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U.D.O. parts ways with guitarist, announces replacement
Guitarist Igor Gianola has left U.D.O. — the German metal band led by former Accept frontman Udo Dirkschneider — "due to conflicts between band appointments and his private life and business."

The remainining members of the group state: "Since the business of U.D.O. develops and the band tours more and more all over the world, Igor simply wasn't available for so many different long periods. The band respects his decision and wishes him all the best for the future. Igor was with the band since nearly 15 years now and became a very important and highly respected band member. Thank you very much, Igor!

"Thanks to our metal god the band already found a new bandmate: Finnish guitarist Kasperi Heikkinen [pictured below]. Well we can write now that together with our other new guitarist Andrey Smirnov, they are one of the best guitar teams in metal but we don't want to do that because every other band does like this. We're sure you will find out by yourself and than you will write exactly that fact! The band is very happy to have found Kasperi and now the metal machine will go ahead better than ever. Watch out for the Steelhammer!!"

Some personal facts about Kasperi: Kasperi Heikkinen (born August 4, 1980) is a Finnish rock musician, a guitar player and a guitar teacher. He's also the founding member and the songwriter of the Finnish heavy metal band Merging Flare. The group's debut album, "Reverence", was released in 2011 and was highly praised among the critics. His past activities include four studio albums and international touring with symphonic metal band Amberian Dawn, two studio albums with the progressive death metal outfit Elenium, one studio album with traditional hard rock/heavy metal combo Conquest, and various smaller releases such as EPs and singles. Besides that, Kasperi has worked with various tribute bands, including Guardians Of Mankind (Gamma Ray), Vicars Of Hell (Judas Priest) and Macdeth (Megadeth). He has also toured Europe and Russia with German power metallers Gamma Ray.

Igor Gianola has a personal message for the fans of the band: "It was a great time and I want to warmly thank everybody who shared it with me, band members, crew guys, and everyone who supported and worked with us to make it happen! A really big and special thank goes to our fans for their incredible support, you were great!!! Wish you all the best!"

The new U.D.O. album will be released on May 24.

U.D.O. recently announced the addition of guitarist Andrey Smirnov (pictured below) to the group's ranks. He replaced Stefan Kaufmann, who left the group late last year for health reasons.

Stefan will continue to work with U.D.O. behind the scenes and produce other bands at his Roxx studio.

Kaufmann was the drummer for Accept on nine albums but was forced to give up drumming towards the end of the band's initial run due to health problems.

Stefan joined U.D.O. as a guitar player in 1996, following Accept's second breakup, and has recorded nine albums with them.

"Live In Sofia", the new Dvd+Cd and Blu-ray+Cd from U.D.O., entered the Music Dvd chart in Finland at position No. 1 and in Germany at No. 4.

"Live In Sofia" contains footage of U.D.O.'s November 16, 2011 concert at Hristo Botev Hall in Sofia, Bulgaria.

U.D.O. 's latest album, "Rev-Raptor", was released on May 20, 2011 via Afm Records.