September 11, 2018 Grave Digger – The Living Dead (Album Review)
While some musical trends have come and gone over the last forty years, classic Heavy Metal styles such as Power and Speed Metal have been steel-hearted participants that not only marked their territory, but prove they are here to stay. Germany in particular has been known for their contributions to Heavy Metal movements with bands such as Helloween and Running Wild, to name a few.
Among the highest ranked would be Grave Digger, a semi-underrated band with roots dating back to 1980. While others such as Judas Priest may have been more popular in paving the way for Heavy Metal, Grave Digger was right behind, only to be also outshined by their German neighbors Blind Guardian for a while in the beginning. Fast forward to 2018, Grave Digger are as well know as can be in the Metal community as they return on Friday, September 14, 2018 with a slightly unusual new album titled The Living Dead through Napalm Records.
Led by Vocalist Chris Boltendahl since the start, Grave Digger has stayed strong throughout, but more than a few changes in forty years can be expected; including the recent departure of longtime Drummer Stefan Arnold who makes his final appearance with the band on The Living Dead. Fortunately, age and time has not slowed down Boltendahl, who is as vital as ever with support from former Running Wild Bassist Jens Becker, Guitarist Axel Ritt, and Keyboardist/Drummer Marcus Kniep. Proving to be prolific and enthusiastic, The Living Dead comes just one year after Healed by Metal, offering eleven new tracks, including a bonus, that have plenty of bite to go along with their bark.
Starting it all off, “Fear Of The Living Dead” launches with a little Horror-style keyboard melody before jumping into typical Grave Digger Power Metal wall of sound. Right after, “Blade Of The Immortal” brings on a classic ’80s feel, although, it translates to modern day in a very timeless way, serving as an anthem style jam, setting boundaries for its listeners. After some fascinating guitar work, “When Death Passes By” changes up the tempo a bit with some of the harsher guitar and keyboard tones mixed with speedy background riffs, matched by Boltendahl’s iconic deep, powerful vocals. As mentioned earlier, a bit of a different album, upon first listen, “When Death Passes By” appears out of place, but after a few more listens, it finds itself right at home.
More traditional, “The Power Of Metal” is a classic heavy jam in the style of an over-exaggerated Judas Priest. Not a bad thing, it still keeps its own stylistic approach and would be killer to hear live. Midway through it all, “Hymn Of The Damned” and “What War Left Behind” provides some of the most creative keyboards and guitars on the album. This is before “Fist In Your Face,” which punches out some stellar solo work that similarly appears in the most random and dynamic places throughout The Living Dead. As a finale and an oddity, “Zombie Dance” has a cultural Punk and Folk dancing flare to it thanks to collaboration with their labelmates Russkaja.
Standing outside their comfort zone, Grave Digger has really pulled off some tough feats with The Living Dead. Even the bonus track, “Glory Or Grave,” speaks volumes about the band’s essence and drive to bring fans something new and exciting after eighteen previous works – by no means an easy task.
As a follow-up to their fun and more classic speed-styled 2017 album Healed by Metal, The Living Dead has a few interesting twists and genre mashups that seem to be a risk worth taking. Obviously, with a name like Grave Digger, they want to stick to their Heavy Metal zombies, witches, and warriors subject matter, but daring to do something different, musically, they step outside of the box with some of these new tunes. Therefore, as a whole, The Living Dead is full of variety dosed with surprise. In the light of new discoveries and surprises, CrypticRock gives this album a 4.5 out of 5 stars.