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Grave Digger - Heavy Metal Breakdown (Reissue)

Grave Digger
Heavy Metal Breakdown (Reissue)
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 24 April 2018, 9:26 PM

Before the epics, the tunes of war of the knights of the cross, there was the age of savagery, the freewheel burning, raising a spiky leather fist up high in the name of Heavy Metal. Needless to say that the German Metal scene of the early 80s spawned some of the greatest names in the genre, marking that to be large community as one of the leading influential entities in the history of Metal music. Cologne born and bred GRAVE DIGGER, ever since the formation of their first incarnation in 1980, were adamant to take a place in the emerging Metal movement in their country. By distributing a few demos and various live performances they caught the attention of the local indie Noise Records. Soon after taking part in the 1983’s “Rock From Hell” compilation made by the label, GRAVE DIGGER inked the deal for their upcoming three albums.

The year 1984 saw the unleashing of “Heavy Metal Breakdown”, which its name dragged some interesting facts to surrounding its origins. Dissimilar to the band’s 90s and 00s themes, “Heavy Metal Breakdown” is the first peak at a band loosened up, charged up with bewildered energies, ready to strike at will to make themselves heard. Now, the newly revived Noise Records is reissuing the cult classic as a special expanded edition, portraying the band’s early history along with quite an interesting interview made with the band’s nostalgic and dominant leader and vocalist, Chris Boltendahl. For any GRAVE DIGGER fan that didn’t really make the time to dig in the band’s past, “Heavy Metal Breakdown” and its rare additions in this newly reissue, are bound to provide a good idea of the state of mind that went in the band ages ago.

Not that the current efforts are far-fetched or ever close to being progressed, however, “Heavy Metal Breakdown” in its core is the down to the basics of Heavy Metal music. Generating traditional styled songs that were commonplace in the 80s, spraying a variety of themes that garnered enough attention of a critic or a headbanging man, GRAVE DIGGER abided by the formulas to make longstanding tunes, which some outlived numerous bands that were coming and going. Influenced largely by British Metal emerging giants such as MOTORHEAD, IRON MAIDEN and JUDAS PRIEST, the Germans delivered a pound of flesh catchy heavyweight riffery, caustic soloing, proving that no chains could hold them. With that notion, GRAVE DIGGER preached for the sake of Rock and Metal while taking point of the darker ends of the human condition.

Probably two of the major peaks that somewhat differentiated GRAVE DIGGER from other bands in their local scene of that time was their sound and Boltendahl voice pattern. Like a contorted hybrid between “Ride The Lightning”, “Ace Of Spades” and “Balls To The Wall”, GRAVE DIGGER’s debut’s sound, and you may also recognize its deep roots in their releases to come, manifested quite an aggressive manner, contributing to the straightforward, no hold sensation and one of the reasons why it is such a great listener. Second, and it can’t really be argued, Boltendahl’s vocal decorated signature, I guess it was probably a surprise in the old days, are quite of a special thing. In my view it is his take on Lemmy’s low raspy tone, only that Mr. Boltendahl took it forward to mid to high end shrieks, a sort of an endless snarl that inspired its magic on the music, upgrading the magnitude of the music. Sure that it might take time to get used to, especially clean and melodic vocals are expected, in particular in the early stage of the 80s. Nevertheless, it is a pleasure to listen to when getting the hang of it.

The song “Heavy Metal Breakdown” has always been one of the foremost icons of an era that is currently being revived, or at least in the works of resurfacing. I believe to be GRAVE DIGGER’s first real anthem, a kind of the song that no matter when and where, could send electric currents through a true Metalhead’s soul. A charged up opener, “Headbanging Man”, which has a really nice story behind it, which you may find in Boltendahl’s interview for the reissue and on the track-by-track coverage, is the essence of Metal in the 80s, a cause of rejoice and celebration. GRAVE DIGGER attributed it with biting riffing and a driving tempo that is a one certain pleaser. “We Wanna Rock You” might sound like a cheap title, yet, it is one of those motivational songs that would send you down the pit, air guitaring and having another shot of the bar’s strongest alcohol. Surely, a song for the crowd, basic and high spirited. Though I have never really got used to the idea of GRAVE DIGGER composing ballads, “Yesterday”, proved me wrong. Possibly one of the fewer songs of the band that Boltendahl didn’t take charge of the lyrics, the band made it quite an experience, divulging a fine union of a Metallic vision with an embracing kind of an emotive sort of AOR / Hard Rock. Covering THE ROLLING STONES could be rendered as part of the band’s plan, even though it was simply stated that the band never liked playing covers like. “2000 Light Years from Home” wasn’t a song that really knew of the old British Rockers, a quick listen of the original made me understand that The Germans set a different tone of the old classic with a pure MOTORHEADish attitude, fast, furious and with a bit of early Punk for a great measure.

In this special reissue version, you may find a few nice jewels. First, the entire “Shoot Her Down!” EP is on the display, showcasing a better mixed version of the “We Wanna Rock You” hit along with two later tunes that never took part of the album’s original plan although they are quite impressive. “Violence” and the original ontake of “2000 Light Years from Home” were part of the band’s early Noise Records“Rock From Hell” compilation. I was less impressed by the old version to THE ROLLING STONES song, in comparison to the energized version of the debut, yet “Violence” did rather the opposite. No doubt inspired by the charm of IRON MAIDEN’s melodic riff design, I trust that you would better comprehend what Noise Records saw in GRAVE DIGGER in order to have the band in their roster.

“Heavy Metal Breakdown” wasn’t the only reissue made of the GRAVE DIGGER early discography. Be watchful for my next review of the following Teutonic Metal bomb run of “Witch Hunter”.

Purchase Link: Noise Records

4 Star Rating

1. Headbanging Man
2. Heavy Metal Breakdown
3. Back from the War
4. Yesterday
5. We Wanna Rock You
6. Legion of the Lost
7. Tyrant
8. 2000 Light Years from Home (The Rolling Stones Cover)
9. Heart Attack
10. Shoot Her Down!
11. We Wanna Rock You (Mega Mix)
12. Storming The Brain
13. Violence
14. 2000 Light Years from Home (The Rolling Stones Cover) (Alternative Version)
Chris Boltendahl - Vocals
Peter Masson - Guitars
Willi Lackmann - Bass
Albert Eckardt – Drums
Record Label: Noise Records


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