GRAVE DIGGER – The Clans Will Rise Again CD
The first thing I noticed about this new release is that guitarists Schmidt and Herrmann have been replaced. The band’s new guitar slinger is Mr. Axel “Ironfinger” Ritt, who use to play with the band DOMAIN. Well Mr. Ironfinger (yes I’m laughing) has some pretty big musical shoes (four of em) to fill. Actually he just has to keep the riffs plus a few solos somewhat exciting which is not very tough to do here. Last year it took a month of listening to their Ballads of a Hangman release before I could write one word for the review about this long time German Power Metal institution. It’s not that I hated or really liked the release but come on its GRAVE DIGGER. Writing about a new release by them is akin to writing about a new SAXON LP. The last time I did a SAXON review was in 1980 for my high school newspaper. Not that we had a hip school (it wasn’t) but they refused my reviews of JUDAS PRIEST, IRON MAIDEN and BLACK SABBATH on the grounds that they didn’t like the (in their opinion) Satanic band names. Whatever, the editorial staff is probably dead by now or should be. GRAVE DIGGER actually started out back in 1980 but I didn’t get into em until seven years later. Today I have three of their releases from the 90s plus the one from last year. They’re not gathering dust but they are buried under a stack of other dinks of the same genre.
OK I’m not a huge fan of the band or the genre (well there goes my free Wacken 2011 tickets) but I thought last year’s release was decent especially for a band that’s had alot of decent releases over their career. The Clans Will Rise Again falls into that same category. Supposedly this is a sequel to their Tunes of War release from sixteen years ago. I wasn’t a fan of that one although I have a friend who considers it their best work plus he likes wearing that Scottish skirt. I’ll give credit to GRAVE DIGGER and that’s they sound a helluva lot better than some of their peers who are still lingering around. Although I haven’t heard that new ACCEPT release but I’ve heard good things so far from fans. Musically Ironfinger has altered the band’s song structure a bit. In the past the band had catchy tunes because they were somewhat borrowed from far more famous traditional Metal acts. I won’t mention any names but with Ironfinger on board it’s alot harder to figure out what or who their borrowing from nowadays. Chris Boltendahl couldn’t hit a high note again even within a studio effects environment but alas he tries anyway. Vocally he’s better off with what he has now (the low gruff vocals) and the background gang shouts cover him well. The audiences like the gang choruses and probably will go nuts if the band tours Scotland. I can just see it. A German band plays songs about Highland history to a bunch of drunken Scottish hooligans. A soccer game will most likely break out during the show.
With any new GRAVE DIGGER release means atleast one cool tune that will overshadow everything else and will stick in your head like a bad commercial jingle. On here it’s “Rebels” and along with it being catchy, Mr. Ironfinger gets to show off with a decent solo. I haven’t checked You Tube yet but if they make a video for a song off this release it needs to be “Rebels”. Unfortunately I’m guessing “Hammer of the Scots” will get the nod for a video even though it’s not an exciting cut. “Coming Home” is a damm good number which should be part of their live set since it has the before mentioned background gang shouts. “Spider” brings back memories from the band’s early releases and “Execution” has a riff which sounds like it was lifted from an English band that has a leather loving singer. So The Clans Will Rise Again has some decent material which will please anyone out there who still plays their 80’s LPs. There’s something missing on here (there is an obligatory ballad and it blows) and that’s the outstanding epic number. The final cut, “When Rain Turns to Blood”, comes close but in reality it suffers from that last song on a release dilemma. After a few listens I found myself just skipping over the boring numbers in order to get to the real stuff. The band does seem to be on a roll since 2003 cranking out releases quite regularly. Maybe if they take a year off and harness the full potential of Mr. Ironfinger, who knows what will come out in 2012. I wouldn’t mind hearing some real German steel.