Saturday, July 12, 2014

Grave Digger - Return of the Reaper

Grave Digger. The name, in and of itself, just screams heavy metal. Forming in 1980 the band is still going stronger than ever. I'm not a huge fan of their 80s material as I think they hadn't found their own identity yet. At that time, I thought they were a second rate Accept worship band. Yeah, their 80s albums were fast and heavy but lacked direction. We all know how Chris Boltendahl and company tried to break through commercially with epic fail to say the least. The band returned with 1993s The Reaper and it was pretty much a success with fans and critics alike. As the 90s progressed it seems the band was finally finding their own identity and sound.

So here we are in 2014 and it seems there is no stopping this band. Their sixteenth full length album, Return of the Reaper, is just that, a return of some seriously bad ass heavy metal as only Grave Digger can release. What can we expect, you ask? What they have always good at, massive riffs, killer hooks, and Mr. Boltendahl's gargle with glass vocals that just add to the awesomeness of this album. After a short intro, which is the title track, we get the ball rolling with "Hell Funeral." This is a classic Grave Digger speed metal song with some serious riffing. As a matter of fact these are some of the best riffs this band has ever produced, and that's saying something. The guitar tone is crunchy as fuck and fits the riffing well. The chorus is catchy which is nothing new for Grave Digger. There is such an aggressive overtone here and that is another thing that adds to the beauty of this album. "Wargod" comes immediately after and just crushes you with the riffs, speed, and aggression of the opener.

And it doesn't stop. All through this album you have crusher after crusher. "Road Rage Killer" is a speed metal number with pummeling riffs, crushing speed, and a chorus that will stick with you. These songs are seriously catchy and it all has to do with the riffing. The guitar work on here, as far as the riffing goes, is just incredible. As I said earlier, the riffing on this album is some of the heaviest and best that this band has ever written and I'm sure the credit can go to Axel Ritt. "Satan's Host" is another one of those speed metal numbers that just slay, and does so in under three minutes as does "Resurrection Day" The riffing and the hooks are undeniable on both of these songs. Then you have "Tattooed Rider" that starts off with a synth part that almost makes you think you're listening to "Turbo" by Judas Priest for the first few seconds. But then you realize that the riffing is so much heavier and the chorus on this song is probably the best they've done in a long time.

Which leads me to "Season of the Witch." This is a song that was hit or miss with a lot of people but it was truly a hit with me. That slower tempo with the crushing riffs just reeks of "Avalon" and no one does this kind of song better than Grave Digger. The chorus is absolutely killer and has become one of my all time favorite Grave Digger tracks. Another bone of contention has to do with Axel Ritt. His riffing is just incredible, no one can deny that, but sometimes his solos just don't cut it for me. My biggest fear when hearing the samples of this album would be that Ritt's solos would turn me from this album. Some of his solos are good and catchy and some just leave me wanting something....not sure how to put it. Schmidt and Lulis played such good solos, I was afraid that Ritts solos would cause the songs to suffer. Thankfully they didn't suffer and, although there is not as much wankery as I would like, the solos are classy and well done.

This band has been around for over 30 years and it seems there is no stopping them. The riffing is some of the heaviest they've ever done and Boltendahl sounds incredible. This album is heavy fucking metal defined. The energy here is just amazing for a band that's been around as long as they have. I have a feeling that this band will keep delivering quality metal for many more years to come.


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