Marking the 40th anniversary of the band, the latest Grave Digger album is a serious return to form and arguably their best release since the glory days of the eighties. Delivering a fresh injection of power metal straight from the highlands of Scotland (where some of the album was even recorded), Fields of Blood (Napalm Records) is a strong statement from a band who have appear to have been taking some of their cues from military-obsessed Swedes Sabaton.
After the bagpipes and warlike drums of introduction ‘The Clansman’s Journey’ comes to an end, ‘All for the Kingdom’ takes over with fast, energetic riffing and an uplifting anthemic chorus, all topped off with a canny neoclassical guitar solo. ‘Lions of the Sea’ features a big groove and a gloriously cheesy chorus, while ‘Freedom’ is fast and thrashy, and even comes equipped with a “woah-oh” sing-along section before moving into the slow highland grind of ‘The Heart of Scotland’. ‘Thousand Tears’ is a typically overblown ballad with bagpipe accompaniment and a sensational guest vocal from Noora Louhimo from Battle Beast.
‘Union of the Crown’ follows along with the infectious party gallop of ‘My Final Fight’, which in all honesty doesn’t really suit the dark subject matter of the Battle of Culloden, but seeing as these are songs written by aging Germans with a sporran fixation, that really doesn’t matter. ‘Gathering of the Clans’ is simple but effective, while ‘Barbarian’ is pure, unadulterated Accept worship – in the best way.
Rain (well it is about Scotland, after all) and bagpipes open the ten-minute epic ‘Fields of Blood’, another song which proves that Germans with Scottish sympathies means the English aren’t coming out of this covered in glory any time soon, before atmospheric instrumental ‘Requiem for the Traps’ brings the album to a close in style.
With the band returning to a more streamlined four-piece line-up, Fields of Blood features some of the best choruses the band has written for years. Vocalist Chris Boltendahl puts in a great performance, his gravelly voice falling somewhere between Udo Dirkschneider, Sabaton’s Joakim Brodén, and Lemmy from Motörhead. Guitarist Axel Ritt adds flourishes of melody and neo-classicism to the Accept and Judas Priest inspired riffs, while the rhythm section of bass player Jens Becker and drummer Marcus Kniep keep things thundering along. A no-frills heavy fucking metal album, Fields of Blood is written by Germans and sung about Scotland. And that’s it.
8 / 10