Clash Of The Gods
I never thought Grave Digger could stir my innards again. The fiery days of Heavy Metal Breakdown (1984) and Witch Hunter (1985) seem so long ago, but hell, these German metalheads have produced a pretty decent power metal opus, one that is big on melody, loud in its expression and fiery at its heart. What more could you want from a real metal album?
Through thick and thin, Grave Digger have stuck to their guns, never once succumbing to, or being buckled by trends. They have ploughed on like a great metal machine, with their main weapon being the scything guitar attack of Axel Ritt.
One track on this new opus sums up Grave Digger, and that is the epic ‘Walls Of Sorrow’, which features some of the best guitar playing I’ve heard for a long, long time. Couple this with the rattling drums of Stefan Arnold, and the alternating vocal moods of Chris Boltendahl and we’re surely onto a winner.
For the most part, Clash Of The Gods is a savage record, my attention only occasionally dented by those keyboards which at times give the album an all too icy feel, especially on the aforementioned ‘Walls Of Sorrow’, which for the most part is a sterling track that sees Boltendahl shift between snarling warrior and wailing wizard. The chorus is infectious if a little watery, but again, it’s those guitars which save the day.
‘Medusa’ follows a similar vein, opening with eerie gothic swirls and misty vocals before lurching into a full frontal metal assault. Despite the lyrical naivety (“Medusa – frozen to death, Medusa – breathe one last breath”), it’s a more ominous track featuring some frantic war drumming.
In general, a majority of the tracks Clash Of The Gods has to offer are uptempo, Judas Priest-like racers that tend to be bogged down by the slightly irritable choruses.
‘Warriors Revenge’ is a metallic beast that charges head first into the walls, but the Euro goth-style chorus grates ever so slightly. And when the band slows things down, especially on a track like ‘Call Of The Sirens’, the keyboard’s tend to float aimlessly like some fantasy film soundtrack. Admittedly, and once again, the riffs save the day – this time around Ritt laces the track with a doom-laden pearl – but vocally ‘Call Of The Sirens’ is the album’s weakest track, as Boltendahl wobbles through the introductory: “My journey began after the war of troy, Many I lost my friend my faith and my joy, Trouble started as we dazzled the cyclops, We’re punished with pain more than words can say”.
There is too much cheese at times, orchestrated by Boltendahl, but on opener ‘God Of Terror’ one could be mistaken for thinking that Clash Of The Gods is going to be a full throttle metal masterpiece, as the frontman becomes a German Lemmy (Motörhead frontman) with those rusty rasps. ‘Hell Dog’ is equally pounding, but sadly it doesn’t last. There are just too many highs and lows for this to be a classic Grave Digger album.
While Grave Digger are keen to keep the metal fires burning, just like a few of those Manowar albums, this is a little too muscular in its flexing, giving the impression of a band who too many times cross the line between meaty and cheesy. All hail the guitar sound of Axel Ritt, but for me this record is more a clash of emotions rather than swords.
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