Album review: GRAVE DIGGER – Return Of The Reaper

Grave Digger - Return Of The Reaper

Napalm Records – Out Now.

With thirty four years of active service and sixteen studio albums under their belts, German Heavy Metal warlords Grave Digger would have been quite justified had they decided to start taking things easy.

Rather than following in the footsteps of many of their contemporaries, undertaking tours to re-live past glories, that is, Chris Boltendahl (vocals) and his well-seasoned troops have decided to soldier on and do what they know best – create new material filled with classic-sounding riffs, harsh commanding vocals and sing-along refrains.

These, my friends, are the very elements upon which “Return Of The Reaper”, the band’s latest studio release, is founded upon.

I have taken part in so many music-related discussions where people have been lamenting the death of classic Metal, with most thinking there is nothing left to play in this genre and, to their defense, sounding original is a tall order.

So what can a band as old as Grave Digger do in this respect? Presumably, that would be to play on its strengths and present its devoted audience with material that is honest in its approach and heavy by in its nature. That is exactly what “Return To The Reaper” is all about!

Following a short intro which features a Metal variation ofs Chopin’s “Marche Funebre”, the album shows its true colours through the dynamic drum beats and crunchy riffs of the up-tempo head banger “Hell Funeral” – a composition which is followed by the equally anthemic “Wardog” and the Judas Priest “Turbo” era influenced “Tattooed Rider”.

While the three minute “Resurrection Day” impresses with its flashy guitar work courtesy of Herr Axel Ritt, it is the dark moody atmosphere and the slow head banging riff of the follow up “Season Of The Witch” which stick tin one’s memory.

“Road Rage Killer” and “Satan’s Host” introduce the second half of the album in dynamic fashion,  and sandwiched  between them is “Grave Desecrator” – a colorful Hard Rock tune whose flair and attitude might just surprise a few of the band’s fans.

“Dia De Los Muertos” can only be describes as the fruit of the unholy union between Motorhead’s “Deaf Forever” and the band’s all-time classic “Grave Dancer”, “Death Smiles At All Of Us” has been created with huge arena sing-alongs in mind while the closing tune “Nothing To Believe” is a classic Grave Digger balled filled with emotional piano tune and dominated by Boltendahl’s trademark harsh vocals.

Just as a leopard cannot change its spots, so Grave Digger cannot play anything other than riff-driven, vocal-focused Heavy Metal.

What is really impressive is that, after so many years as an actively recording and performing band, these fine Germans are still capable of performing their highly energetic and honest sounding music with the passion of a band half their age.

“Return Of The Ripper” is not trying to re-invent the ‘Metal wheel’ – it simply keeps said wheel proudly turning and does so quite convincingly indeed!

John Stefanis

Rating: **** (4.0/5.0)

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