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


Grave Digger - Liberty or Death - 2006 - Locomotive Records

Track Listing:
1. Liberty or Death
2. Ocean of Blood
3. Highland Tears
4. The Terrible One
5. Until the last King died
6. March of the Innocent
7. Silent Revolution
8. Shadowland
9. Forecourt to Hell
10. Massada
Though my own former band once wrote something to the contrary, maybe you can have too much of a good thing. When I first learned of the growing power metal scene taking hold in Europe back at the turn of the century, I was immediately on board, even if I didn’t know quite how to pronounce the names of guys in bands like Stratovarius and HammerFall. In a time when most people’s idea of metal in the US was some group of marginally talented punks with trendy designer clothes and an inordinate number of piercings playing simplistic detuned riffs over hip-hop beats, the melodicism and musicianship of power metal was an incredible breath of fresh air, no matter how ridiculously thespian it may have been.

Now, however, it’s been a good seven years since then, with who knows how many bands having emerged/ re-emerged or re-tooled carrying the power metal banner. And while I still enjoy much of what the genre has to offer, even a committed fan such as myself has to admit that this sheer volume of product can lead to any genre becoming a bit stale, no matter how noble and just its cause. Veteran German metallists Grave Digger have certainly benefited from the genre’s good fortune, not really aping its practitioners, but appropriating its melody and anthemic quality for use in their stirring, Teutonic metal formula.

Unfortunately, many bands, including Grave Digger, have seemingly resorted all too often to just that: formula. Following the replacement of longtime axeman Uwe Lulis with former Rage fretburner Manni Schmidt, the band managed to impress many fans and critics with the album “The Grave Digger,” followed by the Wagner-inspired concept album “Rheingold,” which thoroughly impressed me. “The Last Supper” was something of an anti-climax despite its interesting Biblical theme, and unfortunately, “Liberty or Death” offers patchy results for those hoping for something better this time around. The theme this time around is history, with rough-voiced frontman Chris Boltendahl examining injustice and society’s reaction to it in ancient Rome (on “Forecourt to Hell”), Russia (“The Terrible One”) and one of the band’s favorite subjects, the British Isles (“Highland Tears”). And while his English grammar skills still leave something to be desired, Boltendahl does provide some worthwhile food for thought here.

As for the music surrounding his musings, I wish I could say better, but most of this record falls short of my hopes in that regard. The always capable Schmidt turns in a commendable performance, even if the tunes he does it on are not up to the same standards. Riff-wise, this has all pretty much been done before- and better I might add- often by Grave Digger themselves. “Silent Revolution” breaks up the monotony with a cool, almost AC/DC-like hard rock riff, but even that song features a throwaway verse riff. There are no riffs of the infectious, arse-kicking sort commonplace on, say, “Rheingold,” but Schmidt does display an uncommon melodicism that fits these songs well in his leads, which are often like compositions unto themselves (and better than the songs at that!).

I don’t know- this is a tough one for me. I wanted to like this, as I have always had a soft spot for these hard-headed Germans. But despite their impressive track record in the past, I doubt I will be playing this one much in six months, or maybe even sooner. As much as I respect this band, I believe a rethinking of their approach may be in order.

Rating: 6


--Vinaya
About this Writer:
Vinaya Saksena // Vinaya is either a writer who dabbles in guitar playing, or a guitar player who dabbles in writing. A Maximum Metal staffer since 2004, he has also served as a reporter for several newspapers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Although his obsession with music is such that it does not allow time for much else by way of hobbies, he also enjoys traveling, trivia, photography, British comedy and the occasional A-Team re-run.

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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