REVIEW: U.D.O. – “We Are One”
It’s good to start things out by saying that ‘We Are One’ is not a typical U.D.O. álbum. Rather, it’s a collaboration between the band and the Musikkorps der Bundeswehr, the renowned Concert Band of the German Armed Forces, which is comprised of over 40 musicians.
Udo Dirkschneider (who needs no introduction to you, reader, I hope) presents, together with the concert piece under command of Lieutenant Colonel Christoph Scheibling, a rather unique musical project. All songs have been developed and arranged by U.D.O. together with Christoph Scheibling. The two former Accept musicians Stefan Kaufmann and Peter Baltes (who also don’t need introduction) have been part of the songwriting too – as well as the German Armed Forces’ composers Guido Rennert and Alexander Reuber.
So, you see, this could be classified as the whole “metal meets orchestra”, despite the promo sheet stating that this is far from the truth. However, Udo and the company take a different and rather bold approach to the songwriting and lyrics parts. The songs here are about some of the challenges humanity is facing today, like climate change (“Future Is the Reason Why”), the worldwide refugee movements (“Here We Go Again”), the school strikes for climate (“Children of the world”) and the pollution of the environment (“Mother Earth”). Also, the track “Pandemonium” sees both parties, U.D.O. as well as the German Armed Forces, taking a clear position against society‘s right-wing, and “Rebel Town” is a homage for 30 years reunited Germany.
Now that all the pretty information is out of the way, let’s go to what matters. The music itself ranges from a weird “Pirates of the Caribbean-meets-Russian folk” and some interesting elements from U.D.O.’s mid-career like ‘Thunderball’ (2004) and ‘Mastercutor’ (2007). Much like both albums, though, the songs fall short of being interesting enough to be considered great.
There is the occasional headbanging moment and even some borrowed elements from Udo’s time with Accept (Baltes and Kaufmann certainly had importance here) like in opener “Pandemonium” and “We Strike Back” (best song of the album BY FAR), who are definitely worthy of praise. The majority of the album ranges from mediocre to decent, and there are even some awkward moments such as the bizarre “Blindfold (The Last Defender)”.
Despite some evident flaws, the collaboration doesn’t turn into a trainwreck and there is a good balance between metal and orchestrated elements. They end up complementing themselves in a good way, more like in an ‘XII’ by Rage and less like in every other symphonic metal band’s “let’s try too hard to sound erudite” album.
At the end of the day, I think ‘We Are One’ is set to make the German charts, but it could end up only attracting hardcore fans of the short vocal legend. Again, this is not the U.D.O. we are used to, but even if you listen to this open-minded and as it should be – a semi-metal collaboration – there is still not enough here to keep you hooked. I applaud the lyrics and the whole concept, but the execution is just ok.