I absolutely love the Middle Age trilogy of "Tunes Of War", "Knights Of The Cross" and "Excalibur" by German GRAVE DIGGER. I love the music, I love the concept, I love the choirs, I love the whole package. "The Grave Digger" then was not bad, but could not compete with those three masterpieces. Now "Rheingold" is a true concept album again, inspired by the great German national epos "The Ring Of The Nibelungs" by Richard Wagner, so hopes were high for the album to return to the three afore mentioned classics.
Apparently the band had wanted to use this theme for a while, but did not dare to do so. Well, I for my part am happy that they have done as it is a highly interesting story indeed and who else could fittingly put it into Metal than GRAVE DIGGER? I mean, they have enough experience with those concepts by now. I can only begin to imagine how hard it is to put such a monumental story into one mere album and even more so, make it fit the songs (or the other way around, depends), but just like with the three other concept albums the Germans once more master the split between demanding story and powerful music.
After a classical intro the title track sets out absolutely in style, with driving double bass, the GRAVE DIGGER typical guitars and riffs and, of course, Chris Boltendahl's inimitable trademark voice. The chorus is very softly song by the choirs, would have hoped for a little more power here, but the intention is clear and still fits. "Valhalla" then unpacks the great choir bridge/chorus combination of the Trilogy, you hear it once and can sing along right away, those melodies, those choirs… I LOVE THEM!
And "Giants" suddenly features a classical passage with horns and trumpets over the steady Metal rhythms and electric guitars, sounds damn cool, of you ask me! Also the big choir of "Murderer" or the almighty "Twilight Of The Gods", which is one track that truly deservedly bears such a monumental name have to be mentioned here, with the last track of the regular CD being a true epic, with big choir, with a calm and emotional interlude, crunching guitars, playful leads, a future classic of GRAVE DIGGER!
The wonderfully done DigiPak with embossed skull and silver and gold print also contains two bonus track, the epic and measured "Hero" as well as the piano led ballad "Goodbye", very calm, unusual, but nevertheless fitting. The booklet also has pencil sketches and drawings to accompany and accentuate, to illustrate the story, which also is described a little beyond the lyrics, altogether resulting in a truly great packaging as well, living up to the quality of the music.
As usual Chris Boltendahl's voice will be the factor for you to decide, if you like GRAVE DIGGER or not, but in any case, "Rheingold" is fully in tradition of "Tunes Of War", "Knights Of The Cross" and "Excalibur", so my only question is - what will be next? (Online July 6, 2003)