GRAVE DIGGER - Fields Of Blood
June 3, 2020, a month ago
Returning to the scene of the crime, Chris Boltendahl and Grave Digger unveil a concept album revolving around (paradoxically, given their Teutonic heritage) Scottish history. With a shredder like Axel Ritt on guitar, none too big a fan of wasting his talents on another historical tour around the Isles, but Boltendahl (the wise old Reaper) has a few tricks up his sleeve and rips out enough traditional German heavy metal to even keep this longstanding fan from carping.
Make no mistake, there's plenty of authentic Highland music and instrumentation (bagpipes, fifes, drums, banjo, or whatever the local equivalent is) amongst the dozen inclusions ("The Clansman's Journey" intro, plus eleven legit songs, ranging from three minutes to 10:10). Pre-release, lyric video "All For The Kingdom" is the first proper track. Storming out of the gates, it's the fastest thing they've unleashed since "Road Rage Killer", back in '14 (off Return Of The Reaper), whereas punchy, sing-along "Lions Of The Sea" resides somewhere between Alestorm and the Diggers' own "Healed by Metal". A nod to Riot's "Outlaw" briefly segues into the pummeling, historical narrative of "Freedom". Sottish pipes & drums to kick off mid-paced stomp of "The Heart Of Scotland", more of the Robert The Bruce storyline, with a guitar break backed "jig", mid-section. On its heels comes "Thousand Tears", which begins as an dire acoustic guitar/pipe ballad, with guest appearance by Battle Beast singer Noora Louhimo, more restrained than she's ever been. After a double-dose of mid-album ennui, the locomotive clickity-clack of "Union Of The Crown' gets things back on track (pun intended).
Gathering Of The Clans" follows "My Final Fight", the former with massive gang choir, come the chorus, and ubiquitous pipes. Ultimately it fades out, voicing "The gathering", to repeated snare drum snaps. "Barbarian" is a beefy, tradition Grave Digger anthem, while "Fields Of Blood" is the massive 10+ epic mentioned earlier. Can envision the pipes and snares marching across the field, preparing for battle, which commences with Ritt's six-string attack and double bass drumming. Throughout, it changes tempo several times. In fact, around the eight minute mark, as double tracked Boltendahl sings (nearly a cappella) "Braveheart, that's what I am. I am the hero of Scottish pride. Braveheart, they call me. I lost my life for the king and crown" there's only a symphonic, synth underpinning. Eventually, Jens Becker's bass solo transitions back to a full band sound, as it races to conclusion (much as it began). The "Requiem For The Fallen" finale, longtime bassist Becker again in the spotlight (to start), is essentially an orchestral instrumental. Could see this becoming the live intro-tape, all but the dour last 30 seconds.
Another Scotch? Maybe Scottish Ale? Drink it all in!