Ballads Of A Hangman

Grave Digger

GRAVE DIGGER belong to the core of the German Metal scene among RAGE and RUNNING […]
By Dimitris Kontogeorgakos
January 8, 2009
Grave Digger - Ballads Of A Hangman album cover

GRAVE DIGGER belong to the core of the German Metal scene among RAGE and RUNNING WILD. These bands gave Noise Records the publicity we all know, establishing Germany as one of the strongest 'powers' in the World Metal map. GRAVE DIGGER got in the scene back in 1984 with fast Heavy Metal and the Udo-like vocals by Chris Boltendahl. Chris had a high pitched screaming voice that gave (and still does) the band a distinct and definitely standing out sound.
Time passed and GRAVE DIGGER evolved by introducing an Epic backbone to their music reaching to the milestone of Tunes OF War (inspired by the story of Braveheart). After this significant publicity boost the Germans released two more concept albums Knights Of The Cross and Excalibur just before the record label change. The band added Manni Schmidt (ex-RAGE) in the lineup keeping a strong bonding to the German Metal scene foundations since Jens Becker (ex-RUNNING WILD) was already with them.
So, in the beginning of 2009 we will have a brand new GRAVE DIGGER album that is actually the debut for Napalm Records. Personally, I was very curious to see what will happen with the Teutonic Metal band since Liberty Or Death did not tell me much and -to be honest- I believe that it was made to satisfy the previous record deal.
I cannot tell whether it is a concept album although judging by the song titles it seems there is a main theme. Nevertheless, the album kicks in with the trademark GRAVE DIGGER way; slow and hum-along melody that prepares you for the German Metal assault. The Gallows Pole seems to be the perfect live gig intro with tension building clean guitar arpeggio and Chris' signature vocal timbre. Ballad Of A Hangman flows as the logical continuation with a solid galloping guitar rhythm, a harsh old school scream and an addictive GRAVE DIGGER chorus. I think the new record deal breathed a fresh breeze upon this one; there is an energy flow through the honest perspective of GRAVE DIGGER that was greatly missed in the previous almost 'plastic' and definitely predictable album.
Although, Manni has been with the band since 2001 with The Gravedigger album (excellent one!) he kind of failed to add some of his one style in the music. But this time, Manni puts some of his RAGE days with distinct solos and phrases that actually fit perfectly to the classic DIGGER sound. Musically, the album stand closer to Excalibur with fast tracks like Sorrow Of The Dead where the vocal vs rhythm guitar duel underline the tag 'Teutonic' Metal in its all grandeur.
As the album progress it becomes clear that the fresh breeze I mentioned earlier is mainly due to the guitar driven melodies that look towards the Symphony Of Death era. The hearty dual guitar harmonies in Grave Of The Addicted and the ACCEPT-like groove in The Shadow Of Your Soul and the already known melody of Pray are the first points that will stick in your mind after the very first auditions. Of course the ballad-like Lonely The Innocence Dies with Chris' expressional performance that is backed up by Veronica Freeman of BENEDICTUM is just a sight for sore eyes (ears). I always enjoy meeting new ideas by bands that actually are known for the trademark and 'rare' to change sound. Obviously, GRAVE DIGGER are still evolving adding new stuff here and there without falling of the Metal steamroller they started almost 25 years ago. This is the best way to start a New Year!

8 / 10


"Ballads Of A Hangman" Track-listing:

The Gallows Pole
Ballad Of A Hangman
Hell Of Disillusion
Sorrow Of The Dead
Grave Of The Addicted
Lonely The Innocence Dies
Into The War
The Shadow Of Your Soul
Funeral For A Fallen Angel

Grave Digger Lineup:

Chris Boltendahl - Vocals
Manni Schmidt - Guitars
Thilo Herrmann - Guitars
Stefan Arnold - Drums
Jens Becker - Bass
Hans Peter Katzenburg - Keyboards

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