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Not their best, but should keep the clans happy - 60%

TrooperOfSteel, July 29th, 2011

Germany’s power metal kings Grave Digger have been one of the most successful metal bands from Europe within its genre and have been tantalising metal crowds since they began back in 1980. With their greatest achievements thundering through our speakers in the 90s, Grave Digger continues to forge wonderful guitar-laden releases. So in 2010, Grave Digger have rekindled a lost love (and a fan favourite) with their latest CD ‘The clans will rise again’.

Rising to power and success in the 90s after the band reformed after a 5-year breakup, Grave Digger turned to the power metal genre and with CDs like ‘Heart of darkness’ and ‘The reaper’ began their charge to the top. Finding their niche and uniqueness, particularly with the raspy and gritty tones of vocalist Chris Boltendahl, Grave Digger swiftly moved ahead with their signature power metal sound that we’ve grown to know and enjoy.

Some would argue, however, that Grave Digger hit a rough patch since the release of ‘Rheingold’ back in 2003. Both ‘The last supper’ and ‘Liberty or death’ were at best average CDs; however the band returned to form with 2009’s ‘Ballads of a hangman’, which received high acclaim. It’s with no surprise that Grave Digger have returned to a theme which brought them to glory in the 90s. Possibly receiving a scare from dropped popularity with those 2 average releases, Grave Digger has done what many bands have done before them (most recently, Gamma Ray with ‘Land of the free II’) and re-hashed a past classic. This classic is the war themed Middle Ages Trilogy, released between 1996 and 1999. ‘The clans will rise again’ is a “loose sequel” to ‘Tunes of war’, the first CD of the trilogy based on medieval Scottish history.

The new CD is their 2nd with Naplam Records and the first to feature new guitarist Axel Ritt, who has replaced Manni Schmidt after he left the band after ongoing disagreements with Chris Boltendahl. Ritt stands alone as the sole guitarist of the band due to Thilo Hermann also leaving shortly after the release of ‘Ballads of a hangman’. But enough of the background and history, the question is – how does the new CD sound?

Well I must say that the new release does not have the same impact as the previous CD. The songwriting in parts feels like it was rushed, as a few of the tracks aren’t very memorable and struggle to take off. While there are some great songs throughout the CD, it must be said that there are a few average tracks also. This is just my opinion, but once the CD stopped spinning after a few turns; I was left slightly unimpressed as I hold Grave Digger in high regard and respect. I just think it comes down consistency and on this release, there seems to be a misfire (at times) in terms of the songwriting and structure, and overall a lack of normally precise Grave Digger execution.

But enough of the negatives, let’s move on and talk about the pros. ‘The clans will rise again’ is still a good power metal CD with some great kick-ass tracks. Both “Paid in blood” and “Hammer of the Scots” are exceptional and traditional Grave Digger tracks, typical of the band’s aggressive signature sound; while “Valley of tears” is arguably the best track on the CD. Not just due to the infectious thundering riffs that flows throughout the track but also because the tempo and structure is fairly different to what is usually expected from a Grave Digger song. Other winners to be found within ‘The clans will rise again’ include “Highland farewell”, with its speedy groove riffs and bagpipes to boot, while “Execution” and “Coming home” have vigorous and catchy riffs and melodies.

When all is said and done, ‘The clans will rise again’ may not be the best CD Grave Digger has released, but there are enough top tracks here to make it a solid CD that would sit in the mid-tier of their best records to date. Whether the loss of guitarist Manni Schmidt has possibly taken away the some of the overall polish from the guitars remains to be seen, however with that said, Axel Ritt is a fine axeman and is an integral part of the band.

While die-hard Grave Digger fans will still pick this release up blindly as they have with everything else the band has brought out, the casual and also the power metal fans should try to hear this first before making that decision on whether or not to purchase.

Originally written for www.themetalforge.com and www.metalcdratings.com