Grave Digger: Chris Boltendahl (vocals); Manni Schmidt (guitar); Hans Peter Katzenburg (keyboards); Jens Becker (electric bass); Stefan Arnold (drums).
As a general rule, power metal is not a genre in which bands have a long and fruitful career. This makes the first quarter-century of Grave Digger's career all the more impressive, and the 27-track, two-disc anniversary live set 25 to Live is an entirely suitable tribute. Recorded during a headlining gig at a metal festival in Brazil in 2005, this set is a solid encapsulation of the German power metal stalwarts' career, reaching all the way back to their 1983 debut's standout track, "Heavy Metal Breakdown." The band, which has not changed personnel since returning from a brief hiatus in the '90s, sounds appropriately tight, and lead singer Chris Boltendahl's commanding voice sounds impressively powerful throughout. In fact, 25 to Live actually would be an appropriate starting point for anyone wanting to explore Grave Digger's dauntingly large back catalog. [Note: some editions come with a bonus DVD featuring highlights from the Brazilian concert and backstage interview segments.] ~ Stewart Mason