Is it a coincidence that 2018 brings the 18th full length album by Teutonic metal heavy weights Grave Digger? A thirty-eight year career is an accomplishment in and of itself and it seems there is no stopping this band. Last year’s Healed By Metal seemed rushed and suffered from some flaws in the songwriting so I was kind of concerned that just a little over a year and a half later they release The Living Dead. Would this seemed rushed and plagued by the same flaws as it’s predecessor? Well, much to my surprise, Mr. Boltendahl and company have returned with another killer metal album worthy of the name Grave Digger.
A band is only as strong as it’s weakest link and this band weakest link is sometimes one of it’s most important, the guitarist Axel Ritt. It’s not that he’s a bad guitarist by any means, it’s just that some of his riffs and ideas don’t come off well. The last album was all over the place with some killer tracks mixed with some genuine filler…something I never thought I would say about a Grave Digger album. Clash of the Gods and Return of the Reaper were killer Grave Digger albums with the latter being the best of the two. In fact, Return of the Reaper is the best album with Ritt on the axe up until that point. I even felt that his solos were lacking since his joining the band. Let’s face it, he’s no Uwe Lulis or Manni Schmidt. But, to my pleasant surprise Mr. Ritt actually kills it on this record. His riffs are killer; not overusing the pinch harmonics like he likes to do, and even his solos are even catchy as fuck.
There is no shortage of killer tracks on this album. Songs like the opener, “Fear the Living Dead” and “What War Left Behind” are speed metal power through and through. Then you have crushers like “When Death Passes By.” “Shadow of the Warrior” features an opening with Chris Boltendahl’s clean vocals before crushing you with true power metal madness. “Hymn of the Damned” even reaches epic territory with it’s eerie opening then crushing riffs. Yes, Mr. Ritt is on fire here. “Fist in your Face” seems to show Mr. Boltendahl summoning Lemmy once again in parts. Even “Zombie Dance,” the weakest song on the album, it’s still a monster of a song. It’s a song that does not take itself too serious, even adding some accordion. What? Grave Digger flirting with folk metal? Nah. Part crushing metal and part drinking song, the song is fun without being cheesy.
At the end of the day Grave Digger has redeemed itself, even if redemption was not really necessary. Even after the slight step back the last album took, this album makes up for it in spades. I know I’m extremely critical of Axel Ritt at times; especially his performance on the last album. But The Living Dead has shown me what he truly is capable of. It seems like I end every Grave Digger review with the same thoughts….they are not slowing down, at all.