U.D.O. DAS MUSIKKORPS DER BUNDESWEHR
WE ARE ONE
Released on July 17, 2020 (AFM Records)
Although I had bought U.D.O.‘s last studio album Steelfactory (2018) and reviewed the group’s prior record Decadent (2015), listening and purchasing U.D.O. studio albums had not been a regular occurrence for me over the last couple of decades. The reason for that is that although Accept‘s former lead vocalist Udo Dirkschneider usually has a couple of very good tracks on each of his studio albums, the quality of the songs in my view can vary tremendously. I wasn’t planning on purchasing We Are One and especially since it was in conjunction with the German Armed Forces‘ orchestral band. My thoughts were that it’s one thing to listen to a band’s songs that you already know backed by an orchestra (such as what Metallica did with S&M and S&M2) but it’s a lot tougher to enjoy a group’s newer songs with an orchestra to boot.
I had resisted purchasing We Are One despite really enjoying the title track that felt more uplifting than the usual U.D.O. fare. However, towards the end of the year, I started noticing that We Are One was making quite a few “best of” lists for 2020. To be honest, I couldn’t recall ever seeing an U.D.O. studio album make it on so many “best of” lists so I decided to take the plunge and I am very happy I did. We Are One is for the most part a fantastic album. It does kind of slow down a little bit towards the middle but there are definitely some incredible songs on it. The highlights are the title track and “Future Is The Reason Why” which are both upbeat numbers and work very well with the orchestra’s classical music. In fact, I think these are two of U.D.O.‘s best songs that I have ever heard.
Interestingly enough, it appears that there were a couple of “writing teams” for We Are One. The first one consisted of former Accept band members Stefan Kaufmann and Peter Baltes. The second one was the Dirkschneider father and son combo (Udo and his son Sven) along with the band’s longest tenured member (aside from Udo) — guitarist Andrey Smirnov. The third one was the Dirkschneider father and son combo once again with new guitarist Fabian Dee Dammers. If I hadn’t checked who wrote which songs, my money would have definitely been on the Kaufmann / Baltes writing team. As I flipped through the CD booklet (something that you can only get by buying the physical product which I still love to do), I was almost shocked to see that the writing team that had written the two best songs on We Are On was Udo Dirkschneider, Sven Dirkschneider and Andrey Smirnov. I hope that this writing team reconvenes in the future because “We Are One” and “Future Is The Reason Why” are exceptional and head above shoulders with respect to the other tracks.
To my surprise, the songs penned by the writing duo of Kaufmann and Baltes are probably the weakest on the album with the exception of the stellar Helloween sounding at times “Love And Sin.” The opener “Pandemonium” and the heavy on the orchestra “Rebel Town” are quite good too. To be fair to Kaufmann and Baltes, they ended up writing about half the songs on We Are One while there are only five tracks written involving Udo and Sven Dirkschneider. I don’t know how the writing process went with incorporating the parts from the German Armed Forces‘ Concert Band but I find that there is a real cohesiveness between the music from the U.D.O. band and what the Concert Band bring to the table. Even the instrumental “Natural Forces” which appears to be without the U.D.O. band really rocks or at the very least fits right in onto the record. That’s more than what can be said for Metallica‘s S&M2 where the orchestra backing feels like overkill on many songs. We Are One is full of surprises with even a saxophone solo on the very good track “Neon Diamond.” I am not sure why singer Manuela Markewitz needed to be on so many tracks on the album but she does provide a little change of pace on the record with her voice.
Overall, We Are One is a very good record that will get many more spins from me in the future. My enjoyment of We Are One caused me to seek out and purchase U.D.O.‘s CD/DVD Navy Metal Night where the band was backed in a live setting by the German Naval Orchestra Marinemusikkorps Nordsee. I highly recommend We Are One as it is an excellent showcase of what heavy metal and classical music can sound like together when done properly!
02. We Are One
03. Love And Sin
04. Future Is The Reason Why
05. Children of The World
06. Blindfold (The Last Defender)
08. Mother Earth
09. Rebel Town
10. Natural Forces
11. Neon Diamond
12. Beyond Gravity
13. Here We Go Again
14. We Strike Back
15. Beyond Good And Evil
Udo Dirkschneider – vocals
Andrey Smirnov – guitars
Fabian Dee Dammers – guitars
Tilen Hudrap – bass
Sven Dirkschneider – drums
Concert Band of the German Armed Forces
Manuela Markewitz – lead vocals (6, 11, 15)
Tim Schmitz – saxophone solo (11)
Thomas Zõller – bagpipes (12)
Harrison Young – piano (6)
The Choir – Manuela Markewitz, Inka Auhagen, Mennana Ennaoui, Marlene Pfeiffer, Stefan Mageney, Boris Delic, Peter Baltes, Sven Dirkschneider and Stefan Kaufmann
Produced by Stefan Kaufmann, Stefan Reich and Mattes
Mixed by Stefan Kaufmann, Alexander Reuber and Mattes
Mastered by Stefan Kaufmann and Alexander Reuber
Reviewed by Olivier for Sleaze Roxx, January 2021
U.D.O. Das Musikkorps der Bundeswehr‘s “We Are One” video:
U.D.O. Das Musikkorps der Bundeswehr‘s “Neon Animal” video: