Grave Digger – Healed by Metal
Reviewed by Arno Callens
Name any band that has been active for over thirty years that still sounds relevant today. For the purposes of this review, let’s say you just thought of Grave Digger, although I’m sure there are a few. Still, these Germans are bound to come up within the first five names mentioned. Not that they have ever achieved the success of some of their peers, but have rather remained an underground sensation, albeit a consistently qualitative one. Sure I’ve shrugged at one or two of their albums – Clash Of The Gods in recent memory – but overall Grave Digger’s always good for an old-fashioned romp.
Healed By Metal is the seventeenth (!) of those, following hot on the heels of return-to-form Return Of The Reaper, and obliterating it in comparison. I haven’t enjoyed a Grave Digger record this much since The Clans Will Rise Again, which arguably got a lot of mileage out of the Tunes Of War nostalgia factor. You could argue Healed By Metal has similar ties to the past, as its title track is a heavy metal hymn in the vein of Heavy Metal Breakdown, although probably not bound for classic status. On the first spin, it got a deserved eye roll from me, on the second it healed me of such thoughts and I was howling along like I didn’t care. “Ten Commandments Of Metal” is another such helping of “weren’t the eighties the greatest?-metal”, but the real meat of this album lies elsewhere.
Grave Digger may bust out a “Lawbreaker” every now and then – being more traditional than inspired – but on Healed By Metal, the latter half of that equation takes the front stage more often than not. “When Night Falls” swoops in with a huge chorus that will hook you like a hook hooks things, “Free Forever” sounds like it could have been cut from William Wallace’s kilt, and “Kill Ritual” will have you frothing at the mouth with bloodthirst and those catchy vocal lines. Even simpler fare like “Call To War”, “The Hangman’s Eye”, and “Laughing With The Dead” (ha ha ha ha ha!) manage to ensnare you, displaying Grave Digger’s tireless knack for simplicity done brilliantly. Again, Axel Ritt proves to be the best addition this band could have made, infusing recognizable riffs with a spirited dose of adventure.
I invite anyone second-guessing this release and its familiar feel to write seventeen albums and sound even fresh for one second. Grave Digger is an institution, and going back to the opening paragraph of this review, I still can only think of one other band being this effective over such a long period of time, and that’s Iron Maiden. (Maybe Saxon, if anything they had released recently had touched me at all.) Healed By Metal will not make the history books as the album that redefined metal, but it will add another page to Grave Digger’s already lengthy and overwhelmingly positive entry. I’m probably coming across as needlessly defensive, but even I sometimes think there’s no merit in bands like this piling on album after album while they could have just re-recorded the last one with little to no difference. Grave Digger exists to prove me wrong, and that’s why I take off my hood for the Grim Reapers, and smother those dismissive voices in a KILL RITUAL!
4.0 // 5