Band: Grave Digger
Album: The Forgotten Years
Label: Vic Records
Release date: 08 December 2023
Format reviewed: High-Quality Digital Recording
“The Forgotten Years” album marks the tenth compilation in the extensive discography of the German band Grave Digger. This collection comprises 19 songs sourced from three EPs dating back to the 1980s and 1990s: namely, the ‘Bottles and Four Coconuts’ demo, produced during the band’s earlier incarnation as Hawai prior to adopting their current name; the ‘Return of the Reaper’ demo from 1991; and the ‘For Promotion Only!! Ep 1992’ demo.
There’s a knock at the door, and upon opening it, five men enter… and chaos ensues. “Ride On” explodes with melodic, powerful riffs, rapid tempos, and frenetic drum beats, stirring the blood. Chris Boltendahl’s shocking and fierce vocals amplify the song’s essence, portraying a post-war future where the potential arrival of Jesus may or not occur. The lyrics suggest cities aflame and kingdoms crumbling, emphasizing the paramount importance of persisting despite the upheaval. Notably, this remarkable song appears in two versions: tracks 1 and 19.
On the other hand, “Shadows of a Moonless Night,” with its delightful resemblance to Iron Maiden’s style, can be succinctly described as incredibly wild. The song commences with a dense introduction, initially slow-paced before swiftly transitioning into an exquisite heavy metal composition, reminiscent of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal style. It evokes imagery of a dark and inhospitable forest where survival necessitates fleeing from unseen predators lurking within the obscurity of a moonless night—much like elusive shadows, concealed within the depths of one’s consciousness.
The track titled “Spy of Mas’On,” appearing twice in tracks 3 and 11, follows a comparable initial structure to the preceding song. It commences with a slow tempo that gradually accelerates after the first forty seconds, transitioning into a hyper-fast power metal arrangement. However, in track 3, it evokes a sound reminiscent of Kreator’s current style. This song effectively communicates to me the emotions of anger and helplessness one experiences towards a malevolent prince-like figure. This figure embodies the archetype of a self-centered and narcissistic leader—be it in any form—causing harm and devastation without displaying any remorse or compassion. It delineates a perfect portrayal of a psychopathic individual who might be found in the highest echelons of power, whether in a religious pulpit or seated in the governing bodies of a country, perhaps even adorned with a presidential sash.
An intriguing element worth mentioning is the pun within “Spy of Mas’on“. It could potentially be construed as a crypt allusion to infiltrators associated with the Masonic order, I reckon.This not-so-secret society is often speculated to wield clandestine influence over global affairs from the shadows.
“Ruler Mr. H” is an invigorating and forceful track that introduces us to a foreboding leader whose rule casts a shadow of bloodshed and darkness across the world. The song urges resistance without capitulation, encouraging a challenge to what appears to be an unalterable destiny, advocating for a better life. Notably, this song appears twice on the album, featured in both track 5 and 18.
The composition begins with a slow tempo, augmented in track 5 with additional elements like heavy footsteps and a distant buzz, gradually building momentum to a powerful outburst of dynamic power metal. It showcases robust guitar arrangements and a lively rhythmic foundation, reminiscent of Anthrax’s thrash elements, while upholding the central essence of power metal. Chris delivers his characteristic commanding vocals, particularly impactful in track 5. However, the vocal performance in track 18 lacked the same resonance and impact for me in contrast.
“And the devil plays the piano” deviates from the preceding structure of the album. The tempo assumes a more relaxed, rock-oriented pace, evoking a sense of sensuality through the guitar’s harmonics and vocal melodies. This shift is intriguing, considering the song’s lyrical focus on ‘dolitics’—referencing politicians who inflict pain, compromise their integrity and that of their constituents by making deals with the devil, profiting from the suffering of millions, viewing war as a profitable and gruesome business.
“Fight the Fight” twice in tracks 7 and 12 embodies the quintessence of power metal, reminiscent of the purest Gammaray style. Across its 2:40-minute duration, the song maintains a dizzying rhythmic and harmonic foundation, accompanied by robust, ever-present vocals, offering a genuine auditory delight. The lyrics immerse us once more in a war-torn setting—perhaps a city or state—where death, animosity, and brutality prevail. It beckons us to champion our rights and engage in “the” pivotal battle—the fight for survival.
In my personal preference, however, I must admit a leaning towards track 7. However, track 12 carries an almost garage-like quality that many might find appealing for its unadorned and honest sound. Well, as someone says, preferences vary greatly.
The opening of “Wedding Day” (tracks 8 and 17) sets an intriguing tone, initially employing the traditional wedding march, followed by a playful burlesque laugh, leading into a sensually charged introduction. Reminiscent of the seductive allure of “Unskinny Bop” by Poison, albeit with a slightly slower tempo, this track embraces glam metal-style riffs and drums, infusing an infectious liveliness into the album. Noteworthy is its reference to a woman; yet, the ambiguity surrounding her role, whether as the protagonist’s girlfriend or a different character in the storyline, adds a layer of mystery worth exploring further.
The track “Back to the Roots” stands singularly on the album without a secondary version. It serves as a genuine anthem fostering unity among heavy metalheads all over the world, beckoning us to retrace the sound, rhythmic foundations, and sentiments encapsulated within the timeless essence of heavy metal. It evokes imagery of multitudes joyously converging around a stage, united in headbanging delight, reveling in the music and the camaraderie of our beloved brotherhood. Undoubtedly, the reign of heavy metal eternally rules!
The narrative behind “Play Your Game,” featured in two versions on tracks 14 and 15, revolves around youthful engagement in a perilous and malevolent game characterized by hate and deceit. Some individuals recognize the widespread lack of insight, yet find themselves helplessly entangled, teetering on the brink of insanity. This story unfolds within a classic heavy metal structure—marked by a dense and rapid rhythmic foundation, swift and incisive harmonies, complemented by Cris’s vehement vocals urging participation in the game…or kill.
However, despite its robust sound and title, this song personally fails to resonate with me. It lacks the ability to evoke any emotional response and simply feels like an occurrence without deeper impact. Moreover, the theme itself, steeped in fatalism and darkness, contrasts sharply with my inherent optimism, rendering it less appealing to my sensibilities.
“Don’t Bring Me Down” portrays a man grappling with a shattered heart due to a woman described as mischievous and proud, yet he refuses to relinquish love despite the adversity. This song stands as the lengthiest track on the album, spanning 6 minutes and 12 seconds, and lacks an alternate version. With a musical structure leaning more towards rock than metal, its rhythmic and harmonic foundations echo segments reminiscent of “Holy Diver” by the eternal Ronnie James Dio. However, this track doesn’t rank among my favorites on the album. In my view, the vocal execution falls short, as it frequently relies on excessive high-pitched growls, which, at times, become grating. Eliminating that aspect might render the song more sensuous.
Overall, “The Forgotten Years” 2023 Grave Digger’s compilation spans a diverse musical landscape, offering a plethora of experiences and emotions, although some tracks resonate more deeply than others on a personal level.
In the light of the above, I rate this álbum 7/10 Elyna Steel
7/10 Victory is possible
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