When you’ve been around for over 35 years in your career, consistently releasing enjoyable albums, one would wonder, what is there to lose? And, what else can we add to the table? German heavy metallers GRAVE DIGGER have reached album number 18 with Healed By Metal, out January 13 via Napalm Records. It has been three years since we’ve heard Return of the Reaper and in that time we have seen them tour with BLIND GUARDIAN in North America two years in a row. For those that made it to at least one of them, their careless attitude was obvious, revealing an admirable mindset of, “Let’s not be pretentious and simply rock out and shred.” This is what Healed By Metal is all about, an anthem celebrating the existence of metal in our short mortal lives.
The album opens with the title track “Healed By Metal,” giving a tasteful pairing between power and hair metal. It is no secret that this music heals, however, it is something we never get tired of hearing. The song emphasizes their love to perform, and it is a tune well suited for those that embrace live music. Power, catchy choruses, and flavorful guitar noodles continue with “When Night Falls” and Lawbreaker,” providing us with darker themes of death and not looking back.
After listening to three aggressive tunes, the pace slows down with “Forever Free.” While the lyrics continue to embrace death with “darkness is our fate,” melodies morph into different styles including a progressive-esque guitar solo. The subject of freedom continues in the next “Call for War,” energizing our ear drums filling them with battling instrumentation. Reaching the halfway mark, we find ourselves listening to another metal hymn with “Ten Commandments of Metal.” My favorite part is when Chris Boltendahl responds to those who do not understand metal at all vocalizing, “What do you think who we are? Disciples of Satan or something bizarre? But what do you think we fight this battle? We follow the Ten Commandments of Metal!”
The Grim Reaper appears during “The Hangman’s Eye,” providing a dark and thrashy sound. Chanting soon follows with screams of “Death! Death! We never lie!” After listening to the reaper killing our souls, next comes “Kill Ritual.” You find yourself getting a bit lost or even zoning out, making it unfortunately the weakest song of the album. No pun intended, “Hallelujah” arrives next, picking the pace back up for an enjoyable captivating tune. The album closes with “Laughing With the Dead,” bringing the overall grave theme back to life. It moves between dark, gothic, and horror elements as Jens Becker’s bass rumbles lead these movements.
Overall, GRAVE DIGGER’S Healed By Metal is pleasing to the ears. Will it be placed on a year-end list of greatest albums? Most likely not, and don’t get me wrong, that’s not a bad thing either. It is a great record. It shares our morbid facts of life while thanking metal for helping us cope through our suffering realities.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Healed By Metal”, “The Hangman’s Eye”