Grave Digger - The Last Supper


Year of Release: 2005
Label: Nuclear Blast
Catalog Number: NB-1343-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 51:58:00

Grave Digger's The Last Supper is the band's 12th album, released at the beginning of 2005. If you are unfamiliar with Grave Digger - as I was prior to hearing this - they are a German quintet playing dark, heavy, chugging, sometimes sludgy, sometimes thrashy metal. The nearest comparison I can make is to Blind Guardian, though I think vocalist Chris Boltendahl has a much rougher, grizzled voice. Not cookie monster vocals... well, not howling winds of hell vocals; you can hear what he's singing. It's that grizzled, wearied Teutonic warrior sound. He doesn't so much sing, as speak melodically.

Overall, you know what to expect. Thundering rhythms, big guitar, tight arrangements, not a lot of open, widdly moments - though lots of guitar soloing opportunities (Manni Schmidt), there aren't those subtle leads like one finds with Gilmour and all is devotees. No, leads scream, snarl and lash out shrilly, emerging from the stew of meaty bass (Jens Becker) and drums (Stefan Arnold) and the yell-sung vocals. In fact, there's not even any subtlety in the ballads. Which doesn't mean there isn't texture here; there is. A tad bit of progressiveness in this otherwise booming thrash-power metal meal.

This is a "man's album" in that you needn't worry about wimpy, simpering metal, even during the balladic pieces (though their name probably told you that anyway). That isn't to say that it's only for men, as women who like their metal serious, solid, hairy and manly will like this, too. In fact, I think all the "hair metal" bands have gone, haven't they? Either transitioning to a more AOR sound or have quit the business all together.

Which says something, doesn't it? Grave Digger have been around a long time, though this particular line-up only since 2003 (the only consistent member is Boltendahl). Their debut, Heavy Metal Breakdown, came out in 1984 and two albums followed, Witchhunter (1985) and War Games (1986). Although they split for a time (while hair metal ruled the earth), they returned in 1993 with The Reaper and have released nearly one album a year since, including a live release Tunes Of Wacken (recorded at the Wacken Open Air festival). They've taken on history on the trio of albums Tunes Of War (Scottish history), Knights Of The Cross (Knights Templar) and Excalibur (King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table). 2001's The Grave Digger tackled Edgar Allen Poe and 2003's Rheingold (which I have, but have yet to review) took on Wagner's Neibelungen Saga.

So, with The Last Supper, they're taking on not just Jesus himself, but related themes. I suspect all biblical in nature, whether inspired by or directly referencing. Not being a student of the bible, well, I can't say... and I don't think is necessary to understand the underlying theme of death, sacrifice, betrayal, suffering, faith, etc., etc.

A pleasant piano-based melody begins the album in "Passion," the phrase repeated to close out the title track "The Last Supper." While this first piece starts things out in relative calm, the pummeling begins with the very next track "Desert Rose." The chugging, screaming guitars dominate the verses, the heavily thundering drums brutalizing the choruses... while bass chops and marches along with both. Thrashy also is "Hell To Pay" which every once in a while makes me think of Judas Priest on super-strength speed. Guitar spins around like a whirling dervish, drums pound severely (it isn't just mindless bash-bash; there's some interesting texture in there). You can hear Katzenburg's keyboards, but they seem odd in the mix. "Soul Savior" has a catchy, 80s power-metal vibe to it -- a la classic Iron Maiden, with more of that BG element to it). Boltendahl digs deep for "Divided Cross," guitar and keys playing in duet for the lead lines. "Hundred Days" makes for an odd "sing-a-long;" though not necessarily written to be one, you can easily get caught up in the chorus. Oh, not in a poppy-hookladen way, but caught nonetheless.

Less thrashy numbers include "Grave In The No Man's Land," a melodic heavy rocker; sort of a grizzled Metallica (pre-Load). There is a sort of arty bridge, where keyboards are heard above the din; otherwise you wouldn't really know they were there. This and "Black Widows" have a very "stereotypical metal" feel, though they are different from each other. My favorite part is the fuller bridge, where the band opens up a bit.

"Crucified" is probably the least effective piece vocally - the slight flutter in Boltendahl's vocals is um... unnecessary. It's a slow burning, chugging ballad. "Always And Eternally" begins as a nice piano - keyboard duet, but is spoilt a bit by the return of the wavery vocals... where he croons most like Sesame Street's Cookie Monster. It is the slowest paced piece on the album (and is the second longest at 5-minutes plus).

While I don't think it's a great album, it is a solid album and at the head of the table for it's genre. Not having a history with the band, I don't know how this relates to the rest of their catalog - though the press blurb suggests it is a "return to the spirits of their formative years..." Well, you can hear clearly how IM had some influence them and how they in turn influenced Blind Guardian. Also, I have Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" running through my head and there is a vibe on that song running through this musicially - the same kind of heavy throb.


Tracklisting:
Passion (1:19) / The Last Supper (5:39) / Desert Rose (4:19) / Grave In The No Man's Land (4:10) / Hell To Pay (3:47) / Soul Savior (4:10) / Crucified (7:00) / Divided Cross (3:54) / The Night Before (3:29) / Black Widows (4:22) / Hundred Days (4:16) / Always And Eternally (5:28) / Bonus tracks on special edition: Sleepless / Jeepers Creepers

Musicians:
Chris Boltendahl - vocals
Manni Schmidt - guitars
Jens Becker - bass
Stefan Arnold - drums
H.P. Katzenburg - keys

Discography:
Heavy Metal Breakdown (1984)
Shoot Her Down (ep) (1984)
Witch Hunter (1985)
War Games (1986)
Stranger Than Ever (1987)
The Reaper (1993)
Symphony Of Death (1994)
Heart Of Darkness (1995)
Tunes Of War (1996)
In The Dark Of The Sun (ep) (1997)
Knights Of The Cross (1998)
Excalibur (2000)
The Grave Digger (2001)
Rheingold (2003)
The Last Supper (2005)
25 To Live (2005)
Yesterday (ep) (2006)
Liberty Or Death (2007)
Pray (ep) (2008)
Ballads Of A Hangman (2009)

Tunes Of Wacken (DVD) (2002)
25 To Live (DVD) (2005)

Genre: Other

Origin DE

Added: June 19th 2006
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Score:
Artist website: www.grave-digger.de
Hits: 858
Language: english

  

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