I had all but forgotten about these guys by the mid-90's until a friend asked if I had heard this album. It had been so long I had forgotten that I had ever even heard it. Once I popped the disc in, I remembered just about every song. Grave Digger's debut sounds a bit dated but I have always held to the belief that good music is timeless. Grave Digger's debut is good heavy metal. OK, perhaps the lyrical themes are a bit rooted in cliché heavy metal imagery, but who cares. In the 80's that's what it was all about. Headbangers united and rocking the world. "Heavy Metal Breakdown" may not be remembered by the masses but to some it's a classic. Count me in with the few.
"Heavy Metal Breakdown" had a separate US pressing on Megaforce Records. The Megaforce pressing omits "2000 Lightyears From Home" and adds "Stormin' The Brain" and "Shoot Her Down". The Megaforce version also has a white outline of the United States on the cover as seen above.
The American vinyl pressing of "Witch Hunter" came with "Shine on" and "Tears of Blood" in place of "Love is a Game" and "School's Out."
Grave Digger - War Games (Noise) 1986
1."Keep On Rockin'"
"War Games" is no where near as important an album as the first two Grave Digger releases. However, it's far from the total travesty that some people make it out to be. I have read that this album received terrible reviews when it came out in '85. Apparently the band was really searching for their sound on this one, hoping for a commercial break-through. With song titles like "Keep On Rockin'" and "Love Is Breaking My Heart" it's no wonder that this album did so poorly among the hordes of heavy metal fans. Still there are some good songs reminiscent of the band's first two, such as "Paradise" and "(Enola Gay) Drop The Bomb". Shortly after it's release, the band changed names to Digger and went for a commercial, pop metal sound. Fortunately it did not work and Digger broke up giving way for a Grave Digger reunion in 1993 with the release of "The Reaper."
After three fairly successful studio albums, Grave Digger dropped the "Grave" from their name and changed the their sound in an attempt to gain more commercial success. Not unlike Raven's "Pack is Back" or Celtic Frost's "Cold Lake", this album is often looked at as the black sheep of their catalog and often forgotten or left off. However, what transpires isn't quite as bad as most would lead one to believe. "Stronger than Ever" an odd mixture of classic Grave Digger heavy metal and melodic, pop metal riffs that works together about as good as oil and water. Chris Boltendahl attempts to sing here and there, drifting in an out of that signature gravely metal sound on each song. There are a few songs that stand out. "Wanna Get Close" and "Moonriders" aren't far off from some of the material on "War Games". Also, "Shadows of the Past" is a fast thrasher with a bluesy bridge that also stands above the pack. Thankfully this half-hearted attempt at pop metal didn't succeed and Grave Digger returned a few years later with some new blistering traditional, power metal.
"Stronger than Ever" is the only Grave Digger album that hasn't seen official re-release on CD. I own the original vinyl release on Noise Records and a bootleg CD copy released by Retrospect Records in 2005. The track listing on the CD and the vinyl are not the same. While it's nice to have a CD copy of this album, the Retrospect Records CD release is a bit lacking. The CD art is dodgy at best with a single page insert that consists of a low resolution scan of the front cover artwork on the outside and the low resolution scans of the band photos on the inside. The sound quality isn't bad but the CD is not mastered properly and will require the listener to crank up the volume a bit. Here's hoping that an official CD release will happen sometime in the future. Until then, I'll have to break out the turntable or make due with bootlegs.
Grave Digger - The Best of the Eighties (Noise) 1993
1. "Heavy Metal Breakdown"
A very good compilation that wraps together the 80's era of Grave Digger quite nicely. The compilation, released in 1992 by Noise Records, contains 2 unreleased tracks, recorded during the 'War Games' sessions (Nov/Dec. 1985). The tracks "Girls of Rock 'n' Roll" and "Don't Kill The Children" are both unique to this compilation. "Tears of Blood" was also recorded during these sessions but was released on the "Metal Attack Vol. 1" compilation as well. Unfortunately they did not release "Shine On," which is the other track from "Metal Attack Vol. 1." "Shoot Her Down" is a B-side track from an obscure single, and one of the more memorable songs on the disc as well. All others songs were from their 3 firsts albums. Whomever put this compilation together did an excellent job of picking out the best tracks from those three CDs, with the first album being the most dominate.
Grave Digger - The Reaper (G.U.N.) 1993
This album was released in 1993 by G.U.N Records and was the bands comeback. This is a fast and heavy album with lots of superb tracks like "Ride On", "The Reaper", "Spy Of Mas' On." There is also a continuation of "Legion Of Lost" that was started on "Heavy Metal Breakdown." The lyrical theme on this album is darker than much of the 90's material, but the music is more of a throwback to the 80's. Still a good disc that will frequent my CD player for years to come.
Grave Digger - Symphony of Death (GUN) 1993
1. "Intro" (:57)
This EP was released in 1993 to support the European "Reaper Tour." Can't pick out a bad song on this one. Every song is aggressive and memorable. My favorite track is probably "Back To The Roots," which is a song about getting back to REAL METAL!!! This is also the first album where the Reaper makes his appearance on the cover. The artwork was created by Andreas Mashall, who will continue to do cover art for Grave Digger for the next few albums. The only thing that could make this particular disc any better is if it also had the cover track "Sin City" (AC/DC) that is only available on the Japanese version of "Symphony."
Grave Digger - Heart of Darkness (GUN) 1995
An excellent heavy metal platter from the newly reformed Grave Digger (actually in '93). Everything about this disc is high quality, from the song writing to the production. Vocalist Chris Boltendahl sounds as good as ever with his unique blend of harmony and street level grit. "Heart of Darkness" is an excellent epic metal song that has touches of progressive metal without losing one ounce of aggression. One of the things I like best about Grave Digger is that they have not forgotten what the HEAVY in heavy metal is for. "Heart of Darkness" is yet another great disc since the band's comeback..
Grave Digger - Tunes of War (GUN) 1996
I've got to say, what caught my attention right away was the cool intro and outro, mixing bagpipes with power metal chords. Gotta love that. Anyhow, this being the first album I have heard from the resurrected band, I was quite impressed. Grave Digger have joined the ranks of fellow German bangers Rage and Blind Guardian, creating excellent true metal for new generations (and for old guys like me.) Excellent power/speed metal.
Grave Digger - Knights of the Cross (GUN) 1998
1. "Deus to Vult"
Grave Digger continues to impress with high caliber heavy metal. Once again, this disc is a concept album. This time around the storyline is based around the rise and fall of the Order of the Knights of Templar during the Middle Ages. Basically what you have is a history lesson set to some powerful speed metal. "Knights of the Cross" is one of Grave Digger's finest and certainly one of the top German metal discs of 1998.
This album was also released in a digipack version in Germany that came with "Children of the Grave" (Black Sabbath) as bonus track. The Japanese and South American versions came with "Kill the King" (Rainbow) as a bonus.
"Excalibur-The story of King Arthur and the Round Table. A metal opus in twelve chapters." Imagine Rage mixed with Savatage with Lemmy on vocals doing an epic story. That's the closest thing I could come up with to describe this excellent power/speed metal feast. The music is dynamic, yet still heavy and contains enough musical and lyrical hooks to hold my attention for the length of the disc. There are tons of fast songs with quick double bass, but there is also the contrasting mellower, melodic parts as well. As seems to be a trend with German bands like Rage, Blind Guardian and Running Wild, there are symphonic elements mixed into the music. In this case, to give the songs a "medieval" flare. Germany seems to have a plethora of this type of speed metal, a style I love and one that is absent from the U.S. market. The Japanese version of "Excalibur" has the added bonus track "Rat Pat Blue" (Deep Purple).
Well, wouldn't you know, the US finally catches on and releases this disc a year after it came out in Germany. Anyhow Nuclear Blast America re-released "Excaliber" in digi-pack format with a bonus track called "Parcival" (4:58).
Grave Digger - The Grave Digger (Nuclear Blast) 2001
1. "Son of Evil"
Without a doubt, I have loved each of the band's past albums, each becoming frequent players in my CD player. The last disc I thought was unbelievable. I was wondering how they would top it. Well, suffice it to say that THEY DID! Musically the band stays pretty true to their sound, dynamic power metal but this time around they have added some 'Painkiller'-like speed metal numbers. Of course all this is assuming that you like the stylistic vocals of Chris Boltendahl. Unlike the last three full length albums, this CD doesn't seem to be a concept album. I really enjoyed the past history lessons. The lyrics on this disc, however, are darker than anything the band has done before. Apparently Chris was heavily influenced by the writings of Edgar Allen Poe on this disc. The limited edition digi version of this release contains a bonus track and a slick black cover with a debossed logo and reaper. The regular cover is inside the disc on the front of the booklet.
Grave Digger - Tunes of Wacken-Live (GUN) 2002
1. "Intro" (2:19)
I think this album was released simply as a way for Grave Digger to fulfill their contract with GUN. Unfortunately that means, skimpy packaging. Despite that minor complaint though, this is a spectacular live album featuring material from almost all of the band's 90's releases. With the exception of "Heavy Metal Breakdown", nothing was included from the band's 80's releases. Still, I think their 90's material is their best anyhow. Songs like "The Reaper," "Lionheart", "Knights of the Cross" and "Morgan Le Fey" really come to life and are full of energy. The in between song banter is interesting as it is all in German, which I cannot understand a word of. Sounds a bit odd to me, but still sort of cool. The crowd really seemed to be into the performance as well, singing along and shouting out loud. The production is excellent as well. Can't really find anything bad about this disc, other than I would have liked to have had some live photos and a bit more information in the booklet.
Grave Digger - Masterpieces (GUN) 2002
Very cool, limited edition collector's disc. The disc is two sided, one side plays on a CD player, the other side plays on a DVD player. Have never seen a disc quite like that before. The disc comes packaged in a digi, but for some reason has a very cheap insert. 4-page insert with no liner notes, no history, just ads for other Grave Digger albums. The song selection here is awesome, taking from every one of Grave Digger's albums with GUN Records. The three selections from the band's early 80's albums are all the re-recorded versions off the "Dark of the Sun EP". Since most of Grave Digger's albums in recent years have been concept albums, it's interesting to hear the tracks apart from their story. Many of them hold up quite well on their own. The videos are professional, with the first three being MTV type videos, and the last eight tracks being live video footage. The DVD is formatted for European DVD players but plays well on a PC that has DVD capabilities. Another Christmas present from the Metal Giant. (Thanks bro.)
And Grave Digger continues their plight down paths of power metal, this time telling the story of the Rhinemaiden and the dwarf. The storyline is based on "The Ring/Saga of the Nibelungs" opera by Richard Wagner. Once again, Grave Digger continues to dominate my CD player as this CD remained in it for a long time. Tracks like "Valhalla" and "Twilight of the Gods" sticking in my brain like super glue. Ex-Rage guitarist Manni Schmidt brings in a new sense of aggression to Grave Digger, pushing some of the songs to the boundaries of speed metal. "Rhinegold" is a bit faster than past Grave Digger discs. Chris' signature vocals are well in place, although they seem a bit more toned down and clean than in the past. I have the special edition digi-version from Germany. The limited edition digipak version contains two bonus tracks following the storyline: "Hero" and closing ballad "Good-bye". "Rheingold" will become one of my favorite discs of 2003. It's a power metal masterwork! (thanks a ton Olaf)
Grave Digger - The Last Supper (Nuclear Blast) 2005
I was a little taken back when my good German friend told me about the topic matter for the new Grave Digger CD I was curious if this would be a CD that would disappoint me due to the nature or if it would make a band I already love even more appealing. First of all, on first listen the music sounded fantastic! I know that doesn't really say much, but Grave Digger have never disappointed me. The Middle Ages Trilogy (Tunes of War, Knights of the Cross, Excalibur), The Grave Digger, and Rheingold were all impressive and all dominated my CD player for months following their release. Grave Digger had found their niche as a heavy force in power metal. They know what they do and they do it well. I've read some reviews claiming that Grave Digger have "sold out" and have gone "mainstream rock". One review I read even said that "they went all rock'n'roll on us...this isn't metal...this is slummy biker bar rock". What CD is this guy listening to? he Last Supper" is heavy metal through and trough. The difference is that there are some more melodic moments spattered throughout this CD than past discs. "Divided Cross" is a perfect example of this more melodic nature. This song has some beautiful melodies, a great chorus and is one of the albums finer tracks. However, that is not to say that there isn't plenty of full speed songs as well, after the mid-paced opening, the band tears into the title track. "Desert Rose" has the distinction of sporting one of the finest guitar riffs in the Grave Digger catalog. Another standout cut is "Grave in the No Man's Land". This song is a bit more simplistic than some of the other tracks but is no less effective and works well. Honestly, I don't think there is a bad track on this disc. Even the ballad, "Always and Eternally" works well. Chris Boltendahl gravely voice sounds great on this song. So what of the lyrical content? Well, unlike many reviewers are claiming I don't think this CD is a concept album. While several of the tracks are about the Christ, there are others that don't seem to fit in the context of a storyline at all, such as "Black Widows". However, I must say I was pleased that a band is singing about Jesus in a positive, historical light instead of blindly taking stabs at the most important historical figure in the history of man. Chris digs down deep and really attempts to capture the emotion of what Jesus might have been thinking and going through during the time before and during his crucifixion. So, all in all, "The Last Supper" is yet another fine addition to the Grave Digger catalog. The limited edition digipack version contains two bonus tracks no on the jewel case version. (thanks again Olaf)
Grave Digger - 25 To Live (Locomotive/Nuclear Blast) 2005
Recorded live in São Paulo 7th of May, 2005 on "The Last Supper World Tour", "25 to Live" is a super-charged, outstanding live recording. Being a 25th aniversary album, this CD covers songs from most albums of the band's career, save for the Digger album. The band is tight and aggressive, the song selection is outstanding and the audience is even more outstanding. Without a doubt, São Paulo has some insane metal maniacs. As good as "Tunes of Waken-Live" is and as rowdy as that crowd was, São Paulo puts Wacken in their place. The crowd's loud and boisterous enthusiasm is met by an equally energetic band. While the sound has that raw energy that one would expect from a good live album, the overall mix is actually very impressive. Each and every instrument is hear perfectly and the overall sound is better than some studio albums.
Grave Digger - Yesterday (Locomotive Records) 2006
DISC ONE (CD)
DISC TWO (DVD)
The "Yesterday" EP was an pre-release, album teaser for the new "Liberty of Death" CD. I was a bit leery about this one as this is yet another re-recording of a classic 80's Grave Digger song, and a ballad at that. Much to my delight, this new version smokes the original. It's simply fantastic. The production, the playing and even the vocals are just 100% spot on. The EP also contains two non-album tracks, "The Reapers Dance" a new Grave Digger composition and a surprisingly good cover of "No Quarter". Being that Grave Digger is one of my favorite bands, I am not sure why I was so skeptical of the re-recording and the Led Zeppelin cover, but both are well done and make for a good listen. As an added bonus an orchestral version of "Yesterday" is also included. Disc two is a live DVD release recorded at the Rock Machina Festival. This DVD only came with the special edition version of "Yesterday".
Grave Digger - Liberty or Death (Locomotive Records) 2007
1. "Liberty or Death"
Grave Digger are now entering their 26th year of existence. That's pretty amazing for a band that isn't really popular outside their homeland and the metal underground around the world. Despite their long existance, Grave Digger just keep knocking them out of the park, time after time. Their worst release is still good, and their best is outstanding. Their newest release "Liberty or Death" is yet another excellent traditional heavy metal platter. On first listen, I wasn't immediately taken back like I have been on some past Grave Digger albums. However, I kept finding myself wanting to hear it again and again. The sometimes subtle hooks would become more evident with each listen. The more I listened, the more I liked it. Chris Boltendahl's gravely voice is, as always, the signature seal of Grave Digger's sound. His style is such that people either seem to love him or hate him. I personally love it. He may not have the smooth tone or high screams of many modern power metal singers, but he has a style that gives Grave Digger their charm. Unlike on "The Last Supper" he doesn't seem to be trying to shed the whiskey soaked sound that he is so known for. Of course that's not to say that Chris is the band. Guitarist Manni Schmidt lays downs some choice riffs and guitar solos as well. The songs offer a variety of tempos from the mid-paced crunch of the title track to the speedy riffs of "Ocean of Blood" to the melodic "Massada". "Ocean of Blood" in particular will probably be one of Grave Digger's standout cuts. I can't imagine they wouldn't include this song in their set list. Other standout cuts are "Forecourt to Hell" and the Judas Priest inspired "Until the Last King Died".
1. "Pray" (Extended Version) (4:01)
2. "Overkill" (4:33)
3. "My Blood Will Live Forever" (4:02)
4. "When the Sun Goes Down" (3:51)
Pre-release CD EP containing a killer cover of Motörhead's "Overkill" and three original tracks. A shorter version of "Pray" made it's way onto the "Ballad of a Hangman" CD, while the other two tracks are exclusive to this EP.
1. "The Gallows Pole" (0:47)
2. "Ballad of a Hangman" (4:45)
3. "Hell of Disillusion" (3:55)
4. "Sorrow of the Dead" (3:35)
5. "Grave of the Addicted" (3:33)
6. "Lonely the Innocent Dies" (5:46)
7. "Into The War" (3:32)
8. "The Shadow of your Soul" (4:14)
9. "Funeral for a Fallen Angel" (4:30)
10. "Stormrider" (03:17)
11. "Pray" (3:36)
12. "Jailbreak" (3:56)
Grave Digger are a heavy metal institution that has been constructing real heavy metal for three decades. With an arsenal of solid heavy metal albums under their sleeve, there really is no reason for the band to change gears. With the band's 13th studio release they have stuck to their heavy metal guns and have released yet another solid slab of molten metal. However, with "Ballad of a Hangman" Grave Digger have reached back into their rich metal history and pulled out some genuine German speed metal. "Sorrow of the Dead" and "Hell of Disillusion" should leave any long time fan smiling. A few of the songs reminded me of fellow German metal mongers Running Wild. Check out a song like "Stormrider" or "Into the War" and see if they don't bring to mind the German pirates of heavy metal. "Pray" is the most melodic of the bunch, with a sound that is slightly more commercial than the other nine tracks.
As with any Grave Digger album, Chris Boltendahl is the personality behind the music. His unique, raw approach is like none other. His uniqueness really stands out on "Lonely the Innocent" when he shares vocals duties with Veronica Freeman of Benedictum. This song is a bit slower than the majority of the material here but still retains the dark, moody natures of the rest of the album.
It should also be noted that "Ballads of a Hangman" is the first Grave Digger album to feature two guitar players. New guitarist Thilo Herrmann is added to the fold, along with longtime guitarist Manni Schimidt.
The band finishes off the album with a speed metal version of Thin Lizzy's classic "Jailbreak" complete with Chris' gravely vocals and a steady double bass assault. The overall length of this album is just above forty minutes, which I think is a wise decision. "Ballads of a Hangman" leaves me wanting more, rather than being bored halfway though. I think this is a mistake many modern metal bands make. By cutting out all the interludes, instrumental passages and narration that many bands of this nature include now, we are left with just ten songs or raw, crunchy heavy metal that will see spin in my CD player over and over again. (Thanks Olaf)
Grave Digger return in 2010 with a new album and yet another line-up change. Of course, vocalist Chris Boltendahl is the sole original member and longtime rhythm section, drummer Stefan Arnold and bassist Jens Becker remain. Bringing in yet another new guitarist, you might expect a revised sound from the mighty diggers of graves. However, Grave Digger continue to crank out their own unique brand of melodic, German power metal, this time performing a concept album about Scottish history. It seems that "The Clans Will Rise Again" is a pseudo-sequel to one of the band's best known records, "Tunes of War". However, from what I have read, the album is not suppose to be a concept or storylne, but rather a collection of stories about Scotland, it's history, mysticism and it's people. Chris Boltendahl vocals are as characteristic and charismatic as always and are a key ingredient in retaining the Grave Digger sound. His raw vocals are superb in songs like "Execution" and the epic chorus sections of songs like "Spider” and “Coming Home".
The box edition of "Clans" included a pewter Grave Digger necklace (pictured above) and the bonus track "Watch Me Die". (Thanks Olaf)
Grave Digger - Clash of the Gods (Napalm Records) 2012
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