Grave Digger – Healed by Metal Review

Released by: Napalm Records

Release Date: January 13th, 2017

Genre: Heavy/Power Metal

Links: http://www.grave-digger-clan.com/

 

Line Up:

Chris Boltendahl – Vocals

Axel “Ironfinger” Ritt” – Guitars

Jens Becker – Bass

Marcus Kniep – Keyboards

Stefan Arnold – Drums

 

Tracklist:

  1. Healed by Metal
  2. When Night Falls
  3. Lawbreaker
  4. Free Forever
  5. Call for War
  6. Ten Commandments of Metal
  7. The Hangman’s Eye
  8. Kill Ritual
  9. Hallelujah
  10. Laughing With the Dead

 

There are some bands that it seems time itself can’t slow down in the least, one of those being German heavy/power metal band Grave Digger. As 2017 kicks off, the band is approaching 37 years of activity, and unlike many bands their age who tend to slow down over the years and take more time in between albums, they have been consistently releasing at least one album every two years since the release of The Reaper in 1993. Their upcoming release Healed by Metal represents their longest gap in between new albums since then, coming roughly 2 and a half years after their previous release Return of the Reaper, and yet no one can claim the band has been inactive in between, because in late 2015 they released Exhumation – The Early Years, a re-recordings album of tracks from their first three albums. With that being said, the quantity of albums wouldn’t matter much if the band was releasing crap, but surprisingly their past few full lengths albums have been quite strong, with Return of the Reaper in particular being very much on par with some of their best works, so I was excited to hear Healed by Metal, and once again the band has delivered the goods, and produced an album that’s sure to please longtime fans.

The band appears to be in a very celebratory mood at this stage in their career, as recent albums like The Clans Will Rise Again and Return of the Reaper have felt like obvious spiritual successors to past releases (Tunes of War and The Reaper respectively) and of course Exhumation was the biggest example of this, and while Healed by Metal doesn’t feel like an obvious reference to any particular release, it definitely follows their recent trend of sticking very close to what’s worked for them in the past. If anything, I’d describe it as feeling like a mix between the raw energy and intensity of their first three albums and the more melodic, mature sound of some of their recent albums, so in that regard, it feels like an even leaner, meaner follow-up to Return of the Reaper. And indeed, it is a very lean album, clocking in at just over 36 minutes if you don’t include bonus tracks. It makes great use of that time, though, featuring the usual mix of speedy power metal tracks and slower heavy metal tracks, though I’d say it leans a bit closer to the traditional heavy metal side of their music than some of their past few albums have. It’s definitely their hardest hitting album in quite a while with some very powerful riffs at times, and yet it still has some very catchy and melodic choruses, and so it feels like they struck a nice balance.

Obviously, one element that has always separated Grave Digger from other power metal band’s is the voice of Chris Boltendahl, who helps give the music an extra edge with his very raw delivery, and this is as true as ever on Healed by Metal, though at times he does sound a bit lighter and more melodic than normal, especially on tracks such as “When Night Falls” and “Call for War”, where he delivers the choruses very smoothly, by his standards. As always you can tell Chris is having a ton of fun with the material, and really at this point, he is definitely one of the biggest reasons why the band can keep going on and producing great album after great album this late in their career.Grave-Digger Grave Digger - Healed by Metal ReviewThe album gets off to a bit of a slow start with the title track, which I find to be one of the weaker songs on the album, though it still has some good parts. Its main riff is quite interesting and has a little bit of a southern rock touch to it, while the verses are slow paced but pretty fun. Its biggest weakness is the bland, repetitive chorus which doesn’t work for me at all, but otherwise, it’s a fairly solid classic feeling heavy metal track. Likewise, tracks like “Ten Commandments of Metal” and Laughing With the Dead” are slower paced and can get a bit silly with the lyrics and vocal delivery during the choruses, but they’re still mostly fun and provide some solid classic heavy metal, with the latter probably being the best of the group.

The first highlight on the album is “When Night Falls”, a much speedier, very hard hitting track that has some energetic verses, before speeding up and allow Chris to deliver some huge vocal lines during its soaring chorus, which is probably my favorite part of the album. It definitely feels like a classic Grave Digger track in the best way possible. Similarly, tracks like “Lawbreaker”, “The Hangman’s Eye”, “Kill Ritual” and “Hallelujah” are all the kind of fun, up-tempo tracks that should please the power metal crowd, and they all have a mix of great riffs and melodies, with “Kill Ritual” in particular having one of the most fun and addictive choruses on the album and probably being my favorite of the group. The album features no ballads or anything really experimental, though the mid-paced tracks “Free Forever” and “Call for War” feel a little more toned down and more focused on melodies than the rest of the album, and both tracks feature some fantastic vocal work from Chris, with the latter in particular being one of his finest vocal performances in quite a long time, while the former has a very nice guitar solo in the middle and a nice acoustic vocal section.

Overall, Healed by Metal doesn’t bring much new to the table, but what it does bring is several more excellent tunes that nail the balance between classic heavy metal and power metal Grave Digger have had since The Reaper, and it very much feels like it could stand toe to toe with their classics, just like its predecessor. While I wouldn’t quite rank it up there with Return of the Reaper, because it has a high percentage of tracks that don’t quite knock it out of the park for me, it’s still a very fun, hard-hitting album with a ton of energy behind it, and I definitely expect it to please longtime fans of the band. Highly recommended for any fans of power metal and heavy metal who like to have more of an edge to their music, as it gets pretty heavy and intense at times, like all Grave Digger albums.

 

Reviewer: Travis Green

Rating:  8/10

 

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