Released By: Rock of Angels Records
Release Date: August 26th, 2022
Genre: Heavy/Power Metal
Chris Boltendahl – Vocals
Axel Ritt – Guitars
Jens Becker – Bass
Marcus Kneip – Keyboards, Drums
1. The Siege of Akkon
2. Battle Cry
3. Hell is My Purgatory
4. King of the Kings
5. Symbol of Eternity
7. Nights of Jerusalem
8. Heart of a Warrior
9. Grace of God
10. Sky of Swords
11. Holy Warfare
12. The Last Crusade
13. Hellas Hellas (Vasilis Papakonstantinou cover)
At this point, the German heavy/power metal band Grave Digger doesn’t need much of an introduction. It’s no secret they’re one of the longest-running, most prolific bands in all of metal, releasing 20+ albums over 42 years, staying remarkably consistent throughout their career, both in terms of productivity and quality. Their 21st full-length release, Symbol of Eternity, is set to release later this month, and unsurprisingly it’s yet another killer album, with very little filler.
The band has been revisiting concepts from past albums quite a bit over the past decade or so, and this continues here, with Symbol of Eternity presenting a return to the Crusades, which of course was the theme of Knights of the Cross, one of their most popular and most highly regarded albums. Personally, while I always enjoyed that album, it’s never been one of my favorites by the band, so I didn’t have as high expectations as I did for the likes of Fields of Blood or Return of the Reaper, but I was hoping the band would keep their string of great albums going. After several listens, I’d say this album meets my expectations, without necessarily exceeding them, and I’d put it roughly on par with Knights of the Cross.
Fans should know what to expect from the overall sound here, which hasn’t changed much over the years. Guitarist Axel Ritt leads the way with some killer riffs and nice melodic guitar work, while Chris Boltendahl’s raspy, powerful voice is holding up just as well as it did on the previous few albums, and the rhythm section is strong, as always. Compared to some of their other classics, I’ve always felt that Knights of the Cross never had any real defining elements, in terms of musical style, and Symbol of Eternity follows suit. By that, I mean where The Clans Will Rise Again, Return of the Reaper, and Fields of Blood all had distinct elements that instantly reminded me of their predecessors, this album plays out more like a “Greatest Hits” sort of album, at least on a musical level. There are quite a few tracks here that instantly bring back memories of some of my favorite hits the band has produced throughout their career, with just a bit of an added modern touch to help them stand out. On the one hand, I’d say this album doesn’t stand out as much as some of the band’s best efforts, but on the other hand, I’m perfectly fine with that, because this is a band that’s been around for several decades, so to hear them still producing hard-hitting metal of this quality is more than enough to keep me satisfied.
There’s a good amount of variety here, with the expected mix of heavy, fast-paced power metal tracks, as well some more mid-paced heavy metal, a couple of slower, more melodic tracks, and a couple of tracks that fall into ballad territory. There aren’t any real experiments or surprises here, but the songwriting is consistently great throughout the album, so fans of the band should find a lot to enjoy. Following a brief intro, the opening track “Battle Cry” is the kind of explosive opener fans would expect, charging out of the gates with fast and furious drumming, thundering riffs, and powerful vocals, before giving away to a chorus that instantly reminded me of “Pendragon”, with how the title is repeated, mixed in with other lyrics, and even the timing feels very similar. The aforementioned track is an all-time favorite of mine, though, so this track feels very nostalgic for me, and the performances and overall sound are fantastic, combined with the nostalgia to make it one of my favorites.
Next is the first single, “Hell is my Purgatory”, another heavy track, which slows down the tempo just a bit, though it still moves along at a pretty fast pace. It’s a very classic Grave Digger-sounding track, fueled by intense riffs, strong vocals, and a chorus that’s fun, but not particularly memorable. There’s a very strange-sounding guitar solo in the second half, which feels like an attempt at neo-classical shredding, but the tone of the guitar feels just a bit off, so it doesn’t quite sound as good as usual, for some reason. Overall, though, it’s a nice track. The band shows no signs of letting up with “King of the Kings”, one of the heaviest tracks on the album, It opens up with a speedy passage, before slowing down for more of a pounding mid-tempo opening verse, then it goes full speed ahead for a glorious chorus, with some of their best vocal melodies to date, as well as some amazing melodic guitar work. The solo here also has a bit of a strange feel to it, but it sounds quite a bit better than the one on the previous track. Overall, this is another one of my favorites on the album.
The tempo drops off a bit for the title track, a power ballad along the lines of “The Keeper of the Holy Grail”. Like that track, it alternates between heavy and calm passages quite nicely and has a dark feel to it, while having a very melodic and catchy chorus, with excellent vocals from Boltendahl, as well as an excellent guitar solo, and a cool reference to “Healed by Metal” right at the end. Following a brief, but a very nice interlude, “Nights of Jerusalem” is yet another heavy hitter, with a dark feel to it, as well as a strong chorus that somewhat reminds me of “Knights of the Cross”. Another big highlight is next with “Heart of a Warrior”, which reminds me a lot of “Death Angel and the Grave Digger”, both with its fiery main riff as well as its chorus, which has the same kind of buildup and delivery, and it’s just as epic here as it was on that track.
For the most part, the pace slows down quite a bit for the final stretch, starting with “Grace of God”. It opens up with a nice, slightly folk-tinged acoustic guitar section, before turning into another sort of power ballad. It’s a bit heavier than the title track, with a slight doom metal feel to some of the riffs, but it has another very melodic, anthemic chorus, which stands as one of the best on the album. One of the more distinct sounding tracks here is “Sky of Swords”, which has a very epic classic heavy metal feel to it. The track moves along at a marching pace, with some nice riffs, a tight rhythm section, and strong vocal melodies throughout, with the chorus, in particular, being another personal favorite. The last real speedy track here is “Holy Warfare”, which has some nice Iron Maiden-style galloping riffs throughout the verses, while the chorus is energetic and catchy. The last original song here is “The Last Crusade”, which unfortunately is also my least favorite. It’s not a bad track by any means, but I find it lacks the energy, riffs, or memorable moments I look for in a Grave Digger track. It’s a slow-paced track that alternates between heavy and soft passages, but while it has a strong chorus, I find the verses plod along without any memorable moments, while musically it’s the least entertaining track here. It’s not the worst track the band has produced over the years, but it feels like a disappointing end to the album.
Or at least it would be, if the band hadn’t elected to include a cover of “Hellas Hellas”, by Greek artist Vasilis Papakonstantinou. The track moves at a fairly fast pace, though it isn’t as explosive as any of the power metal tracks here, and it has more of a classic hard rock feel to it. There’s a lot of energy in the performances, with both Boltendahl and Papakonstantinou himself singing in Greek, and working very well together. It’s a fun track overall, and I’m glad the band decided to include it.
Grave Digger has been on quite a strong run over the past decade or so, releasing one excellent album after another, with their previous album Fields of Blood, in particular, being one of my all-time favorites. While Symbol of Eternity doesn’t quite reach the same level as some of the band’s best works, it’s still an excellent album in its own right, and one that should please longtime fans, while anyone looking for some high-quality, heavy-hitting power metal and classic heavy metal would be well advised to give this album a listen. Even after 21 albums, the band continues to show no signs of slowing down anytime soon!
Written by: Travis Green
My Global Mind – Staff Writer
Travis Green is a Canadian based writer for My Global Mind, with a particular passion for power metal, as well as an interest metal in all its forms.