To make a connection with one of my favorite childhood books , Alexandre Dumas’ “After 20 Years”, Grave Digger came back to celebrate their 40 years anniversary with a new record, the one who closes the chapter in the trilogy that started back in the 1996 with Tunes Of War (wow, many of you barely made it to kindergarten back then, I feel so old ) and continued with the 2010 follow-up “The Clans Will Rise Again”.
Many will ask a simple and justified question: who the hell these classic heavy metal bands are singing for in 2020 ? Well the answer is simple : for guys my age. We caught the heavy metal microbe back in the days and guess what : is not like Covid-19, it doesn’t just disappear after 14 days. Not even after 14 years. Ok,let’s get back on track. The album starts (Captain Obvious) with a bagpipe intro and whilst I bet there are probably 100 or maximum 200 guys in Scotland who ever heard of Grave Digger, Chris Boltendahl and the company are keen to their storyline and want to get you into the atmosphere of the Highlands. And they succeed, somehow.
The second song of the album is the furious “All For The Kingdom” which I bet will put Chris in real difficulty live because it’s using the highs in his voice (not so many after all )…The song is reminding me that the heavy metal spirit still lives in Germany which is a good thing since the genre is almost dead worldwide. But the song that really revives the “good old times of Tunes Of War” is Lions Of The Sea, an epic, some will say boring song, but the riff and the chorus are really standing for what German Heavy Metal is like : steady, catchy and powerful melodies. Can’t say the same about “Freedom” which seems like a song inserted with the idea “Hey we need 12 tracks on the album, and we have only 10, let’s quickly compose something to fill the gaps”.
The next two are probably the highlights of the album “The Heart Of Scotland” reminds me of the glorious days of “Heart Of Darkness” and the semi-ballad “Thousand Tears” in which Chris is seconded by Noora Louhimo from Battle Beast, very good voice, and guess what : as in Lemmy’s (Motorhead) case, the grasp old voice can be used properly on a slower song with more impact on the audience. Union of the Crown and My Final Fight are just “normal” songs with nothing special following the Grave Digger’s tradition : 3 minutes and something of double pedal drums and double riff guitar. “Gathering of the Clans” is raising the tempo for the Accept-like “Barbarian” which was enjoyable but nothing special, like a 2 euro bottle of wine bought on a promotion day in the supermarket.
Situation changes completely with the title track also starting with bagpipes and continued with a long but not boring at all composition. Actually the opening riff can be used with real success on a TV rock show instrumental bed. A very good and well-settled heavy metal track with acoustic breaks and bridges and a very inspired solo. And the album finishes with an all-the-time epic outro, so you don’t forget what the story was all about. A good album, not something that will stay in your brain for the next years but a good 1 hour stop.
Highlights : Lions Of The Sea/The Heart Of Scotland/Thousand Tears/Fields Of Blood