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Something old, something new - 94%

kluseba, September 3rd, 2012

After the somewhat lovelessly compilated "Home At Last" EP that featured three rehashed live songs, a good title track and two rather generic and powerless songs, I was a little bit secptical concerning the release of this new full length album that mostly deals with Greak culture, history and mythology. Soon, I realized that my worries weren't justified as the legendary German heavy metal institution delivers easily one of its best records of the last years. I would even go as far and say that this brand new powerhouse is the band's most amazing release since the dark, epic and experimental "Heart Of Darkness" record almost twenty years ago despite many very solid albums that appeared since then such as the powerful and diversified "Knights Of The Cross", the epic conceptual work around the "Rheingold" saga or the somewhat dark and gripping "The Last Supper".

From the first moments on, this record exactly hit my nerve. It starts with a very atmospheric introduction called "Charon" on which one can hear the charismatic and crispy vocals of Michael Robert Rhein who is the frontman of the successful German medieval rock powerhouse In Extremo and a close friend to the band. The bleak German vocals get you just in the right majestic atmosphere before "God Of Terror" offers a great mixture of typically teutonic up tempo riffs and a catchy and epic chorus but als some surprising elements such as an unusual opening riff and some weird keyboard sounds in the unchained instrumental middle part of the tune.

This mixture of old and new stands for the entire release. Mediterranean folk influences in epic mid or slow tempo hymns meet charismatic clean vocals in the outstanding album highlights such as the atmospheric "Medusa" and the enchanting and slightly floating "Call Of The Sirens" with some intriguing keyboard sounds crowned by an epic chorus that makes me think of a mixture of "Keeper Of the Holy Grail" of the great "Knights Of The Cross" album and "Crucified" from the outstanding "The Last Supper" record. Another highlight is the vivid folk influenced bonus track "Saints Of The Broken Souls" that is worth the purchase of the limited edition alone. Grave Digger always had the tendancy to put some of their best tracks on the special editions and a true fan shouldn't miss them out.

Another truly outstanding track is the closing single "Home At Last" that has a chorus written for eternity. This track is a true grower that gets better and better each time you listen to it. The song somehow reminds me of Gary Moore's famous "Over The Hills And Far Away" but this is the only negative aspect I could point out in here. I must admit that the German version of the track entitled "Zurück nach Haus" that is also included on the special edition works even better. This future live classic with a simple but truly emotional and highly addictive chorus stands in one row with classic songs such as "Heavy Metal Breakdown", "Rebellion (The Clans Are Marching)" or "Ballad Of A Hangman".

In the end, there is not one single bad track on the entire record that varies well between the band's typical trademarks such as simplistic heavy metal riffs, catchy choruses with epic feelings and the unique chrispy vocals and some new stuff such as a more important role played by the keyboards, some Mediterranean folk influences and more introspective and atmospheric moments as on the last releases. The only negative thing one could mention is the fact that some guitar riffs sound too similar to the classic stuff we have already known from this band and that a couple of tracks are too much influenced by things where the band has been before but this is also what makes the typical Grave Digger sound and this problem has already been more frequent on past records. Another stunning aspect is the fact that the vocals are performed with a more and more frequent German accent as if the singer's English skills would decrease instead of getting better as time goes by. One can describe these vocals as charismstic but I would also understand somebody who might argue that they are slightly flawed as the hard and forced pronounciation sounds mildly amusing at times.

In the end, I would like to bring one suggestion for the band on the table if they might read these lines one day: "Charon" and "Zurück nach Haus" are two of the best songs musically and lyrically in here and it would be great if the band was able to write and record an entire album in German one day.