Grave Digger - Fields Of Blood

(CD, Napalm Records, 2020)

Live many metalheads close to my age range were introduced to GRAVE DIGGER through the amazing “Tunes Of War” that soon enough made me move backwards and eventually get all the albums from the Germans. Until this day, I have their debut concept album close to my heart and practically can lip-sing the entire thing. Careful now, I said “lip-sing” because matching Chris’ ‘concrete in the blender’ and (for that reason) iconic vocals, is an impossible task. I was floored to hear Chris saying to METAL KAOZ that working on concept albums has stopped being of interest because it was those albums that opened the floodgates for GRAVE DIGGER. At any rate, an artist / band should always do what feels best, so I let it pass. Fortunately, Chris decided to break that unofficial promise, and “Fields Of Blood” sees GRAVE DIGGER returning to the Highlands to conclude the William Wallace-era triptych, leaving the loyal fanbase to judge where it should stand compared to “Tunes Of War”.

Before getting into the meat of this presentation, I should say in full disclosure that “The Clans Will Rise Again” did not hit the bullseye when it was released ten years ago, so I approached this one wearing my skepticism hat. In fact, I found myself close to say that GRAVE DIGGER had run out of ideas and decided to re-re-visit a well-known (and successful) concept. Be that as it may, I notice my blood pressure rising as the uilleann pipes started playing, sending some powerful shivers down my spine during the German born and raised mid-tempo rhythm guitar groove. Oh boy, hearing Chris grunting the lyrics “I’m a son of the Clan Maclean took me all the way back to the mid-‘90s and right there my fist was in the air and I was already singing “…for the king all for the land all for one”. Quite a cliché, right? Wrong; this is classic GRAVE DIGGER written with bold and golden letters. Axel Ritt throws a Classical music flair into the already explosive mix, letting the sound of one of my favorite bass players do his thing. By the way, I consider Jens Becker as an underrated bass player and this comes from a longtime RUNNING WILD fan. Speaking of guitar action, listen how the oooohs go backstage to let the massive riff hit all the right nerves before putting the spotlight on the solid rhythm section with some grooves straight from the “Knights Of The Cross” era. It is best to do some voice warm-up exercises before “Freedom” that starts an amazing guitar-bass riff exchange. Soon enough, the trademark GRAVE DIGGER sound hits you like a ton of bricks, with Chris on the helm and the killer riffs on the back. I tell you, that riff could easily be in a Thrash song.

Even though I have joked (many times) that Chris preps his voice by gargling with stainless steel nails, the chorus and the vocal melodies of this one will get you ready for concert. There is some unidentified nostalgia coming while listening to “Freedom”, only until the part where the anthemic riffs call my name for some chanting-along (whoever has been in a GRAVE DIGGER headlining show should know what I am talking about). The Irish flavor of “My Final Fight” and the galloping rhythm are an absolute delight and in a strange way reminded me of RUNNING WILD, and this is golden to my dictionary. But wait, there is another reference that is also to-die-for; the “Over The Hills And Faraway” break will make you smile. I love how the early ACCEPT always come to mind in almost every GRAVE DIGGER album, and in this instance, this happens in all its glory on “Barbarian” in a “Balls To The Wall” way, without steering away from the band’s trademark sound. One thing I had missed from this band is long-in time duration songs, full on epic breaks and headbanging parts. The album’s title track made sure to fulfil my unspoken request in a grand way – be ready for a catchy chorus, solid rhythm and an amazing melodic break with a bit of Irish flair (again). Did I say how much I love the bass sound here? Just wait to hear how these 10 minutes finish with Jens stepping on the spotlight, while Chris pointing with pride to “William Wallace (Braveheart)” emotionally singing “Braveheart they call me” making my eyes water a bit (it is Metal getting emotional listening to music). This epic song could easily drop the curtain for this trilogy if there weren’t a nice orchestral arrangement with just the bass doing the rest – awesome!  

I feel that there is a stronger connection between “Fields Of Blood” and “Tunes Of War” when compared to “The Clans Will Rise Again”. If you look closer to the album’s cover artwork, you will notice the characteristic figure from the first part of the trilogy, and this felt like a strong affirmation of how I felt. I am so glad GRAVE DIGGER returned to the Highlands with respect and with an album that sounds fresh and 100% inspired. Such a shame that this may not get the proper attention with a full-blown tour. I wonder; did the band consider a setlist full of songs from the trilogy? That would have been awesome!

10/10 


Links:

www.Grave-Digger-Clan.Com
www.FaceBook.Com/GraveDiggerOfficial
www.Twitter.Com/GRAVEDIGGERclan


Tracklist:

01. The Clansman's Journey
02. All For The Kingdom
03. Lions Of The Sea
04. Freedom
05. The Heart Of Scotland
06. Thousand Tears
07. Union Of The Crown
08. My Final Fight
09. Gathering Of The Clans
10. Barbarian
11. Fields Of Blood
12. Requiem For The Fallen


Lineup:

Chris Boltendahl - Vocals
Axel Ritt - Guitar
Jens Becker - Bass
Marcus Kniep - Drums