idea what to expect. But as soon as we all took the stage standing next to Udo, it felt like home: His voice took me right back to where it all began. It was a total surprise for the audience at first, but as we played on I realized they were as happy as I was to see Udo and me together again. Over the next three months, I really got to know Sven [Dirkschneider, drums], Dee [Fabian Dee Dammers, guitar] and Andrey [Smirnov, guitar] as extremely talented musicians but also as very humble and respectful guys. It all feels very authentic. That made my decision to say 'yes' very easy when Udo asked me to join the band permanently."
Dirkschneider added: "I have a very long friendship with Peter Baltes which has never been shadowed by the disagreements with ACCEPT over the past few years. The arguments were exclusively with another person and his wife. It should be clear to everyone who is meant! All other ACCEPT members have always been united in friendship.
"It meant a lot to me when Peter spontaneously helped us out on some U.D.O. tour dates last year. From the first day, I experienced the great feeling and trust from the past with him again. A feeling that always connected us throughout the years in ACCEPT.
"I'm aware that Peter had many lucrative offers from other bands on the table, all of which he had turned down over the years. To be honest, he can't earn these sums with us. It means even more to me that he still decided to stay with U.D.O. and to also join DIRKSCHNEIDER as bassist. This shows me that he has a real metal heart beating in his chest and that friendship and fun are more important to him than money. Thank you, Peter!
"We are very happy that after so many years you are finally having fun on stage again!"
DIRKSCHNEIDER is the name of Udo's band which performs ACCEPT material exclusively.
Although Udo announced eight years ago that his initial DIRKSCHNEIDER tour would mark his final time performing ACCEPT songs, he has continued to play select shows under the DIRKSCHNEIDER banner.
Udo previously spoke about his renewed collaboration with Peter in a March 2023 interview with Australia's Silver Tiger Media. He said: "Yeah, [Peter] was helping us out on [U.D.O.'s] European tour and South America. Our [previous] bass player Tilen, he had a serious health problem. He was collapsing in Munich at a show [last September]. And then for us, it was, like, 'What can we do? Stop the tour or try to get a [new] bass player?' I was already in contact with Peter. I did together with him a classic album with the German armed forces, and we did [the] DIRKSCHNEIDER & THE OLD GANG [project], so I was in contact with Peter. Then I called him and said, 'Peter, I have a problem — a serious problem. I need a bass player. And maybe can you help us out?' And then he said, 'Yeah, okay. Give me one day.' And then he said, 'Yeah, I'll do this.' And it was a lot of work for him to do all these U.D.O. songs. And then he said, 'Yeah, I'll help you out, as long as you're looking for a new bass player.' But we will see. I get the feeling that he wants to join the band. And he had so much fun. He said, 'Wow. This is great. I have so much fun with this band. It's really nice.' We will see."
Udo went on to say that he is "happy" to be playing with Peter again.
"Peter is a great bass player — for me, one of the best in heavy metal," Dirkschneider said. "He's a legend. And of course, I worked with him for a very long time together. He's a good singer, he's a good songwriter. Maybe we will see what the future will bring. So, you never know."
Udo also touched upon the fact that the current lineup of ACCEPT only features guitarist Wolf Hoffmann from the band's original incarnation.
"I don't wanna say anything wrong, but I think now we [in U.D.O.] are more ACCEPT than ACCEPT is at the moment," he said. "There's only one [original ACCEPT member] left [in ACCEPT]; that's Wolf Hoffmann. So, [it's] interesting — yeah, very interesting."
In March, Baltes said that he was "extremely unhappy" toward the end of his four-decade tenure with ACCEPT. The 65-year-old German-born musician discussed his decision to leave ACCEPT in an interview with Scott Itter of Dr. Music. He said: "The statement that came from the band literally five minutes after I announced that I'm leaving [back in November 2018], that I wanna spend more time with my family, well, that wasn't true. No, no. I was extremely unhappy. And I found out a few things. I'd been in the band forever, and I found out in the end, in this incarnation of ACCEPT, I wasn't even really a member; I was a hired gun. And it's these things that come out where you don't have any input, insight, and you start getting bitter. And there's no reason to, but somebody else's ego is just so big or whatever — two of 'em — that it just takes them there, and they just need to control everything and have everything and you name it. That's what got Udo out back then, and I think in the end it hit everybody. So I was the last one standing, but I couldn't stand it anymore. I needed happiness in my life, and there was no happiness there. It was just a dead horse. So I left after the tour. And in my case, it was the best I ever could have done."
Baltes also talked about what it was like to play bass for U.D.O. on the group's fall 2022 European tour.
"In retrospect, when I stepped on stage in Berlin [in September 2022] with Udo after so many years — the last time was 2005, I think — it was a moment that I can't even describe it," Peter said. "We went on stage first, and then Udo comes, and he starts singing. And the first note brought me back instantly to our days when we played little clubs. The man is such a legend, and his voice… And it's nothing to do with you're short, you're tall, you're fat, you're skinny, none of that — you're in shape or you're not — none of that matters to me, to him and the audience. [What is important is] when something is authentic. And that's what got me at that moment. I was, like, 'Man, this is the real deal.' I wasn't used to that; I wasn't. I totally forgot. And you can into this where you think, 'We've been doing this all our life.' No, we didn't. We played kind of like it, with people that kind of sound like it. But no. He's the real deal, and the power that comes out of his voice is second to none. Sheer power, meaning volume, power. Bruce Dickinson [IRON MAIDEN] has power. When he sings, you can see it — he has power. Some singers, they have power. And Ronnie [James Dio] had power. Udo has power. That's certain power that just captivates you in your ears, in your stomach, and you go with it."
Baltes was replaced in ACCEPT by Martin Motnik.
Two years ago, Hoffmann was asked by SiriusXM's "Trunk Nation With Eddie Trunk" if he had had a chance to talk to Peter since his departure from ACCEPT and if he had gotten clarification on why Baltes left the group. Wolf said: "No, man. That's kind of the sad part about it. He kind of made that decision alone, and we never really had a sitdown and a man-to-man talk that I was hoping we'd have. He just announced it to the world, and that was it, and at that point, it was almost too late. I have to respect his decision.
"I miss him very much, and I think he's always gonna be my buddy or whatever," Wolf continued. "But right now, we don't really have much in common. Because when somebody leaves the band, it's usually that we never really see them much again, as sad as it is. I wish we would, and maybe one day we will. But right now, we don't, really. But we didn't have any fights or anything. I can only speculate why he left the band, but I'd rather not."
Hoffmann was also asked if he was surprised to see Baltes working with Udo on some new music in 2020. He responded: "Yeah, I probably shouldn't say much about that. Again, I can only speculate what that was all about. At the end of the day, we do our thing, and everybody has to know for themselves what they wanna do. Yeah, let me not say as much about that as I can, please."
In January 2021, Hoffmann told Australia's Metal Mal that he was "a little bit heartbroken" when Baltes left ACCEPT. "I felt it was not only a sad day for ACCEPT, it was also a sad day for rock and roll, or heavy metal, in general, because I thought we were gonna be doing this until the sun goes down — I don't know; until forever," he said. "But he all of a sudden decided otherwise, and he made that decision, and that was it. And that's sad, but what can you do, man? I decided, along with everybody else, the show must go on, and we continue without him. So this is what we did. And here's the new album — without Peter. But it's still sad. I still miss him sometimes. It's just the way it is."
In November 2019, Hoffmann told Powermetal.cl that he no longer kept in touch with Baltes after the bassist exited the group a year earlier. "Unfortunately, when somebody leaves the band, they're always kind of out of sight, out of mind," Wolf explained. "It's very sad. I wish it wasn't that way, because we've been friends for so long. But the reality is I haven't really heard from him — even though I reached out a couple of times. He's almost like he wants to disappear or he wants to leave the music business altogether. It's sad and I still don't quite understand what really happened. But it is what it is, and we move on."
Three years ago, Baltes and former ACCEPT drummer Stefan Kaufmann were part of the songwriting team for U.D.O.'s album called "We Are One", a collaboration with Das Musikkorps der Bundeswehr, the military band of the German federal armed forces.
Photo credit: Martin Häusler