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Grave Digger - "Return Of The Reaper" (CD)

Grave Digger - "Return Of The Reaper" CD cover image

"Return Of The Reaper" track listing:

1. Return of the Reaper
2. Hell Funeral
3. War God
4. Tattooed Rider
5. Resurrection Day
6. Season of the Witch
7. Road Rage Killer
8. Dia de los Muertos
9. Satan's Host
10. Grave Desecrator
11. Death Smiles at All of Us
12. Nothing to Believe

Reviewed by on July 28, 2014

"The ability to bring back the 80’s and still make it sound modern and undated is proof that there is little Grave Digger can do wrong but aggravate the 'wishful innovators' in the world."

A stiff breeze….a clap of thunder….the funeral march plays softly on a piano…the clap of horse hooves rustles in the somber soundscape. Suddenly, a female shriek and then BANG: ”Return of the Reaper” bursts through a shallow grave. Grave Digger, a legend that blazed a path of German destruction since “Heavy Metal Breakdown,” was first unleashed on the world in 1984 and has been a model of consistency (save for that little “Digger” experiment back in 1986). In 2014, the band is a lot different than those early days, save for the one mainstay and metal icon – Chris Boltendahl. Boltendahl has been a symbol of Germanic power for decades, sporting one of the most unique and distinctive voices of all time alongside country mate Udo Dirkschneider. Though some may not find it all that appealing, no one can ever deny who is singing and what this band has brought to the scene in its storied career.

The announcement of “Return of the Reaper” was preceded by the band’s promise to return to an early formula in the vein of “Heavy Metal Breakdown” and “Witch Hunter,” incorporating more speed and traditional elements. As promised, “Return of the Reaper” delivers! It is a phenomenal power metal release, ironically having greater similarities to the 1991 reunion album “The Reaper.” The music is speedy, traditional, and exactly what you would expect from a “back to basics” Grave Digger album.

Stylistically, there are elements from the finest of the band’s storied history of releases, the stand out being “Road Rage Killer,” a crushing and catchy anthem that reminds me of the times of “Headbanging Man.” The song is an instant classic and will be loads of fun to play for those neighboring in your next traffic nightmare. If you are looking for a highly melodious choruses a la “The Clans are Marching,” check out the tasty offerings of “Grave Desecrator” and “Season of the Witch.” Both have tremendous bombastic choruses enveloped in bold meaty riffs.

In as much as people target Grave Digger for a “lack of progression” or basic approach, a closer look at the discography will prove that the band has a history of experimentation. Orchestrated elements strewn throughout releases like “Tunes of War” and “Excalibur” have overlaid the one traditional characteristic in all Grave Digger albums: Teutonic heavy riffs. Sure, Grave Digger has never tried to go out and invent a new form of metal. The band is content with keeping consistent with its proven methods, making “Return to the Reaper” refreshingly retro.

Outside of Axel Ritt, who joined in 2009, this lineup has remained together for the better part of 16 years. Time flies for this old time metalhead, since it seems like yesterday that bassist Jens Becker was in Running Wild and drummer Stefan Arnold was behind the kit for a brilliant power thrash act Capricorn. The longevity and contributions made to the scene by this group of veterans is as astounding as the ability to bring excellent and relevant material each time out.

“Return of the Reaper” is just that, though this isn’t a retro album released after a string of bad releases. This is a return to an even older sound after releasing some of the best albums in the band’s career. The ability to bring back the 80’s and still make it sound modern and undated is proof that there is little Grave Digger can do wrong but aggravate the “wishful innovators” in the world.

Highs: A modern refresh on retro Grave Digger, though not too far removed to disrupt perfect consistency.

Lows: This offers nothing for fans seeking anything new and innovative.

Bottom line: The Reaper has returned to an older sound, but remains a model of perfect consistency.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)