Atomic Fire
rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. Isolation Man
02. The Flood
03. The Double Dealer's Club
04. Fight For The Right
05. Forever Free
06. Punchline
07. Sad Man's Show
08. The Betrayer
09. Heroes Of Freedom
10. Better Start To Run
11. The Battle Understood
12. Living Hell
13. Touchdown

Good old Udo Dirkschneider. 44 years since the release of the first ACCEPT album, the German legend is still bashing away on the metal frontlines. "Touchdown" is the 18th album under the U.D.O. banner and, notably, the first to feature ex-ACCEPT bassist Peter Baltes. The likelihood that this will be anything other than a red-blooded celebration of heavy fucking metal is, of course, witheringly thin. "Touchdown" does not disappoint.

Recent years have been particularly fruitful for Dirkschneider's band. In particular, both 2018's "Steelfactory" and 2021's "Game Over" were strong efforts that hinted at renewed enthusiasm. With Baltes now on board, the singer has obviously clicked into a high gear, perhaps fueled by memories of those early, glory days with his former band. Regardless, "Touchdown" is the strongest collection of songs he has put his name to since 1991's "Timebomb".

The fun begins with two outright heavy metal anthems. "Isolation Man" is the perfect starting point: gleaming, melodic speed metal, enhanced by that unmistakable Dirkschneider screech. "The Flood" is darker and heavier, with an epic, mid-paced feel. A crystal clear but deceptively heavy production ensures that kick drums kick and guitars shake the furniture, and all is well with the world. Next, "The Double Dealer's Club" is a slightly looser, '80s-style rocker with some sharp guitar hooks, while "Fight For The Right" is an immaculate chunk of trademark U.D.O.; bluster that (somewhat optimistically) proclaims that "good will always win", before soaring off on a mischievous pseudo-classical crusade. Less unpredictable is recent single "Forever Free": a down-the-line sing-along, delivered with loose-limbed flash and aimed squarely at sentimental metalheads everywhere.

Clearly having the time of his (recent) life, Dirkschneider barks and snarls his way through the rest of "Touchdown", evidently secure in the knowledge that his band are masters of traditional metal with a state-of-the-art sheen. From the gritty slapdown of "Punchline" and the rancorous rush of "The Betrayer", to the GRAVE DIGGER-like warrior cry of "The Battle Understood", "Touchdown" is a wildly effective exercise in heavy metal evangelism, performed by tried and tested veterans with nothing to prove and nothing to lose.

As the title track brings things to a close, hurtling along at light speed, one might wonder aloud how Udo Dirkschneider still has the energy for all of this. But he does, and "Touchdown" is an unpretentious, hard-hitting joy as a result.

Author: Dom Lawson
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