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During the last years, Grave Digger had the aura of somewhat whimsical uncles from the neighbourhood who play the same old-fashioned song again and again. But just a short while (32 years...) ago, this kind of uncles did not lack of currishness and power. Their debut was a statement, a document of their unadjusted attitude. The connection of the words "heavy" and "metal" was still slightly indecent at that time. Therefore, Grave Digger knew exactly what to do in order to demonstrate their outsider status. "Heavy Metal Breakdown" appeared as the perfect name for the first record, because this title was completely in line with the offering.
Grave Digger sounded raw, aggressive and vigorous. Driven by their hardly controllable energy, the band members plunged into their songs. The acrid riffs picked up the spirit of songs like "Fast as a Shark" or "Princess of the Dawn" and Chris Boltendahl did not have to fear the comparison with Udo from Accept. Boltendahl´s voice had a dangerous charm and did not lack of volume. Whenever he screamed "Tyrant", he seemed to be the tyrant himself. By the way, "Tyrant" stood in the shadow of the title track, "We Wanna Rock You" or "Headbanging Man". This was a pity, because this song possessed all advantages that a compact thrasher needs. Another underrated highlight was "Back from the War" which sparkled with some mean guitar lines. Its sinister aura, inter alia evoked by an eerie background choir, is something which has been lost in the last years (decades) of the band´s development. Wicked tongues might say that there was no development at all, but this question does not need to be discussed here.
Anyway, back in 1984, Grave Digger acted with a maximum of directness and neglected any kind of intellectual ambitions. They did not yet try to give us an understanding of the Scottish history and they avoided songs that dealt with the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Instead, the band committed itself to the principles of heavy metal. It was therefore no surprise that the key message of the title track was "Metal dominion that's all what we want".
The ballads of Grave Digger are a (completely terrible) chapter by itself. The entire misery began with "Yesterday". I do not want to describe this crime against humanity. Instead, I would like to quote some lines of its lyrics: "Yesterday, when you left me on my own / Yesterday, when you left my heart alone / Yesterday, no, yesterday, no no... Yesterday, in my mind it's still alive / Yesterday, when we were husband and wife". I guess this nonsense speaks for itself. Especially the last line boggles the mind. It seems as if these lyrics are a statement against extramarital affairs. Very strange. But even with better lyrics, there would be no need to lend an ear to this acoustic horror show. But aside from this blackout, Grave Digger impressed with their determination. Their high motivation made fairly normal songs like "Headbanging Man" to something special. Not to mention their fine sense for simple yet effective lines. In this respect, the chorus of the title track serves as an example and "We Wanna Rock You" was also predestined for being performed on stage.
This prototype of German underground metal did not lack of heaviness and the guitar-oriented production proved that producer and label owner Karl-Ulrich Walterbach had understood the spirit of the music. Okay, some songs did not leave a long lasting impression. But the first step had been taken and songs like "Legion of the Lost", "Tyrant" or the title track still have the power to initiate the metal domination. I have heard somewhere that this is all what we want.
Some of the best metal in the world is imported, and let's just say Germany are masters of the craft. Whether it be greats like Accept or Helloween, or thrashers like Kreator and Destruction, this little European empire has handed out some of the all-out finest in heavy metal, period. Around the time a few of the traditional metal masters of this country were starting to leave a mark, a couple guys from Gladbeck popped up. They called themselves Grave Digger, and while their mark of greatness was yet a long way off, these guys were determined to start off strong.
Unlike in their later years, were they would improve considerably and go off in different musical directions, the Grave Digger on "Heavy Metal Breakdown" was determined to do just that: break you into little pieces with a barrage of Teutonic terror! Chris Boltendahl, the vocalist and Grave Digger's only permanent mainstay, has one of those voices, especially as he's gotten older, the one either loves or hates. I think he sounds cool, a sort of rough, snarling, almost drunken kind of howling and shouting. The competent but unremarkable guitar work of Peter Masson is pretty solid, depending on overt riffs and careful, slowish solos to keep himself going. The bass of the obscure Willi Lackman is also solid, but again nothing to brag about, while the drumming on the other hand from Albert Eckardt is quite decent; not great, but solid and dependable in an aggressive, workmanlike sort of way.
"Heavy Metal Breakdown" has a raw and mean sound to it, much different from the Grave Digger we know today. The album in of itself is also pretty inconsistent, but precious few of any of these songs are really bad. Many people have pointed out that closer "Heart Attack" is the weakest, and I do agree; the drum rolling in the chorus is just bizarre, the production sounds different (in a bad way), and Boltendahl's vocals are a mumbled mishmash. "Legion of the Lost" doesn't do much but come and go, but the rest of the tunes are pretty solid. "Tyrant" is a fun rocker with a healthy thrash injection, while I quite like the ballad "Yesterday"; the subtle use of the keyboard makes for some good atmosphere, and Boltendahl gets to make use of his clean vocals. Corny-as-fuck lyrics aside, easily the two highlights are the title track and "Headbanging Man". Ho...ly...SHIT! "Headbanging Man" is a rough, mean, all-out speed metal attack in the vein of other roaring speeders like "Fast As A Shark" or "Freewheel Burning". If you're not doing just what is says in the title, you are a bitch. You are a little bitch who likes Slitknut and need to be sacrificed immediately! The title track is not as speedy, but still fairly fast; a fearsome, catchy, groovish rocker making damn good use of the "Swords & Tequila"/"2 Minutes To Midnight" riff.
Overall, something of a rough start for Grave Digger. But...certainly not bad. Chris Boltendahl would improve himself in the future, not to mention pair up with stronger musicians later on; the guys on here are solid but overall don't cut it. Most of the songs are pretty good and worthwhile, particularly the first three, and the raw production is a treat. Not recommended for starters of Grave Digger, nor is it the most essential of their albums, but I say snag it up if you see it for a fair price. Throw it into the nearest CD-player and become the HEADBANGING MAAAAAAAANN!!!
Grave Digger is one of those bands which didn't receive much attention in their early days, and they remained underground through the years. This release remained overlooked with reason. What I'm trying to say is that no one can question the heaviness of this release, but one can question its quality. That is the main problem. Although this sounds unique, yet may remind of Accept, it sounds really heavy, not hard like many hard rock bands labeled as classic heavy metal, still it's not enough. There are some good songs, but most of these songs could have been improved in order to be excellent ones. Except song Yesterday, everything is mostly fast, aggressive, powerful and extremely heavy. Just like their lyrics say, you will literally bang your head and shake your legs while listening to this release. The absolute highlight is the studio album titled song Heavy Metal Breakdown. It has Riot's Swords And Tequila-like riff, fast tempo, rough vocals, great refrains and tasty, not much technical guitar solo.
This release has some very good songs like Headbanging Man, Back From The War and Legion Of The Lost. Headbanging Man is another fast, extremely heavy song, full of power which mostly comes from raw riffs and rough vocals. Back From The War starts with slow drum beats and mysterious, eerie chants, and slowly progresses intro riff driven faster song. It has great riffs and very doom-like atmosphere. Legion Of The Lost also has progression, but it starts with acoustic guitar followed with slower drum work, and suddenly evolves into motherfucking heavy song with amazing faster riffs. Each of these three songs has plenty of great raw riffs scattered everywhere, sing-along refrains, amazing progressions, tempo and ambient. But since I like excellent songs so much, I found very bad thing - vocals. Chris Boltendahl sounds aggressive, and it's not that he doesn't fit here, but he swallowed many words, sung some parts of the songs totally incomprehensible, and that's so damn annoying. Anyway, this release's rating is higher thanks to them, despite bad singing.
Yesterday has great backing keyboards, which make great ambient, but constant repeating word - yesterday, and repeating 3 refrains is just boring. Chris sounds super clean here, which is very unexpected thing. We Wanna Rock You has few good and strong riffs, nice refrains, but that song is not great. Ok, it is great party song, and you may like it for the next few days, weeks, but it doesn't have that quality to make you listen in next few months, years, or forever. This song is just like its lyrics - heavy metal party song. Heart Attack and Tyrant have great riffs, and that's all. If vocals are the main reason why this studio album remained overlooked, then it's justified, other reasons are not valid. But if you can get over the vocals, you will definitely enjoy this release.
Good sides of this release:
Amazing mix of powerful, raw and aggressive classic heavy/power metal. Songs are really unique, full of kick-ass riffs which weight tons. Many of these are great sing-along songs. Awesome song progressions where they appear. If you can tolerate bad sung parts, you can enjoy this release even more. I recommend this studio album to anyone who wants to find out the essence of heavy sound.
Bad sides of this release:
The most annoying thing is the fact that singer swallowed some words he sung, and sung some parts incomprehensible. Also there are some really mediocre songs, which only have great riffs, but poor song structures, lyrics without deep meaning, non-interesting guitar solos etc. Also, even these better song don't have special guitar solos at all.
Heavy Metal Breakdown
German heavy metal in the eighties was quite a common thing. Bands like Running Wild and Accept lead the way with rough riffs and powerful raspy singing. One of the more unknown bands Grave Digger slowly made a name for themselves, and “Heavy Metal Breakdown” is there first attempt into metal glory.
It opens with “Headbanging Man,” and immediately you understand what this band is all about. Chris Boltendahl has a unique voice indeed. He can reach high and low notes, all with his own twist and spice. The title track “Heavy Metal Breakdown” is a great one, filled with amazing guitar playing from Peter Masson. It’s catchy as hell and I promise you won’t get it out of your head from quite some time. This album has a mixed bag of tracks from here on out. “Back From the War” is a slow, chugging song with a blotchy hollow feeling. Not really a notable song. “Yesterday” is the main ballad here, and it’s enjoyable, if your into that sort of thing. I don’t think Chirs Boltendahl’s vocals don’t really match here. “We Wanna Rock You” is one of my favorites. Cheesy, fast, and all out. “Legion of the Lost” is similar to “Back From The War.” A slower track that doesn’t really satisfy your appetite, but overall not dreadful. “Tyrant” and “2000 Lightyears From Home” (which is a Rolling Stones cover) have nothing to offer, both boring and repetitive. “Heart Attack” is pure speed. If you don’t read the lyrics, this song is nearly impossible to understand. This song is a great way to end the record.
Production here is and issue, but for being a debut album in the eighties you can’t really be too surprised. The line up here is solid. Willi Lackman does a good job with bass and Albert Eckahrd plays drums well. As I mentioned before, Chirs Boltendhal has a great voice and performs well. Peter Masson plays great on guitar as well, some of the solo’s blaze and keep you interested in some of the more average songs. The album overall is about 36 minutes, so it’s a good length for an album like this.
Overall, this is a spotty record. With some classics like “Heavy Metal Breakdown” and “Headbanging Man,” to more boring mediocre tracks like “Tyrant” and “2000 Lightyears From Home.” It is worth getting, but you need to tread carfully on some of the later songs.
Grave Digger is one of my favorite bands and it amazes me the continuity in their discography. Yeah, they turned into Digger for awhile (how such a vicious band gets that idea is beyond me), but apart from that you can see all the elements that would involve into Grave Digger’s signature brand of grand, epic power metal. Included in this release is that impeccable sense of melody that Grave Digger molds into some insanely catchy choruses, the frugal, but more effective for their judiciousness, use of acoustics and mellow parts and of course that speed metal ownage. With emphasis on the speed metal ownage.
As the title track commands you, YOU WILL bang your head like a lunatic. Heavy Metal Breakdown (the album) belongs to that particular infectious strain of speed metal that adds some thrashy chop to the riffs that makes them all the more amenable to headbanging. Of course, you will have to pause to sing along to the choruses as Grave Digger this early in their career already has a penchant for catchiness, as well as rather inane lyrics.
Now with this praise comes the reason why it only scores 70%. For one, filler exists and unpalatable filler at that. Grave Digger always excelled at higher speeds and never really managed to craft a worthy ballad and “Yesterday” is no exception. Also, stop the album before “Heart Attack.”
Secondly, the album blends in with innumerable other German speed metal releases of the time. While at the top of this heap already and destined to break into their own phenomenal sound, Grave Digger doesn’t do enough here to differentiate themselves.
Heavy Metal Breakdown is essential only for speed metal freaks and fans of the band. The real legacy of Grave Digger doesn’t start until Heart of Darkness.
“…now you know, the shoe was good, heavy metal…”
While at the starting line of the German scene that was breeding bands like salmon, it always seemed to me Grave Digger were crammed into the backseat, fighting for leg room with Sinner, Tyran Pace, Living Death, and Avenger while Helloween, Running Wild, Destruction, and Sodom took turns shifting and honking the horn (can you imagine when one had to take a leak? And those spikes…?). Just as long as they were running over S.A.D.O., I wouldn’t care. Scorpions, Accept, and Faithful Breath were in the limo up ahead, and FB had to buy their way into that one with the longevity card.
Most bands that are usually described by using keynotes from other bands don’t usually set the world afire, and durability doesn’t always run parallel to popularity. For instance, characterizing the vocals as akin to the higher tone of Flemming Rönsdorf/Artillery rubbed to a pulp by the scratchiness of Udo, or read the first paragraph of Ultraboris’s review for another example. In any case, Chris Boltendahl seems to gargle road salt regularly and is an acquired taste to say the least.
Musically, the quartet gallivants many spectrums of mood and tempo. They don’t mind traveling the mid-paced vein as heard in the ominously starting “Back From War”, “Shoot Her Down”, and slightly unorthodox “Tyrant”. Tracks like “Stormin’ the Brain” and the title cut lure the band into the more spirited realm, usually locked in by a catchy chorus or nifty vocal/rhythm combo. “Legion of the Lost” is powerful in its counter offensive of menacing acoustical intro and hard-boiled rhythm. Keyboards make an appearance in the awkward “Yesterday”, a ballady piece laced with more acoustics, power chords, and still scraping vox that shears any iota of charm from the mix. And when the band really pulls itself up by its bootstraps, it can tear into a Living Death speed metal gait as lp launcher “Headbanging Man” and aggressive “Heart Attack” as its broken-riffed chorus will attest. “I Wanna Rock You” reminds me of something anthemic the band Steel Dragon would perform in the flick Rock Star, especially when Boltendahl is belting out the title all by his lonesome. Lyrics, well, resemble the blurb at the top of the review.
While Heavy Metal Breakdown has its rugged magnetism for some, it was never driving my car, nor was it ever in the front seat. The vocals turned off quite a few, much like Living Death’s debut but with less of a fingernails-on-a-chalkboard claim, and for me, saying it’s mildly special is giving it a handful of roses.
I just want to be there when the cars at the start of the review stop for snacks or leg stretching or to see Angel Ripper chase members of Cutty Sark around the parking lot.
Grave Digger's first album is an extremely raw, primitive and aggressive release. It has nothing of the melodic depth you would find on later releases as Excalibur, or the incredible variety in the songwriting like on Knights of the Cross, or the spectacular atmospheres in Rheingold.
Instead, this album brings you pure fucking metal mayhem!
The production is raw, aggressive and heavier than pretty much anything released at the time, 1984. This can sometimes take away from the album, most notably on the closing track Heart Attack where the riffs are barely distinguishable from eachother, but aside from that the album sounds killer. And this production combined with tons of fast and heavy riffs provide a good amount of headbanging, which is really the ultimate target of this album.
Songs like Headbanging Man, Heavy Metal Breakdown and We Wanna Rock You represent everything that heavy metal is about - although the band weren't very talented in the English language by the time they did this. "Drunken women, drunken men show their hands for fucking arse" from Headbanging Man. Or how about "The show is over, kids are gone, and fucking people lay alone." Or the classic, "See the kids, hot for rock, hot for us." Yeah, lyrically this album has some embarrassing moments, but you sure as hell can't blame them for not trying.
The songwriting is very solid throughout, and the only weak track on here is Heart Attack, which is just very forgettable, and also has some pretty shitty production. And that chorus is just bizarre...
But aside from that, this rocks. Headbanging Man, Heavy Metal Breakdown and We Wanna Rock You are, like the titles indicates, all about heavy fucking metal.
There are riffs flying everywhere, leaving you no choice but to bang your head like a madman. The three are tied for best songs on here. Headbanging Man has the riffs, but the other two has so incredibly catchy choruses.
Another favourite of mine is actually the ballad Yesterday. Some very nice, melodic keyboards, and of course one of the album's two appearances of Chris Boltendahl's clean vocals, and they are just as spellbinding as ever.
Throughout the major part of the album however, Boltendahl does his traditional gruff vocals but much higher and less polished than on later releases, which goes well with the general style of the album.
The other stuff, of course, is very solid as well. Back From The War, Tyrant, and even the Rolling Stones cover 2000 Lightyears From Home (there's no way in hell I could've told this was a cover if I hadn't read it in Boris' review!) all slay. And of course the classic, Legion of the Lost. It's obviously not as good as the remake found on The Reaper, but it still kicks ass.
This one turns heavier much faster, and it stays heavy, and the galloping riffs found on here are pretty damn crazy. Another highlight.
This is what started it all for Grave Digger. Heavy Metal Breakdown is a raw and unpolished album, and while it's not as well thought-out and arranged as their 90's material, this blasts out riffs by the thousands, and they're great riffs.
This is such a powerful and excellent debute here from one of the greatest metal bands to ever exist. Raw, full of attitude, heavy as fuck riffs, and one hell of a strong vox! With titles like 'Headbanging Man', 'Heavy Metal Breakdown' and 'Legion Of The Lost', you know damn well what you're in for. This is metal in its purest form, delivering non-stop speed that's gauranteed to cause some serious whiplash and fist pumping. The catchiness on this album is unbelievable, as with most other Grave Digger albums, grabbing you by the throat and kicking your ass on the first listen. As with most releases from Grave Digger, this album is not entirely speed and heavy as fuck riffage with mean vocals, there are a few acoustic and well sung moments heard on here as well, including a ballad, probably one of the best metal ballads ever done by any metal band. The band really knew what direction they wanted to go in when they released this, and they have not gotten off track since. Back in 1984 when this was put out, the only bands that could give this album even a bit of competion were Iron Maiden (Powerslave), Judas Priest (Defenders Of The Faith), Mercyful Fate (Don't Break The Oath) and one of Grave Digger's main influences, Accept (Balls To The Wall), also hailing from Germany. So just imagine how great and underrated this record actually is.
No fillers, just kick ass metal all the way through to satisfy your heavy metal needs. It would be years before Grave Digger would actually release something just as good or even better than this. This album truely lives up to its title, cause it's a HEAVY METAL BREAKDOWN!!
Best Songs: Heavy Metal Breakdown, Yesterday, We Wanna Rock You, Legion Of The Lost
This is a pretty solid speed metal album here. Some of the ideas are a bit stronger than others, but in entirety it is an enjoyable listen. It sounds like German classic/speed metal of the time - similar to the Avenger debut, a bit less thrashy than the Iron Angel debut, the general picture is the same. Lots of influence of Priest and Accept, with a rougher edge not all that far removed from the first few Destruction releases.
First... random noises. Explosion. Distortion. Acceleration. And out of the wreckage comes HEADBANGING MAN!!!! Oh man, this is utter ownage. Recognise the title. Obey the title. Fucking Hell yeah! Classic speed metal to be found here, in the Freewheel Burning meets Fast as a Shark vein. Then, the title track is also very solid, though with a fair dose of groove.
The intro to Back from the War a bit long, but when it gets going... oh my that's such a headbanging serial-killer of a riff!! Total Iron Angel action going here. They do ride it just a bit long, though, and somewhere in here is a killer 3 minute song.
The ballad... Yesterday. It's not bad. It's got a nice idea of melody, though it does kill the mood created by the first few songs. Then, back to some insane speed metal in We Wanna Rock You. The best comparison I can think of is the Maniac debut...
Legion of Another Ballad. Or so it seems. This intro seems to go on forever. What's better than speed metal? The anticipation of speed metal. They throw in a teaser of a heavy riff here and there. Then, exactly two minutes in, here's a riff that is the heaviest thing on here yet. Iron Angel, meet Symptom of the Universe. This is the greatest stuff aside from the first track on here... it takes a bit getting there, but don't hit skip, because this is very awesome power/speed metal, and it's so damn heavy!
Then, the nice Tyrant combines traditional speed (almost thrash at times) riffing with some subtle melodic ideas. Simple, but effective. The next song is probably the fastest on here, 2000 Light Years From Home. This is the Rolling Stones song, at least lyrics wise, but if Keith Richards were to play this fast, his arm would literally fall off. (Unless it has done so already. I would not be surprised.) Speed metal!! The last song is a bit of a filler, with a very annoying chorus (drum highlights = big geigh). Kind of a downer at times, but not bad... just not great. Skip it. Or, hit START again.
So all in all, sometimes they drag things out a bit, and leave the listener hanging, so the flow of the album isn't perfect, and at times the lows are a bit hard to forcefeed to yourself... but the highs are definitely high... oh yesss... HE'S A MAN!! HE'S A MAN!!! YEARGHIDON'TKNOWTHEWORDS HEADBANGING MAN!!!!!