Grave Digger have always been one of the most consistent and well respected heavy metal bands on the planet, constantly touring the world and releasing well received albums. Their latest record Healed By Metal is no exception and we had a chat with vocalist Chris Boltendahl to discuss the album, metal festivals, concept albums, touring encounters with Manowar and if the world can be healed by metal!
Your new album Healed By Metal is out now. How did the recording of the album go?
Very well, we had four weeks for compositions and did all the rehearsals in the studio and we did a pre-production which nearly has the quality of a reproduction then we entered the real studio and it was around eight weeks in total, including mixing. It was a good process.
Is the album in a similar style to your last album return Of The Reaper?
More or less, I think the main topic is that we don’t have any concept and its a loose group of songs, also there is no concept behind the lyrics. Yeah, it’s more or less like something that we did in the 80s when we did the first three records. I enjoy it a lot more than doing concept albums.
What has the reaction to the album been like so far?
It’s been very good from all over the world. We are very proud of this record and it was number 15 in the German media control charts and it speaks for itself. We just finished the German/Austrian/Switzerland leg of the tour and that was really successful.
Was there any reason why you didn’t want to use a concept again this time for the songs on the album?
We were really tired about doing another concept album. We’ve made so many concept albums in the past and that is why we chose, from Return Of The Reaper, going on a more or less straight metal route like we did in the 80s and we didn’t have any really good topics. We thought about it after Clash Of The Gods about what we could do and what is interesting for us but we did so many in the past, like about Scotland and Excalibur and The Grave Digger album was about Edgar Allan Poe and Rheingold was about Richard Wagner. We just decided to go the straight metal way with normal lyrics and we are carrying in this tradition now and the results are Return Of The Reaper and Healed By Metal.
Do you think you will ever revisit any concepts again in the future?
I do t know, never say never! At the moment I don’t think so though. I don’t have any good ideas for a topic but we shall see. We have a couple of months to go before we start with the new record so we will see what will happen this time.
So you’re thinking about the next record already?
From time to time, yes haha, because we finished the last record more or less, half a year ago and it was released in January but we’d finished it four months before its release so yeah we start thinking about what we can do on the next one. What would be the cover or what direction it will have, at the moment it’s a little bit too early to go with a concrete process again.
As you mentioned about the concepts albums, you’ve dealt with Scotland and its history before. As a Scot myself, I’m intrigued as to what it is about the history of Scotland that interested you to make albums about it?
During my history studies in school, we were taught about Scottish history and I was really interested in it and also out former bass player Tomi Gottlich studied history as a teacher, we had more or less a common interest and in 1996 we write this concept album about Scotland and it was the most successful Grave Digger album ever, Tunes Of War and the lead song Rebellion. History is a never ending story so you can choose a lot of topics from history but Scotland had one of the most interesting histories.
Have you played any of the material live in Scotland?
No, we’ve not had the opportunity to play in Scotland yet so that would be cool someday for us. For the fortieth birthday of the band we could could do a show in Edinburgh and play Tunes Of War and The Clans Will Ride Again.
What are your touring plans for the rest of the year?
We are going to South America again soon, were touring Brazil and Argentina. In April and May we have a break and the beginning of June, we start the festival season which will go on until the end of September. Then we’ve got a couple of our own shows and a couple of indoor festivals at the end if the year.
What are some of the summer festivals that you’re playing?
We play a lot of famous ones, Sweden Rock, Graspop, Rock Hard, Wacken, Metal Days in Slovenia. Really good festivals this time around!
What’s the best festival that you’ve played in the past?
All festivals are different, I like Sweden Rock a lot, it’s really calm festival and there are a lot of nice people there. Wacken is more or less a cult festival and has been going for 25/30 years, we’ve had a lot of good experiences there. Graspop of course too because Belgium is not a typical heavy metal country but Graspop is one of the biggest festivals in Europe and that is really great.
How would you describe the Grave Digger live experience to someone who has yet t o witness you in a live environment?
It’s pure energy haha! Grave Digger is classic metal with a pure and raw energy that is how I’d describe it in a really short way.
Which of your songs get the best reaction when you play them live?
It’s Excalibur, it’s Healed By Metal now, it’s Rebellion and Heavy Metal Breakdown.
Have you been playing much new material when you’ve been playing live recently?
The last shows we did here in Germany, we played 5 new songs and 14 from our history.
You’ve toured with so many bands in the past from Celtic Frost to Helloween and Manowar but who has been the best band you’ve ever toured with?
Blind Guardian, definitely. It was really great and they’re really nice people and we’ve known them a long time and there’s a great respect between both bands and touring was a lot if fun. You can also ask who the worst band we’ve ever played with if you want! It was Manowar!
What happened with Manowar?
Joey DeMaio thinks he’s the God of heavy metal so he treats you in this way and we were never treated as badly as we were by them as a support band. They gave me a sign that I would never treat a band that support Grave Digger the way we were treated when we supported Manowar.
Was that quite a while ago?
Yeah, it was the middle if the nineties I think.
How has touring changed for the band over the years?
Not so much, because most of the time we play the same venues! There isn’t much development in most of the venues so when we play Bochum for example, the venue we play, it’s like a time machine. When you open the door it’s like a time machine, you go twenty years back in history!
You started the band in 1980, did you think that Grave Digger would still be going strong almost four decades later?
No, not really because I thought when I was 30, I would be dead! Now I’m 55 so a lot of things happened during that time haha!
What has been the highlight of your career with Grave Digger so far?
It was definitely the 35th anniversary when we played the big Wacken show where we played the complete Tunes Of War album in full with the big production and we had a really good time at this festival. We made a DVD and it was really, really great.
What are thoughts on the state of heavy metal in 2017?
Obviously now it’s a really global scene because there are so many different kinds of heavy metal music sometimes you lose the overview of some of these bands and upcoming bands. In the 80s it was much more singular, you had all the bands in Germany for example, they knew each other but now I don’t know how many are on the market at the moment!
What are your all time favourite metal albums of all time?
It’s Grand Funk Railroad- Live, it’s Van Halen- Run, it’s Ozzy Osbourne- Diary Of A Madman and Judas Priest- Unleashed In The East.
You can’t go wrong with them! Finally, with the potentially turbulent state of the world in terms of politics and everything. Do you think that the world can be Healed By Metal as your album says?
I would like to heal Trump by Metal if it was possible! I think there are a lot of precarious things going on these days in politics. There are so many fascistic people out there, if you look to France there is this Marine Le Pen and in the Netherlands there’s this her Wilder? and in the States we have Mr Trump and this scares me a bit you know. I hope we go in a positive direction with the world and not with all these fuckers in the wrong direction!