I had just finished my first year of college, including an intensive class on Arthuriana. I walk into the now-closed record store and find an album by GRAVE DIGGER, a band I’d only known from MP3s, based on King Arthur. Of course I bought it and have been quite content since.
This is the final album in the so-called “Medieval Trilogy” GRAVE DIGGER put out in the late 90s. They’ve been plying their craft in one form or another since 1980, so while they’re a German Heavy/Power/Speed Metal band, they’re not just any German Heavy/Power/Speed Metal band, they’re an institution. They may still write suspiciously similar songs on their many albums, but they’ve got it down pat.
Everything’s here. The larger-than-life choruses, the shouted choruses, the near-constant double bass, some great guitar from Uwe Lulis (this was his last album), and no song breaking the six minute boundary. You even get the classic mispronunciation of the English word “sword.” What you don’t expect is several repeated medieval passages performed by none other than members from SUBWAY TO SALLY. If you’ve never heard GRAVE DIGGER before, you probably also won’t be expecting main man Chris Boltendahl’s gravely vocals. We see that he can sing clear on in some parts, but usually he sounds like a less surly version of Jeff Walker during his BLACKSTAR RISING days.
Really, this album is a good headbanging time from the beginning of “Pendragon” almost until the end. The chorus of “Pendragon” and “Tristan’s Fate” will get stuck in your head like you won’t believe. You can’t help but stomp your feet to “The Round Table (Forever)” and I gotta admit, “Lancelot” is an interesting, almost bawdy interpretation of the classic character. Just avoid “Emerald Eyes.” Ye Gods that was a mistake. “Parzival” (if you have the DigiPak) isn’t that hot either, but everything else is solid to really good.
I really like this album. I dunno if I’d say it’s their best - “Rheingold” and “Tunes Of War” are really strong competition- but if you’re looking for a heaping helping of Teutonic Heavy/Power/Speed Metal that predates today’s scene, you could do a lot worse. They’re not inventing anything new, they’re just doing a classic style right. Also recommended for any fans of Arthuriana. (Online March 1, 2006)