Grave Digger - The Last Supper - Nuclear Blast - 2005
1. Passion 2. The Last Supper 3. Desert Rose 4. Grave In The No Man'S Land 5. Hell To Pay 6. Soul Savior 7. Crucified 8. Divided Cross 9. The Night Before 10. Black Widows 11. Hundred Days 12. Always And Eternally
You knew it was bound to happen. The writing was on the wall. After twenty one years of releasing heavy metal records, Grave Digger have proven to us all that they are indeed human, they have proven that they can make mistakes and they are in fact vulnerable. Grave Digger isn't the robotic, Teutonic warriors that I originally thought they were. With twelve albums on their saddlebags, these Germans have finally released a bad album. That would normally upset me, and I'll be perfectly honest with you, it did for the first few weeks I had this release. Now I have come to terms with the very idea that this band is human and they really can make mistakes.
With their newest album ,"The Last Supper", Grave Digger put together a lackluster affair that really does nothing to improve their sound, they don't do much of anything to help create something new and refreshing. Sure, there are some more modern elements here, but for the majority of this record Boltendahl and company just go through the motions, practically painting by number with the same memorized brush strokes they have been using for the last few years. Let me just state for the record that this isn't a terrible album. Hell, some folks may hear these songs and just agree that its Grave Digger, loud and proud and continuing to do what they do best. I'm fine with that, and it makes me happy to know that they will have a fan base out there that will echo those thoughts. For me, at this point in my listening experience, I demand something more.
I'm probably the biggest Grave Digger fan around. They fit into my Holy Trinity of power metal along with Rage (who hold the crown) and Running Wild (who bring up the rear). Grave Digger is second in that tier, they hold the high ground because they always stick to their roots and never compromise the integrity of their fans. Rage on the other hand have managed to change styles in their career, but I look at them as a more experimental band, possibly the group to always scout out new and refreshing ideas. We'll talk more about Running Wild in another upcoming column, where we will discuss their newest release "Rogues En Vogue", but for now it is time for "The Last Supper".
With themes and concepts always the focus of Grave Digger albums, I knew it was just a matter of time before they looked at Christ for inspiration. Following up story ideas ranging from William Wallace and Excalibur to The Crusades and Edgar Allen Poe, we now get an entire album dedicated to Christ's last days, exploring the treachery and betrayal that led to Christ's crucifixion. The songwriting is great, with a solid production job from Chris Boltendahl and Manni Schmidt. The album is most definitely Grave Digger from start to finish, but that is where my biggest concerns lie. "The Last Supper" is just more of the same. I seriously believe that these mighty Germans have painted themselves into a corner, they have lost the desire to create "memorable" music. Again, I stress to you that this is a Grave Digger album. Many will find that this is another solid record from a band that just refuses to disappoint their fans. I just have a serious problem hearing the same record over and over again.
You could look at the band's first era, 1984-1986, and really find plenty to like with records like "Heavy Metal Breakdown", "Wargames", and "Witchhunter". The group found a decent amount of success with Noise Records but eventually broke up. They reformed in 1993 and began their second era, this time recruiting Uwe Lulis on guitar. This particular stage of the band's career is my absolute favorite. You just can't get anything better than "The Reaper", "Symphony Of Death", "Heart Of Darkness", and the group's best effort, "Tunes Of War". Uwe Lulis added a certain sound to the band's profile, almost creating a warlike march with his rowdy guitar antics. The group started to lose direction in '98 with "Knights Of The Cross" and by the time "Excalibur" had been released Lulis had made up his mind to leave the group and form Rebellion, who have since released two fantastic albums in the style of "Heart Of Darkness" and "Tunes Of War".
Now the band find themselves in their weakest moment, the dreaded third stage. In 2000 the group brought ex-Rage guitarist Manni Schmidt into the fold to replace Lulis. At this point I was stoked because I loved his work with Rage on "Trapped" and "The Missing Link". I'll admit "The Grave Digger" was a brilliant record, and even the band's follow-up in 2003, "Rheingold", was a decent effort. I started to hear a slight decline in quality and at this point the band desperately needed to find a new "sound", one that would keep them refreshing after this many years in the recording industry. With "The Last Supper" the band really can't seem to get past their central sound, sticking to the same riffs and patterns as the band's last four records. At some point you have to say enough is enough and it is time to move on. I'm certainly not saying the band should break up, but they should either take a hiatus or simply evolve into something a bit more experimental. Perhaps add a second guitarist, or possibly find a second vocalist. Either way the band must change to continue to succeed in being interesting.
I won't go into much detail about the songs themselves because I have already taken enough of your time. I'll just say that there are some doomy songs that every Grave Digger fan will find familiar and there are some songs that are very much like the "Rheingold" material. You won't find anything that resembles the vibe of "Tunes Of War" or "Heart Of Darkness", in fact I will say that the band at this point never stray from the last four albums. Yaaawwwnnnn. Maybe it is Manni's fault, maybe his guitar playing has just become uninspired. Maybe he has lost all creative drive. Maybe it is Boltendahl's fault, perhaps he isn't dwelling on song structures and riffs nearly as much as he should. I think it is probably a combination of both, but I strongly feel that the band is just simply burned out. I think time is going to be the best medicine for the band and for their listeners. I know I could use a five year vacation from the group just so I can get excited about a new record.
I think the same thing that has happened to Grave Digger is happening to Overkill. Just simply too many albums and too many similar albums. Please guys, take a break and make that comeback album. It worked for Rage, it worked for Running Wild, and it has definitely worked for Saxon and Iron Maiden. Do us all a favor and just take your time with the next one. No rush.
Bottom Line - Another solid Grave Digger album that will please old fans. If you are looking for something new, look elsewhere.
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.
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