Grave Digger: Sixteen Years Of Power Supremacy
by Martin Popoff

To my mind there are way too many power metal bands. And the ones that gotta go are the prissy melodic speed acts, the ones that have listened to way too much Blind Guardian and Rhapsody and Stratovarius. Grave Digger kicks all that in the ass, proving that the strongest strain is the oldest, Chris Boltendahl and his jolly beer-swilling metalheads tasting sweet success with their second wind, headbanging the world with their sixth "reunion" album (the band has two distinct eras: '84 to '86 and '93 to the present), a growling crunch power masterpiece called Excalibur, out in Europe since September, but about to make a full US debut through Nuclear Blast next month.

Even though the new album is a fairly complicated piece of epic metal, its mandate is more direct than its predecessor Knights Of The Cross, which addressed the whole fascinating Knights Templar/secret society issue. "I read all the books personally," explains Chris with a sigh. "It was hard, hard work, believe me. For Excalibur it was easier because there are a lot of books on King Arthur, and there is only one basic story inside, the legend. But with the Templars there was so much stuff, and I think I read four thousand pages for this. Now I can be a teacher in history on this subject (laughs)."

The music takes a similar bee-line for the gut. "I think the last album was more progressive, because the story was much more difficult than this one. On Excalibur, we preferred to do more of a straight heavy metal sound, like our first album Heavy Metal Breakdown. That's the biggest difference between the two CDs." For anybody who doesn't know, 1984's Heavy Metal Breakdown is an exalted, carnal chunk of classic metal, instantly placing Grave Digger third in line for the German metal throne, usurping Scorpions and then Accept as the band to watch. One killer album later, Witch Hunter, then two not-so-hot stabs at commerciality, War Games and the much-despised Stronger The Ever album (as simply Digger), and the band went into hibernation for seven years, recording demos as Hawaii. The '90s marked a string of slick but heavy pioneering power metal slabs and now the band is indeed back, er, stronger than ever.

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