Grave Digger - Clash of the Gods (Napalm Records)

The album Mick Strong never thought they'd make...
Release Date: 
30 Aug 2012 - 11:30pm

 

Grave Digger – you’ve got to hand it to them, ain’tya? Forever seemingly destined to exist on the fringes of greatness, always flirting with the derision of the ‘cooler-than-you’ section of our community who always enjoy laughing at those with a less highly attuned sense of irony than they; Yet always, year in, year out, fighting as only they can for heavy metal, stoving in ears worldwide with their idiosyncratic brand of thrash/power metal.

It’s idiosyncratic mainly for two reasons: Firstly, the band has always steadfastly resisted the chance to add a second guitar to their basic, yet effective, bombast, leading them to at times effect a spare, sparse sound when the grandiose themes of their albums seemingly cry out for something a little more lavish, and, secondly, the no compromise bellow of vocalist Chris Boltendahl.

Boltendahl is Grave Digger, of course, but at times over the years my (and I’m sure it’s not just me, hence the band’s continued lack of ‘mainstream’ metal success) relationship with his ragged, guttural vocalising has become estranged. But here, on Clash of the Gods (the band’s best outing in many, many years, coincidentally) the man is in top form. Ludicrous, obviously, but top form nonetheless. This is all to do with the fact that he’s got some absolutely brilliant songs to growl over throughout CotG, with every track here having something to recommend it. The album is also spectacularly varied, taking such stylistically different tracks as the amusing Brechtian eeriness of album opener Charon and the more prosaic, Deep Purple-quoting power metal of God of Terror under its wing without ever sounding disjointed or piecemeal; This is something of a feat when you consider the sometimes unidimensional nature of the Boltendahl voice; However on this album you’ll never find yourself secretly wishing the old bugger would give it a rest for a while and give someone else a turn… in fact I’d go so far as to suggest that Chris puts in the performance of his life on Clash of the Gods, which means it is, to these ears, the best thing this band has done since their halcyon Witch Hunter days, and that’s an extremely exciting statement to be able to type. 

In short, this is the sort of album fans of Grave Digger always knew they had in them, but dare not dream that it would be released; that it has been is a very beautiful thing indeed.