Germans Grave Digger who celebrate 40-years anniversary of the band this year (40 years!) cannot be blamed for laziness for sure! Throughout their history the band released lots of successful and not so goodalbums but there never was a big gap between their releases (except the period 87-91). The band’s previous album The Living Dead was released two years ago, in 2018 and now the time has come for their new, 20-th (!) album called Fields Of Blood.
Fields Of Blood is a conceptual album which comes again back to the history of Scotland and its struggle for independence. This is not the first time Grave Digger talk about it: the albums Tunes Of War and The Clans Will Rise Again werealso dedicated to this topic. “We did it again and put on the kilts… as we always got fascinated by Scotland and its history,” says frontman Chris Boltendahl. “For a long time we considered when the right time would be to return to the Highlands, delve into their legends and myths. Our 40th band anniversary seems to be the right occasion for this and so we take you on a trip for the third time… put on the kilts and pull out your swords and axes, follows us to Stirling and Culloden and experience up close Scottish history, up close, authentic and emotional. As William Wallace / Braveheart said: Yes, they may take our lives. But they never take away our freedom!”
The band’s line-up almost didn’t change. In 2020 Grave Digger is: an immovable vocalist ChrisBoltendahl, bassist JensBecker and guitarist Axel Ritt, who appeared for the first time in Grave Digger at The Clans Will Rise Again, by the way. The only change is keyboardist Marcus Kniep, who became a drummer instead of Stephan Arnold.
Fields Of Blood starts in epic way like the soundtrack of some heroic blockbuster: drumming and bagpipes in short intro “The Clansman Journey” create a proper atmosphere and with the join of guitars the music becomes a real battle hymn.
Yet the album reveals truly in the first single “All For The Kingdom”, which combined aggression and speed of Thrash Metal riffs with melody. Mighty bass adds heaviness to the music and super-epic chorus reminds Sabaton in its spirit. However, there is a huge difference in verses and choruses’ moods and sometimes it is felt like these are the parts of two different songs. But the next one “Lions Of The Sea” does not concede to “All For The Kingdom” in its epicness while sounds much more integral. Also Marcus Kniep stands out here as a drummer: his powerful drumming is really good here, especially in the end of the song.
“Freedom” sounds majestic and solid, just like should sound the song with such name, honoring freedom,obtained in many battles. “Heart Of Scotland” starts as battle march with bagpipes and then transforms into mid-paced Thrash Metal; in the middle of the song there is a bridge that sounds almost like “Over The Hills And Far Away”.
Atmospheric ballad “Thousand Tears” is teetering greatly between sadness and epic. Guitars combine here with bagpipes again. The only lack of this song is Chris’ clean vocals: it can be felt that it’s quite hard for him to sing clean (in other songs he sings with raspy voice, reminding Lemmy a little bit, which fits perfectly with the music) but Noora from Battle Beast comes to help him with this song.
Epicness is coming back in the second part of the album: “Union Of The Crown” and “Gathering Of The Clans” and fast and tough with melodic and pretentious choruses. “Barbarian” reminds Motörheada little bit, mostly with its rudeness and aggression, while there can be heard a classic Teutonic Heavy Metal in the song’s intro. But the quintessence of the album will be epic 10-minutes long “Fields Of Blood”: started with rousting march, it goes to tough Thrash Metal with epic and catchy chorus. Changing pace and main music theme a couple of times it fades out, leaving only tragic string instruments and in the end it falls on the listener again with all its might and great drum solo.
The only thing embarrassed me in the album is “My Final Fight”, which uses Folk and Power Metal elements one-by-one. I have no complaints about the music but the serious topic itself couples with “merry” folkish Korpiklaani-like music in major key quite badly.
I think I’m right in saying that for the last years Grave Digger released a couple of “just good” albums. But Fields Of Blood stands head and shoulders above previous works. It is considered and greatly made music, masterfully balancing between epic and heaviness, very catchy and rousing also. And I can already foresee lots of fans in kilts with battle corpse paints on their faces, chanting lines from this album with the band at live concerts. Because sooner or later live concerts should come back, right?
Fields Of Blood was released on May, 29 via Napalm Records.
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