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While consistent and well-meaning to the band's origins, The Last Supper is dealt a bad hand from the start by having to follow up the spectacular Rheingold. While similar in function and form to most of Grave Digger's modern classics, I can't help but feel an air of stagnation permeating these proceedings.
Like The Grave Digger six years before it, The Last Supper spends too much of its time wallowing in directionless atmospherics. Grave Digger always deliver the goods on the slower, gloomier cuts such as "Crucified" and "Always and Eternally". On other, better albums these serve as proverbial breaks in the action, often sandwiched between punishing, mid-paced cookers as per the band's typical output. Here on The Last Supper the straightforward tracks aren't as memorable or potent, making these moodier, atmospheric numbers wholly unwelcome in the procession as frustration mounts.
The title track opens things effectively enough, featuring a monolithic main riff and the typical orchestral buildup courtesy of Katzenburg. Once into the heart of the song, however, it begins plodding and ends up spinning it's tires when the awesome chorus drops out. While most of the following tracks are passable, such as "Grave In The No Man's Land", it is around this point that you realize that the operatic, Blind Guardian-esque choruses that lifted Rheingold to greatness are almost totally absent here. Boltendahl exhibits no shortage of vivacity in his performance, but his crooning alone can't match the layered, choir-esque arrangements present on The Last Supper's predecessor. The one single exception to the pedestrian rule manifests itself as "Black Widows". This is an instant-classic, featuring an infectious chorus and an elegance to Schmidt's riffs that are otherwise sorely lacking here.
Speaking of Schmidt, what happened here? He doesn't even come close to matching his performance on Rheingold. Even the best riffs here like on the title track and "Crucified" pale in comparison to his most petulant output from the previous LP. His tone is thick and supple, but it lacks that "something extra" that gave tracks like "Giants" and "Dragon" their crushing abandon. To go positive for a change, I am a big fan of the atmosphere evoked by Katzenburg's keyboards. There are some truly sublime piano passages, and he finally takes the next step from a compositional standpoint, sharing the spotlight with the rest of the band simultaneously.
The remaining performances garner a more lukewarm reception from these ears as well. Arnold upstages his previous performances on the kit here, busting out some acrobatic double-bass passages that are definitely new ground for Grave Digger. Becker's vehement bass is upfront and demands attention. He is all over the otherwise average "Hell to Pay", even getting an extended, bass-driven groove sequence going at one point.
In the end, it hardly matters, as a Grave Digger album without the crushing and memorable riffs finds itself directionless, akin to a blind man trying to drive a car. The Last Supper is not entirely without its merits, but thin points are beginning to show at the seams.
I have listened to lots of artists from various heavy metal sub-genres, but somehow I have never paid attention to these guys. They still remain underground since 80's. Heavy metal should remain unknown to non-metalheads, which means that band doesn't compromise. That doesn't mean that bands have to be totally underground, but it should be for metalheads only, not for others. I think this release is really overlooked and underrated. This album is 100% heavy, and it should be recognized much more. But probably others think this is "another generic power metal band". There are not 1.000.000 power metal bands like people think. Most bands labeled as power metal actually belong to heavy metal music, but most of them are symphonic metal, melodic heavy metal, classic heavy metal, progressive metal, sometimes even thrash metal and melodic death metal bands. Sometimes rock bands (melodic rock) are labeled as power metal. There is also huge number of pop music bands labeled as power metal, and that's a shame.
What can you expect from German heavy metal band? Motherfucking riffs, yes. They are everywhere, mind-blowing into riffs, riffs during whole songs, power chords when refrains start. They still hold the sound they had since they began with their career. That proves that they stayed their course through all these years. Almost every song has memorable, strong and powerful riffs. Sure they know how to make them. Guitar solos are fair enough. You will find tasty and enjoyable ones. Not something too technically demanding, but solos like: Hell To Pay, Soul Savior and Hundred Days are really face melting. Although solos could have been a bit longer, that would make the songs even much more bad-ass. Also, more creative solos are always welcome. Manni Schmidt supposed to put more effort while making solo parts, but that's the only objection if we talk about their solos.
You will find progressions in some songs, which speaks of band's talent and creativity. That doesn't mean if band doesn't make always some progressive song that they don't posses what I mentioned now. Also, I don't mean standard progressive metal songs, but just creative part of their work, although their songs are original, creative, and band members possess high amount of talent. Songs: Last Supper, Crucified and Divided Cross are pure examples of band's creative progressive work. These progressions are not big, but some tempo changes, enough to make songs even better. Vocals are really weird. Chris Boltendahl has vocals style: not deep, not high, somehow melodic, but really rough. He really fits this band. Because of him these songs sound even more powerful. However some singing parts in the song Crucified sound annoying, when he tries to pull higher notes at the beginning of the song. But it's not horrible, still you can enjoy if you get used to his vocal style, which is really unique by the way. Nothing I have heard of before, not even close. Unfortunately he sounds totally annoying in the song Always And Eternally.
Grave In No Man's Land, Hell To Pay, Soul Savior and Jeepers Creepers are classic heavy metal songs, which have pure 80's heavy metal spirit. I don't like this crappy dividing heavy metal into decades, but I want to say that this band still has its wild, restless and aggressive sound, without any type of modernization. This album hides melodic, faster, heavier, more fierce and more powerful songs... that's right - power metal songs. Divided Cross, Black Widows and The Night Before. Although all of these songs can be best described as classic heavy/power metal songs. That is actually Grave Digger's style in heavy metal music - classic heavy/power metal band. Sleepless, Always And Eternally and Hell To Pay show band's less creative work. This album could have been excellent, or perfect without them. These songs are boring, mediocre, nothing special at all, nor memorable. They have their moments there and there, but you should skip these tracks. Hundred Days is very good, but it could have been better. These progressions don't work well here. You have killer riffs, killer singing part, fast tempo, and then comes break, slow tempo starts with boring refrains.
Mallcore kids will not like this album, this is not made for them, but for metalheads. Those who have heard at least one song will hate this album and band in general because of lyrical theme. Yes, most songs from this album are about Jesus Christ, so what? Here you won't find songs which will try to convert into a religious person. It is just more like concept album, although each song doesn't depend on others. Interesting thing is that kids who listen to Slayer and Children Of Bodom, bands with the worst lyrics ever say: "Well, lyrics are not big deal". But when we talk about bands who have talented people who actually know how to write lyrics like: Grave Digger, Manowar, Sonata Arctica or Nightwish the same kids say: "Their lyrics are cheesy, I don't listen to them". That is just another hypocrisy in heavy metal. That happens when poser bands become mainstream and then they make their "metal rules" with their brainwashed fans.
Good sides of this release:
You will find really excellent classic heavy/power metal songs here, 100% heavy metal only, without any approach to commercialization or anything similar. I would recommend this album for anyone who knows, or wants to find out what great music really is.
Bad sides of this release:
At some parts vocals may be annoying. Guitar solos could have been longer and a bit more creative, because when one mentions guitar solo, power metal is first thing I think of. Also, this band has made some songs which were not necessary at all. Without songs Desert Rose, Hell To Pay, Always And Eternally and Sleepless this album still could have been standard full length studio album, and it could have been really perfect one.
The Last Supper, Grave In The No Man's Land, Soul Savior, Crucified, Divided Cross, The Night Before, Black Widows and Jeepers Creepers.
Many fans that I know didn't really like this album and thought that it had not the typical band sound, was not straight enough and too much orientated towards the conceptual content and not enough on the musical skills. I can really not agree on this. This album is probably the most diversified and also the darkest album in the whole band's discography, maybe with the exception of the Heart of darkness record. What this album stands for is not only its darkness and diversity but also its epic chorals and vocals and catchy choruses.
The album starts already with something completely new. It is the very eerie and ethereal introduction called "Passion" that leads to a gothic heavy metal hymn with atmospheric piano interludes that is the brilliant title track "The last supper". This is probably the most original and surprising opener that Grave Digger has ever written and doesn't sound like nothing the band has ever done before. Grave in the no man's land" is a very addicting and groovy song and a very courageous experiment that works really well.
This album covers all kind of styles. "Desert rose" is the most brutal song that the band has ever written and goes straight in your face but it has still a very epic chorus that makes me think of a pathetic hymn. Only the follow-up "Liberty or death" had even more chorals and epic constructions than this album. The epic and atmospheric ballad "Crucified" shows us already the direction of the next album and this song is completely surprising, emotional and heroic and a true experiment for a traditional heavy metal bands as Grave Digger has been in over twenty-five years. You can find the same epic style on the very pathetic "Hundred days" and the smooth ballad "Always and eternally".
There are many original and interesting songs on this album and I can't find one single filler. "The night before" is maybe the only less addicting song and works more as a classical hard rock track, but you still can't say that it is a boring song and it fits somehow to the dark and epic atmosphere of the album and gives you a welcome break from the more intense stuff on this record and helps to maintain a certain equilibrium without destroying the magic momentum of this record.
To keep it short, this creative and dark record will probably surprise you and shows a very interesting side of the band. The album is a mixture of the doom and atmospheric "Heart of darkness" and the epic "Liberty or death", so if you know and like these to albums, you must go for this one and if you only know and like this one, check the other ones out to. Useless to say that those three albums are my favourite ones of the band (alongside with "Tunes of war" that I appreciated because of its topic and some exotically instruments) because they sound fresh and different!
Grave Digger gets more and more interesting as time passes. Their style of power metal is deeply rooted in traditional heavy metal and quite frankly, they are one of the groups that originally helped to pioneer the power metal genre.
The band is straightforward, gritty and testosterone based here on “The Last Supper”, a semi-return to the group’s roots. They deliberately made an effort to make this record in the spirit of their classic works from the eighties and it was certainly worth it. The result is an album that possess the driving rhythms of their earlier output with a renewed sense of energy that makes for an album rife with headbanging anthems, soaring guitar harmonies and gruff, well sung vocals that are sure to please the average fist in the air, denim and leather heavy metal advocate.
“Grave In The No Man’s Land” has an infectious hook that sticks in your brain instantly. The riffing could be compared to “Countdown To Extinction” era Megadeth, but the music takes on a completely different sound when handled by throaty vocalist Chris Boltendahl. This Teutonic barker gives the band a very macho vibe that suits the group’s writings perfectly. What is really impressive here are the well played licks and riffs of guitarist Manni Schmidt. His solid axe work makes for a great foundation for the group’s material. On “Hell To Pay”, he unleashes a whammy bar frenzy that rings in the verse and displays a knack for delivering thrashy power chord riffing and tasteful double stops in order to provide these tracks with maximum metallic impact.
A swaggering example of the finest of German metal, the album's title track displays the group’s aptitude for generating chorus parts that are memorable as well as being a great deal of fun to sing along with! There is a special certain something about this record that makes the listener feel as if they are witnessing metal history firsthand. The keys of H.P. Katzenburg accent Grave Digger’s material, serving as an accompaniment as opposed to a primary instrument much of the time. This causes the group to have a full sound without the electronic element becoming overbearing.
The capable rhythm section of bassist Jens Becker and drummer Stefan Arnold lay down a riveting groove during the introduction of “Desert Rose” that is faced paced and bent on destruction. You will find the group portraying a dark atmosphere on “Black Widows” that is keenly supported by the former Rage axeman’s crushing metal riffing. Arnold does a great job of keeping the tempos in line, while throwing in enough cool snare rolls and crashes to keep the songs interesting. A haunting piano melody initiates “Always And Eternity”, a mellow ballad that is emphasized by Boltendahl’s thick accent. This song makes for a perfect close to the record and will certainly be a song that will have legions of lighters lifted skyward at the group’s summer festival appearances.
Grave Digger have come a long way throughout the course of their storied career. For them to return to their roots was a good decision as revisiting the type of material that made the band an international name makes for an even more powerful sound in the present day. No doubt their loyal fans will rejoice with the release of this grand new album, but the groups refined sound should be enough to garner the group a great deal of new listeners as well. Here’s to yet another fine achievement from the Deutschland’s masters of heavy metal! \
There’s a line in the intro Deus Le Vult of the album “Knights Of The Cross” that have a line that goes “so let us undertake a journey into the past” ? That line would fit perfectly as a intro for any review of this album. This IS a journey back to Grave Digger in the 80’s, of course there are some new ideas some songs that sound like the “newer” and 90’s Grave Digger, but the main % of the album could have been on any of the 80’s albums. I am one of those that likes all that GD has done AFTER “The Reaper” more than what they did in the 80’s. And this, is the weakest album Grave Digger has released since 1993, but is it still a weak album just for that ? Not really.
What has mainly happened is that the speed has been reduced. There is only two tracks that I would call fast, it is “Hundred Days” and “Desert Rose”. A great song, but I have to admit it took me many listens until I started to like the song. Fast intro, heavy mid-tempo verses and a fast and melodic chorus. The song also has a great solo passage. All other tracks (except the intro “Passion” and the sucky ballad “Always And Eternally”) goes in typical 80’s riffing. Some songs sounds really inspired by NWOBHM, like “Soul Savior”, “The Night Before”, “Hell To Pay”. We also have “Crucified”, which may differ from the other too. It’s a slow song, that I wouldn’t call ballad, but very close. This one is of course of when Jesus got crucified. A pretty cool song that has a nice chorus. “Grave In The No Man’s Land”, I promise, everyone who hears the intro/main riff of this song will say ENTER SANDMAN ! I know I did, it’s such a obvious rip off it’s almost insane. The other parts about the song though, luckily, differs from Enter Sandman. With a heavy and crushing riff in the verses and a melodic and cool chorus.
When speaking about choruses, there are some awesome ones to be found on this album actually. The already mentioned chorus of Crucified. The big choir chorus of “Soul Savior” really powerful, and the song that may have the best chorus on the whole album is “Divided Cross” (which also is a great song). A really cool choir chorus with great changing guitar and bass tones in the background. Worth mentioning is also the pre-chorus of “Black Widows”, fast ripping and very similar to the pre-chorus of 2001’s “Spirits Of The Dead”.
In overall, what makes this album a little bit weaker than the other albums after 1993 is of course, the songs. Some songs do sound really boring and can actually get monotonous. Also, what Grave Digger makes good, in my opinion is either dark and heavy music or big, epic and speedy music. This album nor the 80’s album is that, still, there’s many songs on this album that are cool and lifts the album. Also, what adds some points is how tight played and great the band is. Grave Digger is a legendary band, and these guys know what they are doing. Chris vocal performance is great, he has though left out very much of his awesome highpitched screams on this album. They are missed, but as I said, he sings great anyhow. The production is also a little bit thinner compared to for example “The Grave Digger” and “Rheingold”, but still a pretty rough and heavy sound, and the guitar sound still rocks though.
The album took very many listens for me, until I started to like up to the level “good”. I firstly was really disappointed after so many great albums, and after the really awesome Rheingold. And it still isn’t at all close to these mentioned albums, but still definetly worth listening too. I do really wonder though why “Always And Eternally” was put on the album instead of the bonus track on the limited edition called “Jeepers Creepers”. This song should have ended the album instead, a heavy Accept-like song, which is much better than the ballad and some other songs on the album too. But anyway, conclusion: This is a pretty good album, which you absolutely should get yourself, but as I've said, Grave Digger has done many better albums.
3 best songs: Desert Rose, Divided Cross, Hundred Days
Summary: BIG sound, sterling performances though sometimes lacking originality but It’s qaulity; tight- really fukken tight, technical (without being pompous) rocking metal, a logical progressive step forward without diluting their sound. While some tracks possibly exhibit more rock than encountered on some previous releases it is not too far removed from their usual rockin' riffs - considering there's always been an element of sleeze rock to Grave Diggers sound - they still serve up plenty of speed laced trax like Desert Rose, Soul Saviour, Black Widows and Hundred Days for good measure. Be warned: if you are looking for the frilly power metal interludes/choruses of Rheingold you’re gonna be disappointed, I prefer them without that stuff however, I don’t particularly care for all this Jesus stuff but the artwork is superb!
1. Passion - good intro, an eerie yet ethereal conception.
2. The Last Supper - a solid fist banging song in that thumping, plodding style that GD do so well.
3. Desert Rose - speed laced, with those lava bubbling guitars; screaming/spewing molten metal upon the opening thrashing riff.
4. Grave In The No Man's Land - unforgettable song with a great chorus, forget what you may’ve heard; it stands alone.
5. Hell To Pay – fuck yeah! Building into blistering rock n roll at break neck speed, GD in top form with an unusual but infectious chorus. HTP exposes a more technical/progressive side of GD.
6. Soul Saviour - thrashing rock, smacks of Zakk Wylde’s guitar sound/solos circa Ozzy's No Rest For the Wicked but BETTER!
7. Crucified - mid-slow paced, some good riffs inside but tends to leave me bored but sticks in my head, I do love a good “crucify” chant though...
8. Divided Cross – one of my favourites; memorable melody within plus great guitar solos!
9. The Night Before - opens with the straight up rockin’ riff in that Ozzy/Zakk spirit (also the chorus riff) but the main body of the song is more like Judas Priest Painkiller style making for a catchy tune nonetheless.
10. Black Widows – within 30 seconds this is dynamite; double bass, dual guitar; their religion is black and suicidal!
11. Hundred Days - detonation metal, yields a sing along chorus, prepare for the coming ballad.
12. Always And Eternally - Yawnfest ballad.
13. Sleepless – it’s rockin’, it’s really rockin’; Stand up and shout it out!
14. Jeepers Creepers – fantastic, sleeze rockin’ nod to Accept - I love it to death!
The new Grave Digger in some ways would be a pivotal album. In 2001 they released a stellar album in The Grave Digger. With ex-Rage guitarist Manni Schmidt on board they went for a much heavier sound with pounding grooves interspersed with the typical speedy bombastic tunes. Despite amazing albums preceeding it, I found it to be a fantastic turn. Two years later Rheingold was released. An expertly crafted album but mildly disappointing in my opinion. The unique approach taken on The Grave Digger was gone and in its wake were songs that sounded like Excalibur done over again without as much flair. It just sounded safe with some of the riffs sounding too familiar. Well, The Last Supper aims to change that pattern and get the guys back on track.
Here is the basic rundown:
First of all, there are more melodic moments overall but, mostly in the choruses, which are worked out really well this time. They take more time to settle in here but they have a great feel to them. Just one listen to Grave In The No Man's Land, Divided Cross or Black Widows and you'll hear a big difference. Apparently your writing can still mature after over 20 years in the business. Nice.
Second, as with any Grave Digger album, the riffs are the main focus and there are some killers here, Desert Rose having one of the better collections of riffs in GD history! Check it out because it's probably one of their most technical songs and come the solo breakdown it's going to be tough not trashing your room. ;) Hundred Days and Hell To Pay follow suit as they pound and rip in classic GD fashion with The Night Before not far behind. Still, even with all the classic riffing going on, they manage to throw in some nice twists. Along these lines comes one of the more interesting songs on the album, Divided Cross. As mentioned, it's got a great chorus but, it also has a nice melodic lead that continues throughout, really a first for the band and it works well. Grave In The No Man’s Land is another unique song. Its simple yet affective riff gives the song a smooth mid-paced feel. With its stellar chorus it becomes one of the albums finer tracks on the album. Really, there is not a bad track in the bunch so the overall flow is the only other issue.
I thought initially that the album may drag a bit because the title track starts things off at a medium pace but it immediately picks up from there with plenty of speedy thrashy tracks throughout slowing just twice with Crucified and the great closer Always and Eternally. Always and Eternally is the first time I felt Chris' rough vocals have really worked in the context of a ballad. I thought he sounded like a goof on Emerald Eyes from Excalibur but his vocals sound more fitting here. So, whether it proves to be better than any of their recent albums, I think this is their most balanced effort yet. I like it better than Rheingold and it may be more consistent than The Grave Digger so I'm certainly not disappointed. For me, it goes without saying that anytime Uncle Reaper and the boys put out something this good (an inevitability) it'll be in the running for album of the year. The Last Supper is yet another fine Grave Digger release delivered in classic fashion. A little more grit in the guitar work, a little more melody in the choruses, yet, Grave Digger through and through. m/
Notes: This album is not a concept album. A few songs have to deal with Jesus’ final days from a historical perspective but a number of them do not. Chris Boltendahl has mentioned this several times despite what many reviews have stated.