U.D.O. Take a Brassy Approach to Symphonic Metal on Socially-Minded 'We Are One'

U.D.O. Take a Brassy Approach to Symphonic Metal on Socially-Minded 'We Are One'
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We Are One, the latest outing from teutonic metal legend Udo Dirkschneider, is less a U.D.O. album in the traditional sense and more of a musical collaboration with the official Concert Band of the German Armed Forces (Musikkorps der Bundeswehr). It's a unique approach to metal — even though it's being described as "symphonic," there's no strings, which gives it a more bombastic, Wagnerian, and brassy feel, with trumpets screaming their high notes and heavy use of tubas to heighten epic soundscapes. Additionally, all the tracks were written in conjunction with official Musikkorps composers Guido Rennert and Alexander Reuber, making the collaboration feel seamless, with every part fully complementing the next.

Kicking off with the powerful "Pandemonium" , We Are One has a preachy lyrical style, with "save the world" anti-global warming tracks ("We Are One," "Mother Earth"), songs about self-image in the age of social media, ("Neon Diamond"), and critiques of the atrocities refugees face ("Here We Go Again"). But if you push all that aside, Dirkschneider's trademark high-pitched growl is in fine form. He's more than just an "old man yelling at a cloud" — Udo is trying to tell us something. If you want to listen, it's up to you.

On the whole, We Are One is a distinctly unique offering in the world of metal. The wind ensemble's theatrics have a bit more swagger than a full orchestra would. They approach their arrangements in a more bluesy, jazzy, non-classical way, giving the record a punch that many standard symphonic metal bands are unable to accomplish. There's also some strange instrumental choices like bagpipes and saxophone solos, plus a track that features Dirkschneider trying his hand at rap in what is perhaps a odd tip of the cap to KISS's "All Hell's Breakin' Loose." The guitars also do their part with lots of crunchy riffs and screaming guitar solos, with Udo's son Sven keeping things in the pocket with his capable drumming.

At the end of the day, We Are One isn't a classic, but it does push boundaries musically, and it tries to do the same socially with its progressive lyrics. It's a bizarre record, but given the era that the former Accept screamer comes from, would you expect anything less? In a time when the whole world feels like one big car crash, it's hard to look away from the statement Dirkschneider is making on We Are One. (AFM)