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Grave Digger was back in action baby! After the solid speedfest that was the "The Reaper", Grave Digger went into something of a different direction on their 2nd 90's album, "Heart of Darkness". The songs still had the same basic ideas, big choruses and riffs, scorching solos, etc...but they felt different. The songs on here are evil. The themes of this particular album are dark and sinister, arguably more so than any of the group's other albums. They may not be the heaviest tracks on the planet, but the darkness and mood behind each of them make the typical black metal band look like Starbuck's commercial jingle composers.
The band makes a ravaging return here. Chris Boltendahl's gruff yells are in top form, and he mixes in some more shrieks and some of his beloved clean singing as well. This album contains some of Uwe Lulis's finest work; lots of fantastic riffage and highly creative solos all around. Tommi Gottlich's bass is far more up in front here than it was on "The Reaper", and it works wonders for the album by adding a much-welcomed layer of extra heaviness. New guy drummer Frank Ullrich is unfortunately a poor replacement for the talented Jorg Michael; he's a pretty damn standard drummer with standard abilities, though I imagine a drummer of his skills was needed for the album's primarily mid-paced aim.
"Hearts of Darkness" has a total of nine songs, none of which deem any skipping. Not even the instrumental intro "Tears of Madness", which is worth listening to just for how damn creepy it is. This is followed by the wicked atmospheric speed metaller "Shadowmaker" and it's memorable chorus. Other highlights? Well, all of 'em I guess. The short, punchy and aggressive "hate" is pretty badass, and "Circle of Witches" comes with a long but entertaining spoken intro that gives way to more gritty speed metal. The plague-inspired "Black Death" reigns as something of a personal favorite, booming along with its groovish, super-heavy main riff. The fearsome but downbeat "Warchild" starts off with the most startling intro on the album: soft lullaby music, followed by a few seconds of a baby crying, and out of nowhere, a violent gunshot! Enter the fastest song on the album!
Overall, "Hearts of Darkness" is a solid crowning achievement in the Diggers' discography. The bandmates (save maybe for the drummer) are kicking almost too much creative ass on here, and all nine songs are more than worth a few hundred listens. If you want TRULY dark, truly REAL 90's heavy metal done the RIGHT way (I'm talking to YOU Pearl Jam!), then "Hearts of Darkness" is your ticket to the blackness...