More than four decades of history and 19 studio albums! Grave Digger is an institution not only in the German scene, but a cult name in the old school circles worldwide. I sometimes like to divide their discography in four distinctive periods: the classic age (Heavy Metal Breakdown through War Games), the Uwe Lulis age (The Reaper through Excalibur), the Manni Schmidt age (The Grave Digger through Ballads Of A Hangman) and the present, Axel Ritt age. Grave Digger have been among the few bands that not only survived the nineties, but released their best albums in the darkest days for classic metal, the quality of which, in my opinion, was due also very much to the contribution of Uwe Lulis (who is now in Accept). Rheingold (2003) was a fantastic album, yet still not better than the revered Knights Of The Cross or Excalibur. When Axel Ritt replaced Schmidt in 2009, the albums that followed, even with a track or two that deserved repeated plays, never managed to attract my attention for more than a few weeks and when I reach for a Digger album to play, the Ritt age is rarely among the choices. Until now.
The twentieth Grave Digger album Symbol Of Eternity is coming out next Friday (August 26th) and is easily the best music they’ve come up with since Rheingold! I love to be pleasantly surprised when I have no big expectations and Chris Boltendahl and co. have done exactly that. After a short intro, Battle Cry features the first of many absolutely killer riffs by Mr. Ritt and, even more importantly, fantastic, catchy, memorable choruses! Hell Is My Purgatory, cleverly chosen as a single, again relies on a very memorable chorus and hymn-like structure. Symbol Of Eternity is once again based upon the story of the Knights Templar, but the resemblance to the classic Knights Of The Cross album is not only in concept, but also in the inspiration and class these new songs are created with. Every one of the first eight songs in the new album can easily be placed in Knights Of The Cross as well – yes, they are THAT good. There’s speed, there’s groove and there’s great harmonies and hooks. Grace Of God and Sky Of Swords are a slight drop in quality, but Holy Warfare and The Last Crusade finish the album on a high note. The last song Hellas Hellas (as you can guess) is a lovely tribute to the Greek fans of the band (it is even sung in Greek!), which, frankly, could be placed in a limited edition because it sounds quite strange in the regular tracklist.
However, this is a minor detail which cannot take away from the feeling that Grave Digger are finally drinking from the same well of inspiration that brought is the above mentioned classics from the nineties. The cover artwork by Uwe Jarling, traditionally for the Germans, is stunning and further adds to the feeling of satisfaction within the listener and fan. Good job, guys!
You can order Symbol Of Eternity from HERE