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Grave Digger need no introduction to any self respecting fan of heavy metal. Being at the forefront of the German metal scene since their debut in 1984 has engraved their name into many metal fans hearts. 2010 sees the band return to the album that many fans regard as their 'magnum opus', Tunes of War. Kilts, bagpipes, clans and war, it can only be about one thing, Scotland. In-case you've been living in a cave for the last number of years, Grave Digger play a gruff, anthemic variation of power metal.
The recent output of Grave Digger to be totally honest left a lot to be desired. Ever since the fantastic Rheingold, Grave Digger's releases have been pretty unremarkable. The Last Supper was just flat out dull and the equally boring Liberty or Death no better. Ballads of a Hangman was somewhat of an improvement but lacked the spark of previous releases. The Clans Will Rise Again fortunately amends this recent dip in the Digger's form, and is certainly the best since Rheingold, if not better.
What Grave Digger manage to do so well is create a levelled mixture of bombast and infectious choruses, refraining from ever entering into self indulgence. This is what makes them one of the most effective live bands you will ever see. The songs just carry over so well into the live environment, and it's where Grave Digger really shine. If you ever get the chance to see them live, I would highly recommend you do so.
Songs like “Paid in Blood”, which is pretty much certain to be a live staple with its unashamedly catchy chorus are exactly what's been missing from the Grave Digger roster recently. The album is riddled with solos and substantial, crunchy riffs, which is owed to the introduction of new guitarist Axel Ritt. He appears to have added some much needed ardour into this metal behemoth. Chris Boltendahl's vocals never change. They sound almost identical since day one, and set Grave Digger far apart from everyone else and give them their identity. Name another vocalist who sounds similar, because I can't. Technically no, he's certainly not the best by any means, but it's his token gruff accent that makes Grave Digger who they are. “Coming Home” again is another highlight of the album, as is the headstrong “Hammer of the Scots”. The obligatory ballad appears at the end, “When Rain Turns to Blood”, and to be honest is probably the weakest song on the album, certainly not one of their best ballads, it's almost as if something is stopping it from going anywhere, in the end it just trails off without really ever provoking any sort of emotion. There isn't anything quite up to the standard of songs like “Rebellion” or “William Wallace (Braveheart)”, but they're stone cold classics of not just Grave Digger themselves, but of metal itself. It's also good to see the bagpipes making a return again, and used in moderation, we wouldn't want a metal version of Runrig now would we?
This a very welcome return to form by these German veterans, it's classic Grave Digger and Grave Digger by numbers at the same time, and Grave Digger by numbers is better than ninety percent of anything in being called power metal today. It's majestic, dynamic and inspired, it's great to see they can still cut it in the studio.