Grave Digger: Chris Boltendahl (vocals); Manni Schmidt (guitar); Hans Peter Katzenburg (keyboards); Jens Becker (bass); Stefan Arnold (drums).
Producers: Chris Boltendahl, Jorg Umbreit, Vince Sorg, Manni Schmidt.
Recorded at Graveyard Studios, Netherlands.
Personnel: Chris Boltendahl (vocals); Manni Schmidt (guitar); Hans Peter Ratzenburg (keyboards); Stefan Arnold (drums); Olaf Senkbeil, Hacky Hackmann (background vocals).
Audio Mixers: The Resetti Brothers; Vince Sorg; J”rg Umbreit.
Recording information: Principal Studios.
Photographer: Markus Mayer.
Arrangers: Chris Boltendahl; Manni Schmidt; Jens Becker.
Now properly recognized as a German power metal institution, Grave Digger continues to carry the torch for the genre the band helped spawn (alongside the likes of Helloween and Rage) back in the '80s. In fact, after the group's brief dissolution and inexplicable name change to Digger at the end of that decade, the band (now inextricably linked to charismatic frontman Chris Boltendahl) made an unexpected return to form in the '90s and has continued to deliver impressively consistent efforts ever since. The band's ninth studio album, the lavishly packaged but plainly titled The Grave Digger, doesn't buck this trend, offering a batch of tightly woven anthems representing the best elements of power metal. Boltendahl's alternately clean and dirty vocals combine with a rough and raw guitar attack to offset the album's more refined sonic accoutrements, such as chorused vocals, keyboards, and synths. Used sparingly and effectively, these provide the necessary colorings and support without interfering with the "meat" of the matter here: heavy metal. Thus, highlights like "Son of Evil," "King Pest," and "Haunted Palace" are propelled by a furious barrage of double kick drums and lightning staccato riffing in the best power metal tradition, and while it's easy to attack Grave Digger's more clich‚-laden transgressions (culminating as expected in the overblown orchestration of the ballad "Silence"), the truth is that mid-paced numbers like "Scythe of Time" and the absolutely awesome Edgar Allen Poe-inspired "Raven" (note its stunning clean-riffing outro) are pure metal delights. All these are hardly reinventing the wheel, but they're performed with such conviction and disarming honesty that questioning their intentions is really just nasty and petty. In short, for a band that's never gotten much respect over the years Grave Digger's influence on the power metal genre is undeniable and, with its unassuming excellence, The Grave Digger is a perfect example why. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia