FFO: Metal, Orchestral Metal
By Justin Smulison
U.D.O. and the Musikkorps der Bundeswehr
We Are One
AFM Records/Soulfood Music
The latest from U.D.O. certainly is a standout from the rest of the metal band’s discography. We Are One, available via AFM Records features 15 tracks which aim to inspire and unite a world on edge through a combination of traditional metal, speed metal and classical music.
Udo Dirkschneider, notably the original voice of Accept and U.D.O., is joined on We Are One by Musikkorps der Bundeswehr, the official German Armed Forces Concert Band. This unique collaboration peppers the album with an almost-cinematic feel as Dirkschneider delves into global topics, including socioeconomic unrest, environmental issues and immigration crises. The album is not built around the gravelly singer cursing at the powers that be; Musikkorps adds a grandiose layer of theatrics and precision, reinforcing the lyrics’ urgency with music that often sounds like battle hymns.
Such an ambitious pairing does require more compromises and musical risks than a typical U.D.O. album would normally allow. For example, the approach forces the band to slow the pace, reaching mid-tempo at its fastest, with one exception, “We Strike Back.” However, reducing the speed gives the players in the band and orchestra a chance to fully realize musical themes and melodies that might otherwise have been an afterthought. “Future Is The Reason Why” is one of the most successful results of the collaboration, its lyrics tackling climate change and the impact on the next generation, while featuring a brass and woodwind melody which elevates the song into a heavy metal march. Clearly that tune and others, like the title track, “Pandemonium” and “Mother Earth,” were not written for just a metal quintet. A majority of the songs seemed to have been composed with this hybrid template in mind, while retaining fist-raising choruses, hard-driving guitar riffs, danger, attitude and fun.
In addition to two instrumental interludes, Dirkschneider duets with Hamburg-based singer-songwriter Manuela Markewitz on “Neon Diamond,” who also assumes lead vocals on “Blindfold (Last Defender).” Another notable duet is the funky rap-inspired “Here We Go Again,” featuring Dirkschneider’s son and U.D.O. drummer Sven Dirkschneider on co-lead vocals. The song resembles a state of the world address that, being backed by group vocals and a stellar horn section, emits influences from Run-DMC or even James Brown.
Had We Are One been released in another era of Dirkschneider’s four-decades-long career, it may not have been as impactful. But since this monumental undertaking was released against the backdrop of a global pandemic, protests and marches, the album provides a poignant soundtrack.
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Justin Smulison is a professional content writer and producer whose first love is music. Smulison’s digital and print copywriting experience spans music, law, true crime, advertising and real estate, among other subjects. You can often find JS in Long Beach, New York, either running on the boardwalk or in the sand with his family.