F U L L . R E V I E W S



Grave Digger
Ballads Of A Hangman

Company: Napalm
Release: 2009
Genre: Power
Reviewer: EC

  • A turning point, yet disappointing



  • Ironically there are three holy trinities of German heavy metal. The power metal trio consists of Helloween, Gamma Ray, and Blind Guardian. The thrash threesome is Sodom, Kreator, and Destruction. The band at hand, Grave Digger, falls into the traditional class featuring Rage and Running Wild. These three groups of bands are as important to German metal as Udo's throaty "Sign Of Victory!" anthem in "Balls To The Wall". In other words, Grave Digger is important.

    In 2009 the band celebrates twenty-five years of studio recordings with their fourteenth release entitled "Ballads Of A Hangman". Oddly enough this album actually marks a turning point for the band. For the first time ever Grave Digger has recorded with twin guitars. Along with axe-grinder Manni Schmidt stands a living legend in Thilo Hermann. This guitar God has stood in line with some pretty respectable German outfits including Running Wild, Risk, Holy Moses, Glenmore, and the age old Faithful Breath. With this much power on the strings does "Ballads Of A Hangman" return the band to the "Heart Of Darkness" glory days? Sadly no.

    Certainly the band is still loud, fast, and heavy, but Chris Boltendahl has just ran out of ideas at this point. Schmidt and Hermann both back Bolendahl with writing duty but the end result is less than spectacular. This album, much like the last effort "Liberty Or Death", leaves fans like myself wondering if perhaps the Grave Digger has indeed sprinkled the dirt on the casket.

    The band's single, "Pray", was released as a preview for the album a few months ago. That track featured some atmosphere and keyboard elements that really made "The Grave Digger" sound dynamic and fresh eight years ago. Now it is just another cog going through the gears. The same can be said for this album's opening trio of songs, all of which sound like riffs passed down from previous albums and explored further with Hermann's approach. "Stormrider" does provide a refreshing moment, really storming through traditional metal grounds with a Black Sabbath "Neon Knights" vibe. The other refreshment is the sobering ballad "Lonely The Innocent Dies" with Benedictum vocalist Veronica Freeman really playing to Boltendahl's deep voice duet style. Beyond that the album just falls flat, completely missing the mark in terms of exploring dueling leads or melody.

    "Ballads Of A Hangman" is a thoroughly disappointing album and one that kicks off 2009 in less than stellar fashion. Grave Digger better find the same water hole as Saxon or this band and its legacy may indeed wear out their welcome.


    About this Writer:
    Eric Compton // Eric Compton lives in the most haunted city in the world, St. Augustine, Florida with his family and two yorkies. He has contributed to MaximumMetal.com since it's conception in 2003. His reviews, interviews and social commentary has been featured on websites like Brave Words, Blabbermouth, Metal Temple, Metal Rules, Ultimate Metal, Metal Maniacs and Wikipedia. You can also find him on his paperbackwarrior.com blog discussing all things action and adventure.

    Maximum Metal Rating Legend - Click for Full Details
    5 Excellent - Buy it and say a prayer to the metal gods that you were tuned on to this masterpiece. A classic.
    4-4.5 Great - Almost perfect records but there's probably a clunker or a lacking somewhere to keep it from perfection. You won't feel bad about dropping some bones on these.
    3.5 Good - Most of the record is good, but there may be some filler. This is the OK range where you'd search for the record on sale or used.
    3 Average - Some good songs, some bad ones at about a half/half ratio. Could show skills but be dull overall. Redeeming qualities for indy bands are effort and passion. Majors that don't try or suck outright end up here.
    2-2.5 Fair - Worth a listen, but best obtained by collectors. There is much better metal out there.
    1-1.5 Bad - Major problems with music, lyrics, production, etc.
    0 Terrible or an otherwise waste of your life and time.

    Note: Reviews are graded from 0-5, anything higher or not showing is from our old style. Scores, however, do not reveal the important features. The written review that accompanies the ratings is the best source of information regarding the music on our site. Reviewing is opinionated, not a qualitative science, so scores are personal to the reviewer and could reflect anything from being technically brilliant to gloriously cheesy fun.

    Demos and independent releases get some slack since the bands are often spent broke supporting themselves and trying to improve. Major releases usually have big financial backing, so they may be judged by a heavier hand. All scores can be eventually adjusted up or down by comparison of subsequent releases by the same band. We attempt to keep biases out of reviews and be advocates of the consumer without the undo influence of any band, label, management, promoter, etc.

    The best way to determine how much you may like certain music is to listen to it yourself.



    ALL FULL REVIEWS FOR: GRAVE DIGGER
    CD
    TITLE BAND
    DOR
    REVIEWER DATE
    Ballads Of A HangmanGrave Digger
    2009
    Eric Compton1/13/2009
    Clash Of The GodsGrave Digger
    2012
    Eric Compton9/26/2012
    Healed by MetalGrave Digger
    2016
    Eric Compton12/21/2016
    Liberty or DeathGrave Digger
    2006
    Vinaya Saksena7/6/2007
    Return of the ReaperGrave Digger
    2014
    Eric Compton7/9/2014
    RheingoldGrave Digger
    2003
    Eric Compton6/27/2003
    The Clans Will Rise AgainGrave Digger
    2010
    Eric Compton3/10/2011
    The Last SupperGrave Digger
    2005
    Eric Compton3/4/2005


    ALL SUMMARY REVIEWS FOR: GRAVE DIGGER

    No Summary reviews currently exist for them.


    ALL INTERVIEWS FOR: GRAVE DIGGER
    INTERVIEW BAND INTERVIEWER DATE
    Jens BeckerGrave DiggerEric Compton2/7/2003


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