Metal Purists, U.D.O., Accept Fans Alike Will Enjoy Dirkschneider & The Old Gang’s Debut Record

Courtesy: AFM Records

When U.D.O. released its then latest album, We Are One last year, that record proved to be one of the highest musical points for the metal masses.  For all that record did to make 2020 at least a little better amid the negatives caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it apparently ended up having a latent effect.  It led front man Udo Dirkschneider and some of his fellow former Accept members to get together to craft a spinoff record of sorts in the form of Arising.  Released late last month through AFM Records under the moniker of Dirkschneider & The Old Gang, the three song record that offers engagement and entertainment for a wide range of audiences.  That is proven in part through its musical arrangements, which will be discussed shortly.  The record’s lyrical content adds its own appeal to the presentation and will be examined a little later.  The record’s production puts the final touch to its presentation and brings everything full circle.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the record.  All things considered, they make the record another of the best of this year’s new EPs.

Dirkschneider & The Old Gang’s recently released record, Arising, is a positive new presentation from the group, which also features former Accept members Peter Baltes (bass) and Stefan Kaufmann (guitar) alongside Sinner/U.D.O. guitarist Mathias Dieth and Dirkschneider’s song Sven on drums (U.D.O., Dirkschneider).  Manuela Bibert adds her own powerful vocals to the mix to round out the group.  According to information provided, the record’s genesis came about ahead of the creation of U.D.O.’s latest album, We Are One (2020).  The information cites Baltes as stating that ‘Where The Angels Fly,’ one of the record’s three featured tracks, was originally expected for inclusion in We Are One, but ended up not making the finale.  That song was re-worked, leading to its presentation here and the group’s birth.  The musical arrangement featured in the new, re-worked take of Where The Angels Fly’ and the record’s two other songs, ‘Face of a Stranger’ and ‘Every Heart Is Burning’ serve to form the record’s foundation.  Each work presents a familiar mix of vintage hard rock/metal and power metal.  Each arrangement also boasts its own identity separate and unique from that of its counterparts.  The song that started it all opens with a steady but contemplative guitar line from Dieth and steady time keeping from the younger Dirkschneider.  Instead of his regular gruff vocals, the elder Dirskschneider actually offers a cleaner sound here that will surprise many listeners.  Just as surprising is the result when those clean vocals are set alongside those of Bibert.  The harmony created through that pairing against the rest of the group’s works (especially in the chorus) lends itself to the operatic style work that Queen crafted for the Flash Gordon movie in 1981.  One could even make subtle comparison to works from Sabaton here in listening closely to the whole. 

Similarly, ‘Face of a Stranger’ also features an arrangement whose whole is at least somewhat comparable to works from Sabaton.  The thing here though, is that such comparison is far more subtle.  In the case of this song, the arrangement shows more leanings toward the heavier works of Def Leppard.  It pairs that influence along with Udo’s own work with U.D.O. to make the whole a unique, heavy work in its own right that is just as certain to keep listeners engaged and entertained.

The musical arrangement featured in ‘Every Heart is Burning’ is more pure guitar-based metal.  The vocal layering that creates the choral effect, the guitar, bass, and drums is just pure 80s metal, and not the hair metal stuff, either.  It is as pure as metal can get.  It will have any listener chanting/singing along, pumping his/her fist in the air.  No doubt if U.D.O. takes this one on the road during its next tour, it will be a sure live hit.  Considering that and the arrangements featured in the record’s other two songs, the whole makes clear why the record’s musical content is so important to its presentation.  That content is only a part of what makes Arising so appealing.  The lyrical content that accompanies the record’s musical arrangements adds to that appeal.

The lyrical theme featured in ‘Face of a Stranger’ does well to support that statement.  This song’s lyrical theme is so interesting in that it comes across as someone having an identity crisis of sorts.  The very mention of not recognizing the person “in the mirror” early on in the song makes that clear.  The later note of “Fading oceans of memories/Bring tears of anguish and shame/A song of vanishing melodies/Where days and nights sound the same” points even more in that direction.  It comes across as someone who realizes who and what he has been and is realizing the error of his ways as he knows he has to change.  This is even as Dirkschneider sings about flashbacks and past lives earlier in the song.  It all really comes across more as an allegory that uses the matter of past lives more in a lyrical sense, like the person the subject was, was that past life.  This is all just this critic’s interpretation of course.  Regardless, this lyrical content is certain to generate its own share of discussion and insight.  To that end, it shows in its own way, the importance of the record’s lyrical content.

The lyrical theme featured in ‘Every Heart is Burning’ does its own share to show the importance of the noted content.  The very way in which the lyrics were crafted here read like something right out of an old fantasy tale.  Of course, the song is not that.  Rather, the literary devices that are used here seem to point to its own story of someone trying to be better.  That would go along with the apparent overall theme of Arising especially in the line stating, “The billows of disgorging sin/That wrap him like a shroud/The wicked have no peace within/Their wailings shrill and loud.”  That mention of the wicked apparently not getting into the song’s subject as he disgorges sin points to the subject trying to expel all of that negative from himself.  This as Dirkschneider and company sing in the song’s chorus that “Every heart is burning/But a soul will never die/Every pain returning/Like a lightning raging high” points to that inference even more.  In its own way, that chorus seems to state that while pain will always be there, the soul (that good) will never die.  In turn, the attempt to eliminate that pain and negative will go on, too.  Again, this is just this critic’s own interpretation.  Hopefully it is somewhere in the proverbial ballpark.  Regardless, the very way in which the song’s lyrical content was crafted pairs with the discussion that it is sure to generate and shows in the end once more why the EP’s lyrical content is so important.  It proves in its own way that the EP’s lyrical content will engage audiences just as much as the record’s musical arrangements. 

Much the same can be noted of the lyrical theme featured in ‘Where The Angels Fly’ that has been noted of its counterparts in this record.  In the case of ‘Where The Angels Fly,’ this song seems to emotionally deep.  Again, this is just this critic’s interpretation, but it almost comes across as imagining what the death of a great person must do even to the angels.  This as Dirkschneider sings in the song’s lead verse and chorus, “On the horizon/Where the sea meets night/I see the face of a warrior/We hear them crying/In the fading light/A shadow falls on a foreigner/they long for the distance/They reach for the sky/At the end of a rainbow/Risin’ up high/Where the angels fly.”  Whoever that man who died was obviously was respected.  He adds in the song’s second verse, “They fall in silence/With a saddening sound/Ad all that’s left’s a memorial/The skies still wonder/Neither lost nor found/Remaining humble and glorious.”  Again, this is so mournful, yet also shows reverence.  This one is difficult to decipher even with lyrics to reference.  Baltes is cited in the previously noted press release as saying this song was “withheld with a heavy heart” from We Are One and “too strong to let it gather dust in a drawer.”  That is about the only hint that is given as to the song’s lyrical theme.  Considering that, this song’s lyrical content is sure to create just as much discussion among audiences as its counterparts.  To that end, it shows once more, the importance of this record’s lyrical content.  When the overall lyrical content is considered along with the EP’s musical content, the whole collectively makes for plenty of reason for audiences to hear this record.  Even with all of this in mind, it is not the end of the record’s most important items.  The record’s production brings everything together and completes the presentation.

The production that went into Arising is important because it plays directly into the record’s general effect.  As has been noted in the discussions on the songs’ musical arrangements, there is a lot going on in each presentation.  From the dual vocals to the powerful guitars to the richness of the drums and bass, each composition incorporates a lot of sound.  That means that it would have been easy for the performers to overpower one another even accidentally.  Thankfully, Kaufmann (who produced the record) paid attention to each performer’s part, making sure to balance each line in each song.  In listening to each song, there is no doubt that such work had to have been time consuming.  It paid off, though.  That is because each work is so fully immersive and powerful in its own right, leaving audiences fulfilled just in that aspect.  At the same time, even the vocals are not washed out, so it is at least relatively easy to decipher most of the lyrical content in each song.  When this is considered along with the content and its impact, the whole makes the record a welcome presentation for metal purists, U.D.O., fans, and those of Accept.

Dirkschneider & The Old Gang’s debut record, Arising is an impressive first outing from the group.  Its appeal comes in part through its musical content, which is a solid mix of pure, classic guitar-based metal and power metal.  The lyrical themes that accompany the record’s makes for its own engagement and entertainment.  That is thanks to the way in which it is crafted and its seeming messages.  That content is certain to generate plenty of discussion among audiences.  The record’s production puts the finishing touch to its presentation.  It balances the vocals and instrumentation expertly in each song.  The result is a record that is not only relatively easy to understand in terms of lyrics but well-balanced in its instrumentation.  The result there is a positive general effect.  Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of the record.  All things considered, they make Arising a positive addition to this year’s field of new EPs. 

Arising is available now through AFM Records.  More information on the record is available at https://www.facebook.com/dirkschneiderandtheoldgang.  

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