Company: Napalm Release: 2014 Genre: Power Reviewer: Eric Compton
It's rare, and in this particular instance, a delicacy for me to eat crow. That term was used long ago to describe someone who admitted their mistakes and is now learning to live with it. I'm happy to finally write something positive about my favorite German band and possibly make amends with myself for scoffing at the idea that Chris Boltendahl was still in business.
Longtime readers will recall my vatic utterances that Grave Digger were in fact dead and buried based on the validity of their work since 2005. After scathing reviews of "Liberty or Death" (1/5), "Ballads of a Hangman" (2/5), "The Clans Will Rise Again" (2/5) and "Clash of the Gods" (2.5/5), I can honestly say that the band have listened to critics and distanced themselves from the epic styled songwriting they have employed for nearly ten years. "Return of the Reaper" is the band's seventeenth album to date and what amounts to be their best work since 2001's "ST" release.
Chris Boltendahl stated prior to the release that this record would harken back to the band's earlier days, with the sound comparable to 1993's "The Reaper". I would partially agree with that, yet I can hear semblances of the band's auriferous catalog of late 80s through the mid-90s. "Tattooed Rider" and "Dia de los Muertos" are more free spirited offerings that channel the Accept styled riffs that defined the band's efforts. "War God" and "Season of the Witch" are seismic tracks that recalls something more akin to "Heart of Darkness". The same can be said for "Grave Desecrator" and the thunderous chops of "Hell Funeral", both songs deafening cannonades that denounce the idea that Grave Digger have become soft with their age.
By disarming themselves of the medieval and epic flair, this band have successfully re-invented the wheel simply by returning to their roots. Unlike the previous four records, "Return of the Reaper" is built on invective riffs and the band's penchant for hooks and gang-styled choruses. It's simple yet effective and could add some longevity to a band that had become complacent and derelict.
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 served as senior editor for MaximumMetal.com for nearly 10 years and is the author of the heavy metal book series--Denim & Letters. 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.
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