On their last studio album, “The Clans Will Rise Again” (2010), the German Heavy/Power Metal band GRAVE DIGGER again payed homage to the people of Scotland, as they had done on “Tunes Of War” (1996). I found that, with “Ballads Of A Hangman” (2009) and “The Clans Will Rise Again”, the band was (again) on the right track. Especially after the mediocre “Liberty Or Death” (2007). Earlier this year, end of July 2012, an EP was put out under the title “Home At Last”. You can read my review here. I’ll just repeat that, in my opinion, this release was aimed specifically at the die-hard fans. Expectations for “Clash Of The Gods” (out since the end of August) were high at first, before I heard the preceding EP. After hearing the EP, my expectations were lowered. Seriously.
Lyrically, though, it seems interesting. On this new album the band chose as theme Ancient Greece and its mythology: Medusa, Odysseus, Hades, Kerberos and so on. It begins with an intro, “Charon”, that sounds quite Folky, helped by the accordion. Sounds of a port and a drunkard’s voice singing add to the atmosphere and setting. Charon (see Wikipedia) is the ferryman of Hades who carries souls of the newly deceased across the rivers Styx and Acheron that divided the world of the living from the world of the dead. A coin to pay Charon for passage, usually an obolus or danake, was sometimes placed in or on the mouth of a dead person. This intro is nice, though, considering the lyrical background of the album.
And then “God Of Terror” kicks in, offering pounding Heavy Metal with firm riffing. Chris’s vocals go well here. The hymnic chorus is sung in group and sounds catchy, is also easy to sing along to. The solo moment breaks the song in two, as afterwards the chorus returns and so the end is nigh. “Helldog” is about Kerberos (see Wikipedia). This track is straight-forward Heavy Metal to begin with, in vein of SAXON, PRIMAL FEAR, SINNER and so on. After that the take off occurs in a powerful way with double bass and Chris’s harsh vocals. A dark bridge precedes a hymnic chorus. Nice stuff, all in all. Again the solo is the breaking element. One of the last highlights is “Medusa” (see Wikipedia). This song begins with a clean intro, having an atmosphere of darkness, suspense and tension… but the Metal soon kicks in. Melodic keyboards reside in the back. The chorus is slow, anthemic and sounds similar, at least to my ears, to ALICE COOPER’s “School’s Out” chorus, but slower. A dark and evil sounding bridge makes the link with the solo part, which in turn connects with the chorus and so onwards to the end. So far (3 songs), no complaints. The material is solid.
And then a few less good songs are up, starting with “Clash Of The Gods”. This is a slow, hymnic song with Eastern influences. A powerful ballad when full instrumentation is at work. It’s good, somewhat Bluesy, but the solo is too shrill. “Death Angel And The Grave Digger” is your typical, firm Heavy Metal song. The chorus is again sung in group. All in all, an ok song, but nothing more. “Walls Of Sorrow” begins very promising: fast Power Metal and firm midtempo verses. A fast bridge links with an atmospheric, hymnic chorus. I understand that this is one of GRAVE DIGGER’s characteristics, but why does the tempo have to drop so much after the bridge, why not just carry on? Still, it’s the best of this group of songs. Last of this selection is “Call Of The Sirens”. Metal bursts in the beginning, but then all falls silent in favour of clean singing and ballad-like music. Power is added, but it will never be a Power Metal song, it’s another power ballad. Yay! Sorry, nay. It’s just not a strong song. GRAVE DIGGER have made ballads before, but this is not among the better ones. Oh yes, there’s a harpsichord after the solo. Something siren-related?
“Warriors Revenge” brings back the meat to the Metal with pounding Power Metal. Good! “With The Wind” is an atmospheric interlude. Nothing special. And “Home At Last”… well… I’ll copy-paste what I wrote for the EP: It’s a classic Heavy Metal song, at midtempo. Catchy riffing guaranteed. Chris sings in his typical hymnic style with his raw voice. The song itself is simple, in structure and playing. The power lies in the chorus, which sounds voluminous and Folky. The obligatory guitar solo is also present, but it’s nothing fancy.
As said above, the EP was nothing extraordinary. “The Clans Will Rise Again” was a very strong album, definitely a must-have! This follow-up, “Clash Of The Gods”, is lyrically a nice choice. I like how Metal bands try to touch on historical stories, elements, happenings, books, … but it’s then also nice if the music is worth checking out. In my humble opinion, even if the material rocks, “Clash Of The Gods” is not as good as the preceding two albums. Of course the album contains some powerful tracks, but overall it’s a step back.
- God Of Terror
- Clash Of The Gods
- Death Angel And The Grave Digger
- Walls Of Sorrow
- Call Of The Sirens
- Warriors Revenge
- With The Wind
- Home At Last
Chris Boltendahl – vocals
Axel Ritt – guitar
Jens Becker – bass
Hans Peter Katzenburg – keyboards
Stefan Arnold – drums