CD Reviews > Grave Digger

Grave Digger - The Clans Will Rise Again

Napalm Records

Once again Grave Digger don their kilts, paint themselves with woad, and charge like berzerkers through the mists of time to the blood-splattered heather of the Scottish Highlands. Their new album, The Clans Will Rise Again (Napalm Records) features musicianship as sharp as a Claymore while simultaneously pulverizing with the intensity of a rage-wielded Battle Hammer.

Hailing from Germany, the band welcomes a new member this time around: Domain guitarist/backing vocalist Axel Ritt who indeed injects new blood into the mix. Axel joins vocalist Chris Boltendahl, bassist Jens Becker, drummer Stefan Arnold, and keyboardist Hans Peter “H.P.” Katzenburg.

2011 is proving to be an exciting year for the band – they’re not only touring intensively for The Clans Will Rise Again – including first-ever visits to places like Russia and the Ukraine – but they’ll also be releasing a very exciting, memorable DVD of their 30th Anniversary Celebration, which took place at last year’s Wacken Open Air Festival.

But back to the album itself. The band has already filmed a video for the excellent song “Highland Farewell”, as well as an in-depth behind-the-scenes look in the Making Of video.

The band infuses the distinct, haunting sound of bagpipes along with the gravelly vox, double bass, militaristic and thundering percussion, and razor-sharp guitars as they take us through the mists of time to the times of Scottish heroes like William Wallace and Robert The Bruce and other heroes who gave their lives for Scotland the Brave.

The instrumental “Days of Revenge” has dramatic undertones under the wailing bagpipes that summon the clans to war – a very nice intro taking us into the bedlam that follows. The fierce “Paid In Blood” affirms “They will never take our freedom, they will never take our pride!” We’re then swept up into the melee of battle in “Hammer of the Scots”. The aforementioned “Highland Farewell” is one of the most brilliant songs on the album, seamlessly blending both traditional bagpipes and modern ferocity in a way that would make the very spirits of highland heroes proud.

The ominous “The Clans Will Rise Again” title track is punctuated by a somber tolling bell as the Clan McLeod prepares for vengeance. Two of history’s most formidable warriors – the Scots and the Vikings – clash in “Rebels”. The clansmen ambush trespassers without mercy in the “Valley of Tears”. “Execution” runs the musical gamut from gloomy to furious as a prisoner of war comes to terms with his fate while in his jail cell awaiting death – emotions from sorrow to feelings of betrayal and rage all surface. “Whom The Gods Love” sends chills down the very spine, albeit eased a bit by the soothing melodic guitar in the outro.

“Spider” takes us to the Battle of Bannockburn, where the Scots led by Edward Bruce won a victory in the name of Scottish independence. The instrumental “The Piper McLeod” pits soul-stirring bagpipes against wailing winds. “Coming Home” is a victorious celebration. “When Rain Turns To Blood” is laced with bittersweet passion.

~Athena Schaffer