Grave Digger – “The Living Dead” (Napalm Records)
Well, there doesn’t seem to be a let up in the Boltendahl bulldozer – the man (and his band) are simply on a (steam) roll ha ha! If last year’s “Healed By Metal” didn’t rock your headbanging socks off then this 19th album in the band’s (almost) 40 year career most certainly will. Rooted in 80s heavy / power / speed metal there’s little flamboyance or pretence in the straight up, no nonsense style of the band whose unchanging formula is still based on heaviness matched by melody and always above all, catchiness. Operating a very strict quality control of vetting what makes it past the band’s high standards seems to have worked well yet again given how the band have been recently issuing albums every year. Indeed, the collaboration between composers Boltendahl and guitarist Axel Ritt couldn’t have been tighter on the 11 tracks making up this superb album – including the jolly pirate metal song of ‘Zombie Dance’ recorded with label mates Russkaja ha ha! Roaring in with massive riffing graced by ultra catchy guitar melodies and licks on ‘Blade Of The Immortal’, Boltendahl’s gruff vocals only seem to add to the heaviness leading up to the singalong chorus while on ‘The Power Of Metal’, its chugging energetic beat is driven by dirty guitars that build into an anthemic power metal chorus begging to be sung by an audience. Crashing in with unbelievable heaviness is ‘Hymn Of The Damn’ that soon morphs into an upbeat but highly soulful song, chugging with plenty of energy and double bass drumming in the background, although it’s Boltendahl that leads the powering melodic chorus before moving into a massive headbanging passage before Ritt provides a moving solo piece to temper it all brilliantly – wow, talk about variety! With razor sharp riffing comes ‘Insane Pain’ backed by a steamhammer rhythm as Boltendahl drawls repetitively on the chanting song title chorus before Ritt hits the gas again for some stratospheric wails and a solo to send a shudder into your soul – awesome. If you love what this veteran band have been putting out over their last coupla releases then “The Living Dead” is even more of the same to lap up in abundance.