Album Reviews

Grave Digger – Return of the Reaper Review

gravedigger_cover

Released By: Napalm Records

Release Date: July 11, 2014

Genre: Heavy/Power Metal

Links: http://www.grave-digger.de/home/

 

Line Up:

Chris Boltendahl – Vocals, Bass

Axel “Ironfinger” Ritt” – Guitars

Jens Becker – Bass

H.P. Katzenberg – Keyboards

Stefan Arnold – Drums

 

Tracklist:

1. Return of the Reaper

2. Hell Funeral

3. War God

4. Tattooed Rider

5. Resurrection Day

6. Season of the Witch

7. Road Rage Killer

8. Dia de los Muertos

9. Satan’s Host

10. Grave Desecrator

11. Death Smiles at All of Us

12. Nothing to Believe

 

Love them or hate them, one thing’s for sure: Grave Digger is a truly dedicated band, with a huge passion for pure classic metal. After 34 years and 15 albums, they’re still going strong and they show no signs of quitting any time soon. Aside from a brief break in the late 80’s/early 90’s, they have consistently released a new album every year or two, and while some have been more thoroughly enjoyable than others, they’ve all contained their share of memorable moments. With their 16th album on the horizon, the band seems to be picking up steam again, after struggling for a little while following my personal favorite album Rheingold. The Clans Will Rise Again was a solid album and a nice homage to the classic Tunes of War, while Clash of the Gods was simply a great album from top to bottom. I was a little nervous going into this one, when I heard they were looking to bring back the sound of their first four albums, since I tend to prefer their more melodic albums or their more inventive albums (Rheingold in particular has its own distinct feel,) but my worries soon went away as after one listen Return of the Reaper had already proven to be their best in 11 years.

One thing that needs to be cleared up: No, this isn’t actually a recreation of their first three albums, not even close. I honestly don’t know what they were talking about with that, but whatever. It does, however, bear strong similarities to their fourth album The Reaper, to which it’s clearly a sequel of sorts, and I suspect fans of the original will also love Return of the Reaper. The thing is, their only big change in style came after their little Digger one off experiment, which clearly didn’t work out, and from that point on they switched out of their initial heavy/speed metal style into more of a raw power metal sound with varying amounts of heavy metal on each album. While this album has more rawness and aggression compared to their last few albums, it’s still in the same style they started in the 90’s:It just sounds closer to the earlier variations of it than it does their later albums, like the more laid back and melodic (by their standards) Clash of the Gods or the more epic and experimental Rheingold. Basically, this is still the same old hard hitting and energetic Grave Digger from the original Reaper album, but with more slower songs mixed in. As much as I liked their last album, it’s clear the band sounds more fired up on this one than they have in a long time, and even the slower songs are surprisingly good for the most part, while the speedier songs are as awesome as always.

The one part of Grave Digger’s sound that initially turned me off was the voice of Chris Boltendahl. He has an extremely raspy tone that brings a certain roughness to their brand of power metal. At first I found him to be a bit irritating, but over time I have grown to like him, and he is in good form once again on this album. As always, fans should know exactly what to expect from him, but his delivery is always very powerful and very passionate, so even if he is more than a bit one dimensional, he remains the heart and soul of the band.

After the title track proves to be a typically bland intro, the real opener “Hell Funeral” comes in and kicks ass. It’s very raw, intense and has an extremely catchy chorus that instantly draws the listener in. After that the album only gets better, with the high energy “War God” increasing the tempo, and its repetitive chorus is performed with so much intensity that it never gets old, even if it mostly is just the title being shouted a bunch of times. Next is “Tattooed Rider”, which is also a lot of fun, but after that we start getting songs that are even truer to the spirit of The Reaper. Songs like “Resurrection Day”, “Road Rage Killer” and “Death Smiles at All of Us” show the band playing with more energy and with more aggression than they have in quite a long time, with the first two of those especially feeling like they could have been re-recorded tracks from the original.

Out of the slower songs, “Season of the Witch” sounds the most modern and really could have come from any of their more recent albums. Not that I’m complaining, though. It’s actually one of their better slower songs, with the chorus being especially strong. More impressive is the incredibly epic “Grave Desecrator”, which I find to be the most addictive song on the album. On a somewhat surprising note, they decided to end the album with the ballad “Nothing to Believe”, which is only surprising because they tend to not be very good at ballads, and yet this one is somehow an instant winner, with Boltendahl sounding surprisingly strong on the chorus. He does sound like he’s stumbling through the verses just a bit, though. The only song I don’t really like is “Dia de los Muertos”, but even it is still pretty solid, and I honestly think part of my reason for not liking it as much much is me being too big a fan of HammerFall’s song with the same name, and hoping this one would be similar, when it’s really a much slower song.

Overall, Return of the Reaper is the freshest, most aggressive, and most fiery Grave Digger album in over a decade. Fans of The Reaper are sure to love this one, as it is stylistically very similar, while any fan of more raw sounding power metal and traditional heavy metal who somehow hasn’t heard a Grave Digger album before is also highly recommended to give it a listen.

 

Written by Travis

Ratings    Travis    8/10

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