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Interviews : “It’s growing from album to album” – An interview with Chris Boltendahl (Grave Digger)

By on July 23, 2018

Grave Digger – Chris Boltendahl

German power metal outfit Grave Digger has survived trends, a transient cast of musicians and a brief period where the bands name was dropped altogether in favour of the ‘sunshine, drinks and chicks’ evoking moniker, Hawaii. Through all this, Chris Boltendahl has maintained a steady vision to deliver quality heavy metal.

In September this year, their 19th album will see the light of day, the hard-hitting The Living Dead. Unmistakably a Grave Digger album, Boltendahl wants to make it clear that there was a genuine attempt to add greater variety to the bands signature sound.

“I’m really happy about this album, because when we finished Healed by Metal (’17), I thought by myself, ‘Okay, I’m now three albums in a row, which is more or less classical Grave Digger stuff. But now, I want to look over the plate, and look a little bit left or right. When I talked to Axel Ritt (guitarist) before we were creating the new album, I said to him, ‘Hey, Axel, I need some visions.’ He said, ‘What? You need visions?’ ‘Yes. I need visions from you, so, send me all of your stuff you have in your mind, and then, we sort out what is interesting, whatnot, and meanwhile, I’ll create some cool choruses, and everything.’”

A fine quality of the album is the bass performance of Jens Becker. Clearly audible beyond the Ritt for much of the album, Becker didn’t have as much of a say in the songwriting process as his playing might hint.

“He’s not involved in the songwriting, and Axel created all the bass lines, more or less, and then, Jens added his stuff to this. So, it’s a combination between Axel and Jens, and when he came into the studio… I told him, ‘Jens, it’s the first time in Grave Digger, you can now show what you can play. After 20 years, you have the possibility to show your talent’. Then he took the chance, and he made a great job on this album.”

Ritt is an excellent guitarist and musician. Having listened to The Living Dead many times with headphones, his many expertly utilised techniques ensure he is a card-carrying member of the under-appreciated guitarists club that also features Tankard’s Andreas Gutjahr, Destruction’s Mike Sifringer, former Rage and now Almanac’s virtuosic Victor Smolski among a slew of others. How does Boltendahl describe their successful partnership?

“I’m writing the lyrics, and normally, I’m writing all the melodies for the choruses, for the verses, and then, I tell (Ritt) the ideas. Then we start creating all the guitar around it. But, then, most of, I think, 90% of the guitar work is definitely from Axel, but he’s following most of my advice. That is a good combination, that is something like metal twins can do.

“Yeah, I think it’s growing. It’s growing from album to album, and with the previous guitar players, it was that we have a peak on the first two, three albums, I think, then it’s going down a little bit, but with Axel, we start with the plan to rise again. I think it’s going up, the peak. That is something in making me very hopeful for the future for Grave Digger.”

Listen to the full conversation here.

The Living Dead is out on 14 September 2018 via Napalm Records.

About

Andrew is a musician who has spent many years performing on the stages of the pubs and clubs of Queensland. A devotee of the broad church that is rock, punk, funk, jazz and of course all genres of metal... he now shares his enthusiasm via a burgeoning pursuit of music journalism. Follow him on twitter @andymckaysmith