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If Manowar have a heart of steel, then this album has balls of steel! Grave Digger made a comeback of sorts with The Reaper after changing their name back. The Reaper saw the Diggers unleash a speed metal monster of an album. Heart of Darkness is similar to that and both albums were released as Parts 1 & 2 as The History double disc. If you find them in that format, then get it as both albums are Grave Digger at their peak.
Heart of Darkness is not of speed metal nature as much asThe Reaper, rather the songs are more consistent and contain a truckload of memorable mid-paced riffs! Album starts off with a little instrumental intro which links with the outro from The Reaper. Then we get to “Shadowmaker” and it is kind of The Reaper left over speed metal song. Not that it’s a bad thing. The vocals are menacing, even more so than on just about any other Grave Digger album. Usually extreme vocals go well with extreme side of traditional metal. Chris Boltendahl screeches, growls and screams in an inhuman voice, just check out “Demon’s Day” for a feat of voice distortion. As for the themes of the album, lets see the track titles - “Heart of Darkness”, “Circle of Witches”, “Hate”, “Tears of Madness”, “Black Death”. Yup, these would not be out of place on a black metal album. However, the lyrics deal with being pushed over the edge, and as you are entering the last stages of rage cycle madness and darkness take over your heart. “Warchild” for example, dealing with a youth forced to fight against invading army to avenge his parents’ death. A touching story of revenge and loss of innocence, goes rather well with rip your neck off speed fucking metal and a very pissed vocalist.
The guitars are tuned and played to thrash your head off, I can honestly say that “The Grave Dancer” opening riff has not yet been matched outside of Germany for neck snapping headbanging. “Fools – I will lead you down, Losers – Your eyes will stud my crown”, this really must be what metal heaven is like. God Lemmy would be pleased. “Heart of Darkness” is an atmospheric epic, again mid-paced riffs and growl along lines rule supreme here. And who am I to doubt the epic storyline of Vietnam war and madness of the slaughter therein, when it is presented in such a “metal” way?
The highlights, well everything. Two bonus tracks are decent as well. “My Life” starts off with a demonic scream, and then the speed metal assault begins. The vocals are less distorted, one of the fastest songs Grave Digger have done. “Dolphin’s Cry” is a ballad, well you can’t win them all, but this is a listenable ballad at that, reminds me of first half of Overkill’s “Years of Decay”.
This is Grave Digger at their most evil and at their best. The 90’s releases don’t get much better than this. God bless Diggers metal hearts for this hateful masterpiece.