In many ways, German power metallers Grave Digger are a symbol of eternity, having spent forty-odd years in an industry that usually spits out and destroys even it’s best and brightest in a fraction of that time. That they are still at the top of their own game, after all that time, is a testament to the sheer, dogged stickability of Chris Boltendahl and company.
On their new album, Symbol of Eternity – see what I did there? – the band return to themes they first explored at length on 1998’s Knights of the Cross – The Crusades and the Knights Templar. Obviously this is a subject very close to my heart, and I have enjoyed the band’s work in this field before. However it’s important to note that this isn’t the History Channel set to music; the songs the band have brought to the table for SoE stand perfectly well in their own right as pieces of thunderous heavy metal – opener Battle Cry in particular is a rip-roaring piece of classic GD true metal – which can be enjoyed to the fullest without need to know what’s happening with regard to the narrative.
Although the heads down stuff is obviously top notch, the band do break things up well by varying the pace of the album; The title track, for instance, is laced with doomy atmospherics that might bring to mind early Manowar, whilst the mid-paced bruiser Hell Is My Purgatory has the sound and feel (vocals aside, obviously), of Killers-era Iron Maiden, right down to the upfront bass work of Jens Becker.
And talking of vocals, Herr Boltendahl is in potent form throughout – but then when was that ever not the case? His gravel-laden throat still sounds great, a remarkable fact given the man’s style of singing and the length of time he’s been at it. His performance on the album’s standout song, the anthemic Sky of Swords, is a joy to behold, as is the versatile guitar work of main songwriter Axel ‘Ironfinger’ Ritt, who gives a virtuoso display of how to play in a one-guitar heavy metal band throughout.
It’s unlikely that Symbol of Eternity will do too much to bring many new fans flocking to the Grave Digger banner, but those there already will have a great time with this new album.
Symbol of Eternity is out now.