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GRAVE DIGGER Healed By Metal

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Wednesday, January 11, 2017 @ 12:13 AM


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GRAVE DIGGER
Healed By Metal

Napalm Records




After coming full circle and revisiting its roots with 2014’s aptly titled Return Of The Reaper and 2015’s Exhumation: The Early Years - which featured re-recorded versions of vintage “classics” - German stalwarts GRAVE DIGGER apparently have decided to stick with that approach. At least for the time being.

Healed By Metal is the 18th studio album in GRAVE DIGGER’s meandering 30-some year career that has included everything from hair-metal embarrassment to Arthurian conceptualizing and Wagnerian pomp. But here, from the gritty yet bombastic production and the fist-pumping, brazenly anthemic compositions and execution, the sound and vibe harks back to the “We Wanna Rock You” days of Heavy Metal Breakdown/Witch Hunter in the early ‘80s.

And while that old-school spirit is not necessary a bad thing, at least in principle as it keeps the energy level high, one emphatic ode after another to the “power of metal,” etc., can sound a bit trite, even silly, a la MANOWAR. It makes for a bit more cheese than really is necessary, or healthy, which is perhaps inevitable when a bunch of 50-somethings try to channel their inner 20-year-olds. But metal was never about “acting your age,” so there you go.

The band sets the tone from the outset with the title track, an arena-sized epic out of the Balls To The Wall-era ACCEPT mold with crunching, catchy hooks galore and a shout-along chorus so insistent it actually starts the song. “Healed by metal, we rock!!!” is sure to be a rallying cry at GRAVE DIGGER shows probably for the rest of its career.

A good portion of the album offers variations on that theme, with “Ten Commandments Of Metal”, the Harley-tinged “Lawbreaker” and the almost plagiaristic PRIEST-like “Forever Free” laying it on unabashedly thick – which is where the “cheese” factor comes into play. But if big, dumb, rockin’ fun is what you’re after, these songs certainly deliver the goods.

And if not, there are enough aggressive, speed metally numbers to keep the album moving along and put a boot up your ass. As it is, Healed By Metal offers its 10 tracks in an efficient, crisply paced 37 minutes, so even on the anthemic tunes the band is wily enough not to drag things out. More bracing tracks like “When Night Falls”, “Kill Ritual” or “The Hangman’s Eye” and the galloping BLIND GUARDIAN-like power metal grandeur of “Call For War” show GRAVE DIGGER still boast plenty of pep and power.

Even with the generous melodies and ear-worm choruses – not to mention guitarist Alex Ritt’s infectious rousing riffs and nifty solos - frontman and lone original member Chris Boltendahl’s vocals are as gruff and phlegmy as ever, ensuring a rough edge remains. And that has always been a part of GRAVE DIGGER’s charm, even if it made some of its early attempts at balladry rather cringe-worthy.

Here, though, that is never an issue, and the mix of raw and robust works well with the always buoyant, occasionally bruising material. Get past the “stay true” hokiness, and Healed By Metal has some genuinely stirring moments.

3.0 Out Of 5.0

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