One of the most influential and pioneering bands of the German scene celebrates 40 years of their undisputed Heavy Metal on a journey back to the vastness of the Scottish Highlands.
Standing tall as one of the most influential and pioneering bands of the German Heavy Metal scene since their inception in the early 80’s, Gladbeck’s own Power Metal institution Grave Digger is celebrating their 40th anniversary in great fashion with the release of their 20th studio album, entitled Fields of Blood, the logic consequence of a legendary trilogy which started in 1996 with the breathtaking Tunes of War and an auditory battle of unique traditional metal, continuing their epic Highlands story. One thing I must say is that although most fans of the band had a very good time with their latest albums Return of the Reaper, Healed by Metal and The Living Dead, it’s when the band comprised of the iconic frontman Chris Boltendahl and his henchmen Axel Ritt on the guitars, Jens Becker on bass and Marcus Kniep on drums takes us into the vastness of Scotland on a journey through explosive sound landscapes that they truly thrive. Featuring a classy, old school artwork by Russian artist Alexander Tartsus, Fields of Blood even had some of its parts recorded in the Scottish Highlands, giving an extra touch of epicness to their no-frills, traditional brand of metal with unwavering pure steel, which nevertheless offers surprises, celebrating such a special anniversary of one of the most successful German Heavy Metal acts in the most glorious style.
Featuring very special guests Les Tambours du Bronx, the intro The Clansman’s Journey showcases a stunning combination of their tribal beats with the strident sound of the bagpipes, resulting in one of the most inspiring intros I’ve ever heard in my life, therefore warming up our senses for a feast of classic, warlike Grave Digger tunes starting with All for the Kingdom, where Marcus dictates the rhythm with his fierce beats while Axel and Jens slash their strings majestically, all of course spearheaded by Chris and his trademark raspy vocals. Then we’re treated to Lions of the Sea, the battle of the Scots against the Vikings translated into fist-raising Power Metal made in Germany, a song that should sound amazing when played live especially due to its catchy, rebellious chorus, not to mention the crisp riffage by Alex, who also kicks some serious ass in the inspiring tune Freedom, an ode to William Wallace’s famous speech where the whole bands speeds things up providing us all we need to head into the battlefield, with Chris delivering a superb vocal performance supported by the song’s spot-on backing vocals.
And Les Tambours du Bronx are back to add an extra kick to the already piercing sound of the bagpipes in The Heart of Scotland, where Chris declaims the song’s words with tons of feeling (“Raise your voices – raise your fists / For the king – the pride of our nation / Praise him and kneel – a will strong as steel / He carries the heart of Scotland / Praise him and kneel – a will strong as steel / He carries the heart of Scotland”) while the music remains slow, steady and dark from start to finish. After such imposing composition, the band brings forward Thousand Tears, a gentle and melancholic ballad that only Grave Digger can offer us featuring the unrelenting Finnish she-wolf Noora Louhimo, and as Chris and Noora have a sensational vocal duet I personally hope she can join the band on stage for a few concerts in the near future. In Union of the Crown they get back to their traditional (and I would even say their most traditional) sonority, with Chris singing with a lot of rage and power while Markus continues to pound his drums mercilessly, accompanied by the rumbling bass by Jens, whereas it’s impossible to stand still to the beer-drinking battle hymn entitled My Final Fight, where Chris screams and shouts the song’s lyrics flawlessly (“The battle began in the morning light / Five thousand gathered for the fight / Tired, exhausted we stood side by side / Welcomed the English with brave and pride”). Put differently, it’s time to prance around the fire, raise your swords and praise our beloved Heavy Metal together with those Teutonic metallers.
Then more of their trademark metal music comes in Gathering of the Clans, a song about the unity of the Highland clans and their will to fight for their freedom until the very end, with Alex sounding infernal with his razor-edged riffs and solos while the atmosphere is spiced up by the rebellious bagpipes by guests Hans Grothusen, Paul Grothe and Florian Bohm. After that, be prepared to bang your heads like dauntless highlanders in the rockin’ extravaganza titled Barbarian, where Alex’s riffs are beautifully complemented by the thunderous kitchen by Jens and Marcus, sounding as if the whole song was taken from one of their epic albums from the 90’s, followed by the title-track Fields of Blood, where a sensational bagpipe-infused intro evolves into ten minutes of pure Grave Digger with Chris, Alex, Jens and Marcus being on fire with their respective sonic weapons, guiding the music smoothly and with an endless amount of epicness and fire until the very end. By the way, the song’s closing moments are not only climatic, but also somber, captivating and as metallic as they can be, putting a pensive ending to the battle before the symphonic and cinematic outro Requiem for the Fallen embraces us all and provides us moments of peace in the aftermath, allowing us to grieve for the countless fallen bodies of all brave Scotsmen who died fighting for their freedom.
If you have what it takes to join Grave Digger in their quest for freedom in the Highlands, you can enjoy Fields of Blood in it entirety on YouTube and on Spotify, watch Chris and his loyal bandmates talking about each and every track from the album on a special series on YouTube by clicking HERE, HERE and HERE, and of course purchase your desired version of this grandiose album of metal music by clicking HERE, such as the insanely awesome Wooden Box strictly limited to 300 units including the digipak CD version of the album, a bonus live DVD titled “Live in Japan”, a special Highland flask and a black 7″ single. Also, don’t forget to follow Grave Digger on Facebook and on Instagram, staying up to date with everything that surrounds the band such as their new releases, live concerts and other nice-to-know details. I’m absolutely thrilled this unstoppable Teutonic army decided to return to the Highlands once again in celebration of their 40th anniversary, filling our hearts and souls with their inspiring tunes of war and freedom, and I can’t wait to see what Chris Boltendahl & Co. will offer us in their future albums if they decide to stay in Scotland for a little longer, hopefully bringing to our avid ears more of their undisputed Heavy Metal for many years (and decades) to come.
Best moments of the album: All for the Kingdom, Freedom, My Final Fight and Barbarian.
Worst moments of the album: None.
Released in 2020 Napalm Records
1. The Clansman’s Journey 1:27
2. All for the Kingdom 4:10
3. Lions of the Sea 3:58
4. Freedom 4:53
5. The Heart of Scotland 5:19
6. Thousand Tears 4:57
7. Union of the Crown 3:58
8. My Final Fight 4:09
9. Gathering of the Clans 3:57
10. Barbarian 3:43
11. Fields of Blood 10:10
12. Requiem for the Fallen 3:00
Chris Boltendahl – vocals
Axel Ritt – guitars
Jens Becker – bass
Marcus Kniep – drums
Noora Louhimo – female vocals on “Thousand Tears”
John Jaycee Cujpers, Olaf Senkbeil, Andreas von Lippinski & Hacky Hackmann – backing vocals
Les Tambours du Bronx – percussion on “The Clansman’s Journey” and “The Heart of Scotland”
H.P. Katzenburg – keyboards on “Thousand Tears”
Hans Grothusen, Paul Grothe & Florian Bohm – bagpipes, uilleann pipes