Rating:
8.5
Grave Digger - Return Of The Reaper
11 July 2014


Disc I
01. Return Of The Reaper
02. Hell Funeral
03. War God
04. Tattooed Rider
05. Resurrection Day
06. Season Of The Witch
07. Road Rage Killer
08. Grave Desecrator
09. Satan's Host
10. Dia De Los Muertos
11. Death Smiles At All Of Us
12. Nothing To Believe

Disc II [Limited mediabook]
01. The Emperors Death [bonus]
02. Rebel Of Damnation [bonus]
03. The Round Table [Live acoustic]
04. The Dark Of The Sun [Live acoustic]
05. The Curse Of Jaques [Live acoustic]
06. The Ballad Of Mary [Live acoustic]
07. The Last Supper [Live acoustic]
08. Yesterday [Live acoustic]
09. Rebellion [Live acoustic]
10. Heavy Metal Breakdown [Live acoustic]


For me, after Excalibur and The Grave Digger, it almost seemed as Chris Boltendahl and Co were digging their very own grave. While the albums that followed sure had their moments, they didn't overly impress me as a whole. So, how does their latest effort fare …

… better than expected I have to say. While The Clan Will Rise Again (2010) showed some potential and with 2012's Clash Of The Gods the band made an effort to add the "power" back into their sound, for Return Of The Reaper they mixed it up once again, moving forward to a heavier, faster sound. Well, actually backwards when speaking of the Grave Digger discography. Coincidently those aforementioned albums all featured Axel Ritt on guitar and therefore I shall credit him - nah, just kidding.

Power, heavy - oh Grave Digger, what genre will the new album be? Return Of The Reaper - *gasp*, does this mean it's another speed metal album a la 1993's The Reaper? Sadly not, but regardless, the new album is definitely a step into the right direction, since - dat intro !!! One of the few ones I heard lately which actually builds up the suspense before going all out. Yes, ladies and gents - the Reaper is back and the first couple songs on the album make sure you won't forget it; two words - pure aggression. Not only does Axel do wonders on his axe but also Boltendahl's (love or hate) vocal performance is outstanding.

"Tattooed Rider" - wow; even at first listen I couldn't stop headbanging. The song doesn't feel as violent as its predecessors but the next tune makes up for this "shortcoming" and then, halfway through the album, with the off-tempo number "Season Of The Witch" we finally get time to relax those neck muscles. Not for long though; the next several songs prove to be just as fast and/or heavy as the earlier ones. At this point I was wondering if there really is a filler on the album. Seriously, I could see "Grave Desecrator" become a must on upcoming live shows.

And among all of this "Satan's Host" starts with … the bass guitar! Very cool; for some reason I always felt that ever since Jens Becker switched from Running Wild over to his current job the bass thump somewhat lacked in the mix. Not saying it is overly audible this time around, but hey, I will take what I can get.

I don't want to do a song-by-song review, but …really, each and every song just has this little something extra. Be it the beyond awesome axe-slinging in each and every song, the over the top drumming without feeling the need to fill in the gaps, or the superb vocal performance by Chris Boltendahl. For some this might be an oxymoron since Chris's voice is not for everyone's ears, but I think he outdid himself on Return Of The Reaper.

The album ends with the obligatory hymn-like ballad; piano and all, quick guitar solo and passages where you feel the need to hit the "air-toms" to emphasize the epicness. Granted, the wheel was not reinvented with this release and some riffs do sound familiar. But can you blame Grave Digger? With, now 17 albums under their belt and a career spanning over 34 years, they don't rest on their laurels but rather prove that they are pretty much still relevant in today's scene.


Band profile: Grave Digger
Album: Return Of The Reaper


 



Written on 26.06.2014 by
D.T. Metal
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Angelic Storm - 26.06.2014 at 08:27  
I've heard 1:30 samples of the whole album on iTunes, and just based on that, it seemed very likely to me that this album would be a huge return to form. It seems to have a much more "classic" Grave Digger feel to it than the last few albums have had. Not to say that albums like Clash Of The Gods are bad albums, far from it, but they seemed to lack a bit of "edge" that all the truly classic Grave Digger albums have had.

It's interesting that the review specifically mentions the song "Grave Desecrator" as a potential crowd favourite, as even listening to the sample, I got that vibe from the song. It has a massive chorus, which is absolutely classic Grave Digger. The songs seem to be a mixed bag of mid paced anthems, and speed metal assaults in the tradition of the best Grave Digger works. I'm really looking forward to hearing the whole album, and I think I will largely agree with this review when I finally do hear it.
wrathchild - 26.06.2014 at 09:09  
I'll need that one, sounds awesome.
Vykintas - 26.06.2014 at 10:48  
I'll need that one as well. Nice review!
D.T. Metal - 26.06.2014 at 22:38  
Written by Angelic Storm on 26.06.2014 at 08:27

The songs seem to be a mixed bag of mid paced anthems, and speed metal assaults in the tradition of the best Grave Digger works. I'm really looking forward to hearing the whole album, and I think I will largely agree with this review when I finally do hear it.

Yap. Honestly the more I listen to it the better I like the whole album. I know you liked their last one (i believe I saw YouTube stuff under your name ), but I really couldn't get all that into it minus a couple songs. This one I liked from the first time I listened to it. But yes, when it comes to Grave Digger, I actually prefer their speed metal over their power metal.
Angelic Storm - 27.06.2014 at 01:40  
Written by D.T. Metal on 26.06.2014 at 22:38
Yap. Honestly the more I listen to it the better I like the whole album. I know you liked their last one (i believe I saw YouTube stuff under your name ), but I really couldn't get all that into it minus a couple songs. This one I liked from the first time I listened to it. But yes, when it comes to Grave Digger, I actually prefer their speed metal over their power metal.


Oh, I did like the last one, and thought it was better than the previous two albums, but it still lacked that extra special ingredient to make it a "classic" Grave Digger album. The new album seems to have a more "traditional" type feel to it, from the samples I heard. Old school metal anthems mixed with speed metal, which for me is the best Grave Digger, particularly when the songs appear to be very well written, with an emphasis on memorable hooks and riffs. Just hearing those samples made me very excited to hear the new stuff. And your review pretty much summed up what I was expecting from the album. I'm really looking forward to hearing it!

And yep, I did upload some Clash Of The Gods songs. I did that not long after the album came out.
DeathSlyzer - 27.06.2014 at 22:05  
Written by Angelic Storm on 27.06.2014 at 01:40

Oh, I did like the last one, and thought it was better than the previous two albums, but it still lacked that extra special ingredient to make it a "classic" Grave Digger album. The new album seems to have a more "traditional" type feel to it, from the samples I heard. Old school metal anthems mixed with speed metal, which for me is the best Grave Digger, particularly when the songs appear to be very well written, with an emphasis on memorable hooks and riffs. Just hearing those samples made me very excited to hear the new stuff. And your review pretty much summed up what I was expecting from the album. I'm really looking forward to hearing it!

And yep, I did upload some Clash Of The Gods songs. I did that not long after the album came out.

Which of their mid-paced more anthemic songs are your favourites? I've always had trouble with Grave Digger songs that go on the slower side. I feel like there's way too little stuff happening, and it just feels like it drags on for way too long. I think the problem for me might be Boltendahl's vocal delivery, seeing as the vocal melodies doesn't always seem to be on the creative side. One example of a band I would say makes good mid-paced stuff is Primal Fear. I remember being surprised when I heard one of the bonus tracks on their latest, which was actually really catchy and had extremely memorable hooks.

I sure hope you're right on the new album. I don't know what to expect after hearing the samples. This album cannot be a let down! That just isn't right.
Angelic Storm - 28.06.2014 at 01:24  
Written by DeathSlyzer on 27.06.2014 at 22:05
Which of their mid-paced more anthemic songs are your favourites? I've always had trouble with Grave Digger songs that go on the slower side. I feel like there's way too little stuff happening, and it just feels like it drags on for way too long. I think the problem for me might be Boltendahl's vocal delivery, seeing as the vocal melodies doesn't always seem to be on the creative side. One example of a band I would say makes good mid-paced stuff is Primal Fear. I remember being surprised when I heard one of the bonus tracks on their latest, which was actually really catchy and had extremely memorable hooks.

I sure hope you're right on the new album. I don't know what to expect after hearing the samples. This album cannot be a let down! That just isn't right.


Some of my faves of Grave Digger's mid-paced anthems are "The Grave Dancer", "Heavy Metal Breakdown", "The Round Table (Forever)", "Dragon", "The Last Supper", and "Liberty Or Death".

Songs like those ones don't drag for me, because they have hooks, and very memorable choruses.

The one minute thirty samples I heard in the German ITunes store give me a very strong indication that this will be the best Grave Digger album in the last 10 years at least, and maybe even beyond that.
DeathSlyzer - 28.06.2014 at 04:20  
Written by Angelic Storm on 28.06.2014 at 01:24

Some of my faves of Grave Digger's mid-paced anthems are "The Grave Dancer", "Heavy Metal Breakdown", "The Round Table (Forever)", "Dragon", "The Last Supper", and "Liberty Or Death".

Songs like those ones don't drag for me, because they have hooks, and very memorable choruses.

The one minute thirty samples I heard in the German ITunes store give me a very strong indication that this will be the best Grave Digger album in the last 10 years at least, and maybe even beyond that.

I see. Yeah, "Dragon" is a good one. That chorus is catchy as hell. I haven't really gotten that into "The Last Supper" and the "Liberty Or Death" albums. They just didn't seem all that solid to me. But "The Grave Dancer" is one that I also find pretty damn good.

One of my favourite albums from them is "Ballads of A Hangman", and if they can actually top that one, I'm gonna be surprised. So many fast songs after one another! If I remember correctly, I twisted my neck once while listening to that album with a friend of mine. Good times indeed...
FotisKanios - 03.07.2014 at 16:49  
I am so happy to hear them back in form . Tight songs with fury and pure epicness that will thrill everyone . Great worl and welcome back .
Angelic Storm - 03.07.2014 at 23:13  
Written by DeathSlyzer on 28.06.2014 at 04:20
I see. Yeah, "Dragon" is a good one. That chorus is catchy as hell. I haven't really gotten that into "The Last Supper" and the "Liberty Or Death" albums. They just didn't seem all that solid to me. But "The Grave Dancer" is one that I also find pretty damn good.

One of my favourite albums from them is "Ballads of A Hangman", and if they can actually top that one, I'm gonna be surprised. So many fast songs after one another! If I remember correctly, I twisted my neck once while listening to that album with a friend of mine. Good times indeed...


Those albums are quite patchy, but there are some great songs on them, and the songs I mentioned are classic songs in the Grave Digger catalogue.

I've just now finished listening to the new album for the second time, and it is a cracker! Grave Digger at their most anthemic and powerful best to be sure.
DeathSlyzer - 04.07.2014 at 00:13  
Written by Angelic Storm on 03.07.2014 at 23:13

Those albums are quite patchy, but there are some great songs on them, and the songs I mentioned are classic songs in the Grave Digger catalogue.

I've just now finished listening to the new album for the second time, and it is a cracker! Grave Digger at their most anthemic and powerful best to be sure.

Damn! You really proved me wrong! I also enjoyed this album a lot. This went far beyond my expectations. Even songs like "Tattooed Rider" and "Grave Desecrator" are really catchy and memorable. Now I can't believe I ever doubted these guys. This was solid as hell, and better than "Clash of The Gods", which I also liked.

So yeah. It's safe to say that your expectations were spot on! :p
Angelic Storm - 04.07.2014 at 08:17  
Written by DeathSlyzer on 04.07.2014 at 00:13
Damn! You really proved me wrong! I also enjoyed this album a lot. This went far beyond my expectations. Even songs like "Tattooed Rider" and "Grave Desecrator" are really catchy and memorable. Now I can't believe I ever doubted these guys. This was solid as hell, and better than "Clash of The Gods", which I also liked.

So yeah. It's safe to say that your expectations were spot on! :p


Haha, well sometimes it can be good to be wrong!

Yeah, "Tattooed Rider" is another awesome one. Very, very 80's, and I love that chorus! This album is definitely Grave Digger at their best... it even succeeded my high expectations based on the samples! lol
Lord_Regnier - 20.07.2014 at 09:04  
It seems this album is really loved by Grave Digger fans and people in general.
As most of you probably know, I criticized this band many times. I realize that I probably gave the impression that I hate Grave Digger. It is not the case. I think I explained very badly my position towards this band.

I have no hate at this band. And I would never question their integrity. I never said that they were "sold out" or released pop crap. It's something else. For me, this is a frustrating band. Why? Because I think it could be a very good band for me if some things were done differently. I like their lyrical themes very much, for a start.
My problem is that I tried many times to get used to them because the lyrical themes attracted me but no matter how I tried, I can't enjoy a single album from this band. There are songs I like but, Imo, there are way too many fillers and pedestrian (read boring) songs. What I believe is Grave Digger could probably release great albums if they took more time between each release and worked more on the musical aspect (songwriting, mostly).

Take "Liberty Or Death", for example. The title song is quite decent and I could listen to an entire album made of songs like this one, even if my usual tastes are more extreme than that (just look at my list of bands to get an idea).
The problem is you have a few good songs like that on a Grave Digger album but also lots of mediocre, generic and utterly boring songs that are a chore to listen to from start to end. My opinion is when Grave Digger are good, it is enjoyable but when they are boring, damn is it boring and not only a little bit.
So, for me, the bads always outweighted the goods to the point that it was a frustrating experience that left me with a bitter taste of great potential not achieved in the end.

Just for the records, I still consider Grave Digger definitely superior to post SSOASS Iron Maiden, current Iced Earth or the vast majority of nowadays Powermetal.
Their albums are never excrutiatingly bad and their intention to release good old school Heavy Metal makes no doubt in my mind. The spirit of Metal is there and they don't release mainstream stuff for the purpose of appealing to the mainstream audience. I just think that their albums are not consistent and, while it is never truly bad, it is not great either.

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