A few months back, we gave a five star review to an audio only version of this event. Now, thanks to the kind efforts of a fine fellow working with the label in question, we have the full physical package in hand…meaning it’s DVD review time.
Preliminaries having presumably already been dealt with in our earlier discussion of the material in question, let’s focus in on the visual aspect, shall we?
So here’s what you get. In addition to a 2 CD version of the audio as reviewed previously, the DVD offers several surprising audio options (PCM stereo, DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1) and a crisp digital cinematography which suggest the sort of attention to audiovisual generally reserved for the world of opera.
Veteran frontman Udo Dirkschneider, now in his sixth decade and closing in on his fourth decade in recording, looks pretty good for somebody the age of – let’s be honest – your grandfather. Sure, he may have added a few inches to his ever stocky frame, but let’s face it – can your grandpa pull off leather pants and a vest with this much panache?
Yeah, he’s looking pretty damn good, and the gravel and gargled glass vocals the man’s been known for since – think about this – 1979 (!) remain as vibrant and undiminished as ever. He sounded the same on Animal House, and that’s talking almost 30 years ago!
While rhythm guitarist Andrey Smirnov more or less camps it up for the spotlight, looking for all the world like a skinny version of Paul “HHH” Levesque by way of Maiden’s Dave Murray, Kasperi Heikkinen (does that make him CM Punk?) plays it a little closer to the vest, barely mugging and striking poses while rooted in place even during his flashy modern metal leads (which we get to appreciate both in closeup and in a very in your face, crystalline sound mix).
Longtime Dirkschneider sideman Fitty Weinhold, looking more than a shade HHH-like himself (so what is this, the U.D.O. wrestling tour?) doesn’t get much of the limelight, preferring to more or less hide out stage left, off camera more than not. He only really comes out front and center and perks up toward a the end of the affair, during a buddy guitar thing with Heikkinen on “king of mean”. All three of them seem to be having a good time, at least, remaining all smiles throughout.
Oddly, the most somber of the group is Mohawked now-former drummer Francesco Jovino (currently of Alex Beyrodt/David Readman Whitesnake tribute act Voodoo Circle), whose face generally betrays a mixture of being overly serious if not totally pissed off and perhaps a tad bored, despite having what is often the busiest chair in any given band (after all, who works up a bigger sweat or remains in constant motion more than the sticksman?) and the unusual, arguably once in a lifetime nature of the event.
To be fair, he does finally crack a smile at the end of the show, during the last few bars of “animal house”, but that grin was a loooong time coming…perhaps it’s no surprise that the man would move on shortly after this show.
But U.D.O. fan or no, the real draw here is the Marinemusikkorps Nordsee alluded to in the package’s title, or to put this into English, the German Naval Orchestra. Unlike similar but far less well integrated collaborations between metal bands and traditional orchestra (such as Satyricon’s Live at the Opera, just for the most recent example), someone actually sat down and took thought as to how to make the two very disparate sound palettes of heavy electronic music work in successful interplay with a large acoustic based classical ensemble with conductor, vocal choir and large scale symphony orchestra.
Hell, it’s dead obvious that somebody actually sat down and wrote proper arrangements, which should say it all right there…
Fellow veteran Doro Pesch of Warlock and her own subsequent solo career drops by for “dancing with an angel”, also still looking pretty damn fine for a road worn touring musician of her vintage, and it should be noted that much of the orchestra – who appear onstage alongside the musicians rather than being relegated to orchestra pit or buried in shadows backstage, mind – appears to be having as good a time as Udo and our three axemen. Not only smiles that occasionally spread from ear to ear, but even an instance or two of light headbanging going down!
Rock on, guys.
Look, you’ll never top Udo’s classic Accept albums and Animal House – for all the merits of his subsequent solo material, and there are many, those records are legendary for a reason.
But this is one of the best blendings of heavy metal and traditional orchestra ever caught on tape, and even a crusty old symphony orchestra conductor and the notedly curmudgeonlike Herr Dirkschneider himself are clearly having the time of their lives…particularly during cheesy big band bounce number “cut me out” (which features a sax solo!) and the dueling banjos…well, accordion vs. classical guitar intro to the bombastic “trainride in Russia”.
We already gave the audio portion of this package rave reviews this past August, but as expected, the visual element…not to mention the vastly improved sound…have only increased my estimation of this event and the musicianship involved.