Label: Napalm Records
Available: July 11th, 2014
Grave Digger has been beating the metal drum for well over 30 years with a vast catalog of material spanning the decades. While the line-up of the band has constantly been changing, the one constant has always been lead singer Chris Boltendahl’s leadership and gravel-esque vocals. While Boltendahl and company on the past several albums ventured heavily into concepts and themes ‘Return of the Reaper’ marks a return of classic Grave Digger and a more straight forward approach to the music the band wants to deliver. Will this return to a more classic approach be a new renaissance for Grave Digger or will they have to return to the graveyard and gather dust? READ ON!
‘Return of the Reaper’ opens with the song ‘Hell Funeral’ which is a fairly straight forward and punches you in the face. The guitars are driving and fast and Boltendahl’s vocals are what you expect them to be…rough and snarling. As an opening track ‘Hell Funeral’ gets the job done and sounds like what you would expect Grave Digger to sound like. However, what I found interesting on ‘Return of the Reaper’ are the songs where Grave Digger spreads their wings more.
This album contains songs that will tread familiar Grave Digger territory in terms of sound but the tracks I found to be the more interesting were songs like ‘Tattooed Rider’. When this track starts, it reminds me a bit of Judas Priest’s ‘Turbo Lover’ with the Keyboard and synth sound. I found this track to be one of the best on the album as it gives the listener a nice ride to grove to and is a great listen with a fun chorus.
Another great track is ‘Grave Desecrator’ which has a great riff to start off the song and has a great build up to the main meat of the song. Again this song has a great chorus that would translate great live and I hope is included into the live set. Then we have ‘Dia De Los Muertos’ which is another great example of Grave Digger building up a sinister mood for a song and is a mid paced track with yet another great chorus.
Out of all the album, I think for fans who want to hear vintage Grave Digger, ‘Season of the Witch’ encompasses everything those fans would love. Actually I think this song could be a sequel to their ‘Circle of Witches’ song from the early 90’s just a bit slower and ominous.
On the vocal side of things Boltendahl’s vocals are spot on and remind me of what Yoda would sound like if he went dark side and became a metal singer. Boltendahl really give the songs on ‘Return of the Reaper’ the extra flavor they need to set them above and beyond other bands.
‘Return of the Reaper’ marks a solid return of Grave Digger to their roots and a departure from the concept albums. It is a very solid and hard hitting metal album that I feel was written specifically for fans in a live setting to sing along to. While some of the songs do tread territory that is a little TOO familiar the album contains some great metal gems that show Grave Digger to be more than a one dimensional band. I hope on the next album they expand upon this even further as I feel the band has more potential to tap into and shouldn’t shy away from that.