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Healed By Metal

Napalm (2017)
Rating: 8/10

Having formed back in 1980, German metallers Grave Digger are like an endless army destined to march forever in the name of metal. You know what you’re going to get when they arrive at your gate and you’re more than happy to join them and leave your abode as debris, because over time they’ve become somewhat indicative of what German metal is all about.

While others may have strayed from the path, these guys have galloped, hammered, pushed, nudged, punched and headbanged their way into our lives, and with Healed By Metal we get another slab of anthemic, precise and joyous, fist-pumping metal. And we wouldn’t want it any other way.

With what feels like their hundredth album, and with Chris “Reaper” Boltendahl leading the charge, Healed By Metal is – to put to very simple – symbolic of what this band stands for. Alongside, say, Accept they’ve bludgeoned their way through fields, forests, walls and bone to deliver their eighteenth opus and it’s one that brings that all too familiar clap of thunder, those recognisable chants of unison and ultimately another metallic opus of shine and spirit.

For consistency the band have never really wavered; constant are their battle-charged hymns of death and glory. It could be argued that with everything having been said and done in the 80s and early 90s that bands of this ilk are merely recycling and then recharging, but then what else do we expect such stalwarts to do? If Sodom, Kreator, Tankard and Destruction are the veterans of Teutonic thrash, then Grave Digger are the kings of Teutonic metal. Their only flirtations being with a supreme glazed Gothic power metal or tenuous thrashy glints, but above all – as with every other slab they’ve constructed – Healed By Metal is a veritable powerhouse of persistent anthems which begin their charge with the epic and yet rather short title track, which for its duration feels like a call to endless war.

The percussion of Stefan Arnold is like the raising of the banners, the bass of Jens Becker is the echoing canon, the keyboards of Marcus Kniep is the artillery approaching from the flanks, the guitars Axel “Ironfinger” Ritt is the booming ammunition cascading from above, and with Chris Boltendahl there are those commands to drive us on. And that’s exactly what Grave Digger does; a driving force so unstoppable that the familiarity of its guise may deter some, but for those die-hard enough to remain will no doubt be rewarded for such loyalty.

The anthems come plundering time and time again; ‘Lawbreaker’, ‘Call For War’, ‘Ten Commandments Of Metal’, ‘Kill Ritual’ et al are pretty much constructed by the template the band once crafted – constant returns to the late 80s only given more gloss and technological oomph. Of course, it’s not always brilliant, but it’s always there, like a well-armoured, tried and trusted tank ploughing furrows and crushing non-believers in its wake.

Grave Digger has come too far to worry about trends or innovation; tweaks to the sound are scant but why change that formula? ‘Free Forever’ is a by-numbers metal stomp and ‘Hallelujah’ continues the theme, but because these guys have been around the block one just cannot get tired due to that stability. So in a sense, by remaining true to self, Grave Digger is as formidable as it ever was, not giving a damn in spite of some of the more comedic instances; like on ‘Ten Commandments’ when the rust is coated with strands of cheese. But considering they’ve been around now for almost 40 years, one can only salute such prowess and powerful projection.

Neil Arnold