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Album Reviews : Grave Digger – Ballads of a Hangman

By on January 21, 2009

Grave Digger return with their ground breaking new album “Ballads of a Hangman“. The new album incorporates the bands long running traditional of heavy metal, by taking it back to its roots and revitalizing the bands long running stand in the heavy metal world.

A lot of people may be unfamiliar with the works of Grave Digger, but they’ve been one of biggest and long running contenders in the heavy metal world since their birth in 1980.

The band have over 13 studio albums to their name, with various EP’s and live albums to date. They were one of many acts emerging in the German heavy metal scene at the time, along with bands such as Helloween, Running Wild and Accept.

Grave Digger‘s new album comprises of songs about mortality and death, something of which is familiar territory with Grave Digger. The new album is quite a leap in terms of its concept and musicianship compared to their last release, “Liberty or Death“.

Their previous album saw them trying to reinvent their sound with somewhat mild success, and received solid reviews from various fans and media outlets alike.

Many were left a little unsatisfied with the bands new sound tough, yet “Ballads of a Hangman” ventures back into the bands original heavy metal sound, by revitalizing their heavy metal roots with the new albums somewhat cliché catch phrase, “Back to the Roots”. The band has gone full circle,  and have returned once again to their solid and traditional heavy metal upbringing, without going too overboard and heading into unfamiliar territory.

For the many fans who are familiar with Grave Digger, I’d say the new album is somewhat a comparison to “The Grave Digger“, “Heavy Metal Breakdown” and “Rheingold“, with the album consisting of solid chunky riffs, melodic overtures, heavy drums and the quintessential sound of Chris Boltendahl’s unique and very fitting rough vocals.

The new album  introduces for the first time ever in the bands history, two guitarists. Most of the axe duties have been taken up by Manny Schmidt (ex-Rage) in recent years and has lead the band to have some pretty well known and formidable riffage throughout recent releases. The introduction of Thilo Herrmann has added more variety in the bands traditional heavy metal sound, and will not only come to a major advantage in the studio, but also live on stage.

The album is pretty solid with its delivery and stays on a common path which rarely diverts. If you love your music loud and fast, you surely wont be disappointed with this release as it offers an assortment of heavy and melodic tracks to keep any heavy metal fan happy. The only instant when the album does change its tune, is with the track “Lonely the Innocent Dies” which is a duet with Benedictum lead singer Veronica Freeman.

Many would say the variety in Chris’ vocals on this track can be seen as somewhat laughable, as he surely doesn’t have the power in his voice to do slow ballad numbers, yet on many occasions he’s been known to belt out some amazing ballads and slow numbers, both live an on various albums. To name afew “Morgane le Fay“, “Silence” and “The Ballad of Mary“.

Both Veronica and Chris seem to suite each others vocals quite well, it just seems to fit naturally. If you appreciate the variety of Chris’s rough and haunting vocals, to that of Veronica’s melodic and piercing range, you’ll easily enjoy this somber moment on the album.

Ballads of a Hangman” comprises of some pretty meaty songs which many metal fans will sink their teeth into. There are some pretty solid tracks on the album which I was very impressed with, more so with the bands final resolution to the album, “Pray“.

Pray is actually the second single off the new album, and is more uplifting in a sense, to that of the other tracks on the album. The song is quite fitting as it resonates the feeling of leaving this world, to do better in the next. It’s a great finishing touch to an already solid album.

Also included as a bonus is a cover of Jailbreak, made famous by Thin Lizzy. Again, the mixture of Chris’ vocals to that of Manny and Thilo’s heavy collaboration on guitars is a great combination and adds a great new twist to this classic rock number.

I’ve been a fan of Grave Digger for sometime now and was very impressed with their efforts on Ballads of a Hangman, yet I wouldn’t consider the new album as good as their classic 2001 release, The Grave Digger nor 2003’s, Rheingold.

The new album though does still offers some great variety in both story telling and musicianship, and is equally matched to its amazing artwork, which was created by Gyula Havancsák.

If you love your music fast and loud, with lyrics comprising of in depth storytelling. Ballads of a Hangman is surely for you. 8/10

For fans of: Motorhead, Rebellion, Destruction, Holy Moses, Stormwarrior

Band: Grave Digger
Album: Ballads of a Hangman
Year: 2009
Genre: Traditional Heavy Metal/Power Metal
Label: Napalm Records
Origin: Germany

1. The Gallows Pole
2. Ballad Of A Hangman
3. Hell Of Disillusion
4. Sorrow Of The Dead
5. Grave Of The Addicted
6. Lonely The Innocence Dies
7. Into The War
8. The Shadow Of Your Soul
9. Funeral For A Fallen Angel
10. Stormrider
11. Pray <- Reviewers choice
12. Jailbreak*


Anwar is the editor-in-chief of Metal When Anwar isn't busy promoting tours, interviewing bands and reviewing awesome music, he loves to collect metal vinyl and play video games. Follow Metal Obsession on Twitter and Facebook