REVIEW: GRAVE DIGGER – “Fields Of Blood”
Being one of the most influential Teutonic bands of all time, and ranging more than 35 years of history, Grave Digger have been kicking ass since you and I were on diapers, so every time the old geezers deliver a new album, we should shut our mouths and listen. Advertised as a continuation of the “Highlands” story started out in the masterful ‘Tunes of War’ (1996), ‘Fields of Blood’ is an effort that tries to bring back some of the digger’s 90’s magic.
That becomes clear in the intro “The Clansman’s Journey” and when the first chords of “All for the Kingdom” kick in. The song starts in a very similar fashion to “Scotland United”, and keeps things in that atmosphere throughout its course. Follow-up “Lions of the Sea” brings a more melodic approach to the record, which is something that is being explored more and more since Axel Ritt joined the band in 2009.
As it is with most Grave Digger albums, simple and direct moments have their place, but the Germans haven’t been this epic since ‘Clash of the Gods’ came out. True, seeing this a sequel to perhaps the most sought topic from Chris Boltendahl and company, the tendency to be as grandiose and memorable as possible is understandable, but in no way, the album becomes overpompous or obnoxious; rather, while it is not near as brilliant as its 1996 counterpart, is very catchy and blood-pumping.
Good examples of that are the war chant “Freedom”, the dense “The Heart of Scotland” and the magnum opus title-track, probably one of the best songs Grave Digger have released in the last 10 years. Keyboardist Marcus Kniep does a good job in his debut as the drummer here, providing great support in the heavier moments, especially when there’s a need to be more primitive, for story purposes.
Trying to follow the steps of “The Ballad of Mary (Queen of Scots)” is “Thousand Tears”, serving as the ballad and saddest moment in the album. Noora Louhimo (Battlebeast) provides guest vocals and does a good job, but the final product, of course, pales in comparison to the 1996 classic.
The second half of the record is where Grave Digger shines. Starting out with the awesome “The Union of the Crown” – song that could easily feature in their classic sets in the future -, the brilliant Teutonic way of playing surfaces with killer riffs, bombastic choruses, and that perfect amount of epicness mentioned earlier. OK, “My Final Fight” is too happy for my own taste (and for the sake of the atmosphere here, by the way), but “Gathering of the Clans” and “Barbarian” hold the fort well for the best track here, “Fields of Blood”. As I said above, the song is one of the most inspired by the band in a while and crowns a good return to form in an honored way.
Very well produced and mixed, the album is crystal clear in terms of execution and dynamics. Songwriting-wise, it’s great, but doesn’t come near the geniality of the band’s heydays (From 1993 to 2003, in my opinion), especially when the duo Tomi Göttlich (Rebellion) and Uwe Lulis (now with Accept) were collaborating with Chris. This may be unfair to say, but there’s a clear line tracing this album back to ‘Tunes of War’, so it’s only natural to do so.
‘Fields of Blood’ is a pleasant surprise, at minimum. After almost 6 years of basically just “existing”, Grave Digger finally kicked us in the nuts once again and proved why they are one of the most long-lasting acts around. Awesome riffs, headbanging moments, and a nice flashback to the ’90s are all great elements that surround this new effort by the masters of heavy metal breakdown. So throw your panties away, grab that kilt that’s been catching dust in the closet and paint yourself for war, because the Reaper is back.