Grave Digger: Metal, Greek Mythology, and Body Wash.

'In the end, we just want to play metal.'

Formed in 1980, Germany's Grave Digger has been consistently churning out scorching traditional heavy metal, staying true to their metal roots, with the exception of an ill received attempt at AOR in 1987, where they changed their name to Digger and released Stronger Than Ever, nearly ending the band. Now, after three decades, Grave Digger are set to release their 16th studio album Clash Of The Gods, an epic collection of crunching, classic metal, which will definitely please fans of the band. Metal as Fuck caught up with vocalist Chris Boltendahl to find out what keeps Grave Digger going strong after 32 years.

'It's the belief and faith in heavy metal.' Chris says almost reverently, 'It's the music I grew up with and it's the music I want to end with.' It's undeniable, the firm devotion you have to the scene, but have you ever wanted to call it day and just get a day job? 'Everyone in the band does work outside of music, but sixty to seventy percent of all our income comes from the music.' Not bad, considering the state of the music industry and the struggles most metal bands now have to endure. Grave Digger continues to thrive, despite the odds being increasingly stacked against them. 'I'm very proud that we can, more or less, make a living from the music.' He continues, 'With a band like Grave Digger; It's a gift,you know; that we are able to survive in the current metal scene.' Have you ever been tempted to add elements like death vocals, or jazz breakdowns to sound more current? '[chuckles] No, no. We all grew up with classic metal and hard rock, like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden – the whole New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. It's the music we all love to play. I mean, we'll add keyboards, and that gives a bit of that seventies element, like Rainbow or Deep Purple, but in the end we just want to play metal.'

In 2009 Grave Digger replaced guitarist Manni Schmidt with Axel Ritt. So, what happened with Manni? 'After five or six years, Manni's opinions started to change; He no longer wanted to play this more true form of heavy metal and wanted to move to more progressive type things. In the last few years with him there wasn't a very good mood in the band, so eventually, we decided to just separate. In the end it was a good decision for both parties.' How is Axel working out, and what does he bring to the table? “At first he was just a sub for Manni, because we had a bunch of shows booked around the time that Manni left, he just fit really well live and brought a bunch of great riff ideas for the new albums – we got along well, so we just decided to keep him permanent.”

You're set to release the new album, Clash Of The Gods, is this a concept album? 'There is a story, yes. It's about Greek mythology and we did a lot of research, you know? Reading all the books, going on the internet, and watching all the movies.' Another validation for the cerebral aspects of metal continuing the tradition of bringing history, folklore, and ultimately, educating masses of sweaty head-bangers. I include myself as one of the many that started reading Samuel Taylor Coolidge after hearing Iron Maiden's rendition of Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. 'Maybe some kids will listen to this and want to go read about some of this history, there are a lot of great stories there.' On how it came together on the album, 'We were able to get a really good atmosphere on this album between the lyrics and the music. You can almost smell the battlefield from the soldiers with their swords fighting against Troy... then sailing out to sea.'

Speaking of smells:

Ladies, look at your man, now look at Grave Digger, look back at your man, now back to Grave Digger. Sadly, your man isn't Grave Digger, but if he stopped using lady scented body wash and switched to Grave Digger Body Wash, he could smell like, well, Grave Digger... how cool is that for some merchandising? I'm not sure even Kiss has a body wash... who am I kidding. Of course they do, but it's not nearly as awesome as this, if you ask me. Tell me about the Grave Digger body wash? '[laughs] It's actually something pretty special because, first, we don't make any money off it at all. It's a special item for fans of the band. It's not tested on animals; our intention is that it's completely vegan, which is a cause we want to help support.' Where can us filthy metal heads purchase Grave Digger Body Wash? 'You should be able to purchase it at the end of the month from our merchandise section of the official website, or directly from Axel's site (axelritt.com). Axel is very committed to the vegan cause, in the end it was his idea.' And what exactly does a Grave Digger smell like? 'Like death![laughs]' Chris is quick to clarify, 'It's actually very cool. It's not like a heavy perfume or anything like that. Just a clean, simple smell. It's more natural – it's not like smelling like a dead body that's been lying in the ground for weeks, lots of little animals creeping around your dead body, you know?[laughs]' I don't know, maybe you should go with the morbid theme. It's metal and chicks dig death, right? '[laughing, mimics a commercial voice-over] Grave Digger body shampoo... Smell like death!'

Clash Of the Gods is set to be released in Europe next Friday, August 31st and next Tuesday, September 3rd in the United States. Look for European tour dates starting in January when they embark on the German Metal Attack Tour 2013 accompanied by Wizard, Gun Barrel, and Majesty. Any metal fan in proximity to that show would be crazy to miss it.

For tour dates and body wash visit:

http://www.grave-digger-clan.com/