Another year, another Grave Digger album. Only this one took a little longer than usual. That’s usually a good sign, isn’t it? Let’s find out.
Healed by Metal is the eighteenth album by German power metal institution Grave Digger. It’s the first featuring new keyboardist Marcus Kniep, it features ten songs (and two bonus tracks on various editions) and clocks in at about 37 minutes. That’s the basic facts, but the more important question is whether it’s a good album or not. Let just say that 2017 could have started better.
In all fairness, no one in their right minds would turn to Grave Digger for a collection of fresh and innovative metal songs. These guys, headed by Chris Boltendahl, have been stubbornly doing their thing since 1980 and aren’t about to stop doing that. They’re the AC/DC of heavy metal in that you always know exactly what to expect. No surprises, no disappointments and because of that not much really standout tracks as well. Their albums deliver, and whilst one record might be a bit better or worse than the other, the band have more or less kept churning out the same songs for 37 years.
Healed by Metal, quite frankly, isn’t one of the better Grave Digger albums. It definitely has its moments. I really quite enjoyed 2012’s Clash of the Gods, a concept album of sorts about mythology (Greek first and foremost), but thought the band missed something on Return of the Reaper two years later. Though not a bad album at all, it sorely missed one or two standout tracks. I mean, Home at Last and Walls of Sorrow really spruced up Clash of the Gods, Rebellion (Clans are Marching) alone is worth purchasing Tunes of War (1995) for; these guys know how to write fist-pumping, anthemic heavy metal. Return of the Reaper lacked any songs of the sort, and more or less returned to their roots with typical balls to the wall teutonic metal, but it lacked one or two songs to make it better.
Healed by Metal, I’m glad to say, hits the mark when it comes to catchy, anthemic metal tracks. Though Call for War shares its chorus’ melody with Tunes of War’s Dark of the Sun, it’s still a fast, headbanging track that invites you to raise the metal horns and shout along. Same goes for Hallelujah and When the Night Falls. It’s just that Healed by Metal also has its low points, and they’re far lower than anything Boltendahl and co have written in years. The title track is a mid-tempo slog with a crappy chorus and cringe-worthy lyrics you’d expect from a band like Manowar. Ten Commandments of Metal fares even worse. It makes you wonder how on earth these tracks ended up on the album in the first place when one of the two bonus tracks is infinitely better (Bucket List still sucks).
The absolute low point on Healed by Metal, however, is Laughing with the Dead, and song so insanely stupid it makes my ears bleed. Starting out with hilariously off-key guitars it stomps on until the chorus hits: Laughing with the Devil / Ha ha ha ha ha, repeated ad nauseum over uninspiring riffs, with Boltendahl now starting to sound more duck than man. It’s off-puttingly, offensively bad, and it’s a crying shame because Healed by Metal definitely has a couple of choice cuts on it. It’s just that these three songs drag down the overall quality so much that it’s hard to recommend this album to any but the most ardent fans of the band.
Seven out of ten songs isn’t bad, actually, but when two of those seven tracks (the title track and Ten Commandments of Metal, respectively) are mediocre at best, it really tips the scale when it comes to quality. I really want to like this album, and the good stuff on it is really good, but clocking in at a mere 37 minutes you can’t afford to not deliver on every minute, and that’s precisely what Healed by Metal does. The better songs would have fared better as an EP whilst the rest should have just been chucked into the bin. At least there’s no superfluous power ballad this time. That said, don’t mind if I give their Middle Ages trilogy another spin instead of this.
Label: Napalm Records
Release: out now
- Healed by Metal
- When the Night Falls
- Free Forever
- Call for War
- Ten Commandments of Metal
- The Hangman’s Eye
- Kill Ritual
- Laughing with the Dead
- Kingdom of the Night (Limited edition Bonus track)
- Bucket List (Limited edition Bonus track)
- Chris Boltendahl – vocals
- Axel Ritt – guitars
- Jens Becker – bass
- Stefan Arnold – drums
- Marcus Kniep – keyboards
Review by Ralph Plug