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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Grave Digger

25 To Live CD

Review by Gary Hill

A companion disc to the DVD release, this one is a strong live album from a very effective metal outfit. As good as these guys are it should be no surprise that they've been around as long as they have. There are moments here when you'll hear Judas Priest, still others will make you think of Motorhead, but the whole album kicks! While I think that the DVD is the better choice, you can't exactly pop that into your car CD player. So, get the video or get this CD, either one is a great introduction to this band. If you are already familiar with them, then why haven't you picked this up yet.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Passion (Intro)
This is just incidental music as the introduction for the band, along with some audience sounds leading to the group's musical entrance.
The Last Supper
Pounding out right off the bat, this is a pretty standard, but quite tasty metal stomper. It's got an anthemic chorus and the crowd sing along. While there aren't any huge surprises here, there is one mellower segment based on a piano like ballad mode. This one is a potent piece and features a very tasty guitar solo. The song is catchy but also substantial.
Desert Rose
This one fires out incredibly fast and furious. It feels like something that might have been on Judas Priest's Painkiller album. The vocals are more like Accept or Motorhead, though, and there are some textures that could be considered similar to their music, too. This is definitely a screamer.
The Grave Dancer
When the term headbanger was invented I'm guessing something much like this song was what they had in mind. This is really catchy and full of energy. It also has some awesome guitar shredding.
Shoot Her Down
Motorhead is engraved all over this one. It's frantic, furious metal with a raw edge.
The Reaper
The sound of 1970's Judas Priest mixed with a healthy dosage of Motorhead is the overall texture showcased here. It's another strong rocker on a disc that's full of them. These guys really are incredibly capable at producing singalong choruses, and this is just one thing that makes this cut as great as it is. Add in the cool instrumental breakdown and turbo charged jam afterwards and this is one of the highlights of the disc.
Paradise
This is more fast paced old school metal. It's not the most potent cut on show here, but it holds up all right. It would be nice for them to throw something a bit more unique out at this point, but this is strong enough to hold up. The chorus is another catchy one. The slower segment is a nice touch, as is the drop back to more mellow territory (and the hot solo that's laid over top) that comes afterwards.
Excalibur
This has a rawer, more brutal texture and kicks out quite well. The vocals on this one at times move a bit towards death metal, but don't actually get there. This one isn't the strongest track on show here, but its aggressiveness and a very melodic guitar solo keep it from falling into mediocrity.
The House
A more mellow ballad-like texture starts this one off, and the group gradually build this one up. It has a very epic quality to it as it powers up from this basis. It reminds me just a bit of "Screaming In The Night" from Krokus, but is a bit rawer and heavier. While they do stomp out at points, they never move it far from the original motif, making this one enough of a change from the surrounding material to keep the performance fresh.
Circle of Witches
"Circle of Witches" is more frantic metal as it first emerges. They drop it back to some of the most mellow music on the disc for the balladic verse. They power it back out to carry on, though. These guys just don't let up one bit, as this is another killer jam. The guitar solo segment on this one is especially tasty. They move throughout between the mellower and the more rocking in an alternating pattern.
Valhalla
With a title like that, you definitely expect a song to be of epic proportions. What we get is a track that starts off with more frantic riffing. It feels a bit like early Iron Maiden to me. This one is the first track where to me they let it down somewhat. This one is solid and features a motif that seems to combine the aforementioned Maiden with Motorhead and Accept. The problem is, it's just a bit too much same old thing by this point. I suppose part of my issue with the track is that the title gave me some exceptionally high expectations, too. Still, it does feature some tasty guitar work.
Son of Evil
Now this one truly rocks. The guitar sound on this is a screaming, meaty crunch. This one is not all that different in structure, but the delivery is what sets it apart. There is also an awesome little fast paced neo-classical segment that elevates it. A breakdown later with another intriguing guitar solo is a bonus. In fact, this soaring solo might well be one of the best on show here.
The Battle of Bannockburn
The sound of bagpipes begins this one. After this intro they stomp out into another smoking jam. A staggered sort of movement later has a lot more of that Judas Priest texture. This one almost falls into the "too generic" trap, but they pack enough meaty guitar work and singalong vocals into it to keep it from wearing thin.
The Curse of Jacques
I really like the riff that leads this one off, and apparently so does the audience as they sing it along with the guitar. This is another that reminds me of Iron Maiden, in fact even more than anything earlier. As they drop it back towards the melodic ballad-like verse that comparison is even more evident. This is a dynamic and extremely powerful cut. In fact, I'd say it's the best number on the whole album, making it a great choice for the closer.
 
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