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Grave Digger

The Grave Digger

Review by Mike Korn

I don't know what it is about German bands that makes them so tenacious, but Grave Digger are another example of the hardy Teutonic breed that has produced long-lasting bands like Running Wild, Helloween, Kreator and Sodom. These fellows landed on the burgeoning metal scene with a bang back in the early 80's with their superb "Heavy Metal Breakdown" LP, which combined Accept-style crunch with the thrash metal that was on the rapid rise at that time. Despite an awful lapse where the band changed their named to "Digger" and tried to go commercial, Grave Digger has been a pretty steady presence since that first album. Lead by their gravel-throated singer Chris Boltendahl, they churn out a rough and ready brand of power metal with a lot of speed and heaviness but still hearkening back to a time before extremity was an overriding prerequisite in heavy metal.

"The Grave Digger" (the title of which I'm sure they spent many sleepless nights coming up with) is the latest example of their craft. While it won't set the world on fire with originality, it's a good one to crack a brew open to, slap on that old leather jacket and headbang with. The Accept feel is still there and Boltdendahl's ragged, slightly fruity vocals are still an acquired taste. One big drawback to the band is the proliferation of clunky choruses they have. The awkwardness might have something to do with a language problem, I don't know, but it does hamper the album.

Based on the works of Edgar Allen Poe, a writer who has had his fair share of metallic fans over the years, "The Grave Digger" is a solid, if not spectacular, example of prime Germanic steel.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2002 Year Book Volume 2 at

Track by Track Review
Son of Evil
A sparse piano intro leads into a heavy crunchy riff, and Chris' rough vocal growls. You either love him or hate him. The band's awkwardness with vocal hooks is obvious pretty early on.
The Grave Digger
The pace picks up a little bit here for this speedy but measured attack. There's some really powerful riffing on both the pre-chorus and chorus and this is one of the few tunes here with a very strong and memorable vocal hook.
Spooky organ playing provides the intro for this full-blooded cruncher based on Poe's classic tale of madness and obsession. The chorus is clunky yet memorable despite that.
Scythe of Time
The band shows their bluesier and deeper metal roots here, with a slower pounding track with a heavy Accept influence. Again, the language barrier raises its ugly head, as Boltendahl pronounces "scythe" as "skythe".
Spirits of the Dead
Killer butt-kicking speed metal is on display here with one of the albums top tracks. It's a really powerful tune to get the blood pulsing quickly in the metal fan's veins. It includes some really noisy guitar mangling in the mid-section - cool!
The House
This one begins as a ballad, with Boltendahl trying his more "human" vocals, before a choppy moderate riff kicks in with plenty of keyboard backing. It's not bad to start with but drags on a bit too long.
King Pest
This is what heavy metal is all about, super catchy and aggressive metal, played with speed and fire. The best tune on the album, this is sure to get your head banging.
Sacred Fire
They return to the slower, bluesier mode for this tune. There's a bit of an Ozzy feel to this one.
Funeral Procession
This has a bit of a more modern touch to it than the rest of the album. It's heavy and chugging but on the average side.
Haunted Palace
More speedy metal on display, this is not bad but not great either, and it features another clunky chorus.
This is the album's ballad but I rather liked it despite my distaste for sappy stuff in general. Maybe the necrophiliac lyrics helped! Chris' vocals are almost sweet and the song builds very gradually from its gentle beginning into a heavier phase. It is a fine example of the heavy metal ballad.
Black Cat
This will be a bonus track on most copies. A typical Grave Digger rocker, this one is rather average, sporting a pretty horrible chorus hook.
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