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Revisiting “Metal Edge” Magazine: The CD Reviews – Part 5

These album overviews were originally written for Metal Edge Magazine when I was a contributor to their “Hear Us Out” CD reviews section back in 2006-2007. With the magazine wrapping up publication a few months ago, I decided to add them to the context of our PiercingMetal presentation. I felt that by doing this I would not only be raising the horns in remembrance of the magazine but would also be able to showcase just how different writing for a major publication was when it all came down to it. Since “Hear Us Out” notations were usually “100” words in length, these posts will feature several reviews each until we run out of them. The freelance writing tenure at Metal Edge Magazine was discussed on THIS LINK so please check that out when done. Here are the reviews, so “Hear Us Out”.

Gilby Clarke: “Gilby Clarke” (Spitfire Records)

For those of you who only know of Gilby Clarke’s name from the blockbuster television show “Rockstar: Supernova” then this CD offers you the perfect chance to see just where the performer comes from and what he has brought to the table musically for many years. Clarke’s resume reads most prominently with his contributions to the music of Guns ‘N Roses where he replaced Izzy Stradlin while the group was on tour back in 1991. He left in 1994 and proceeded to record and produce on his own which brings us to this tasty compilation release. Musically the best way to define the songs that Clarke usually delivers is by saying its a little bit Black Crowes and a lot of Rock attitude. Listeners will find this collection as a cool treasure chest since it covers his solo releases (Pawnshop Guitars, The Hangover, Rubber, ’99 Live and Swag) which cover 1994-2002 along with some other trinkets. From start to finish, this is solid Rock & Roll and even if you were never a fan of his the diversity and groove of the tracks offers you the chance to try him once again. In 2006, Clarke was a prominent figure in the public eye as the guitarist for a Tommy Lee fueled show and band that would feature Jason Newsted (Metallica/Voivod) as well. The show was an instant hit as singers vied for the coveted position that ended up with Lukas Rossi winning out. Despite his winning, there was another worthy contestant in Dilana and she is featured on the song “Black”. It is a good track but far too Janis Joplin, as opposed to the unique style that she possessed on her own. Other treats here are selections from Col. Parker, the group he had with Slim Jim Phantom (Stray Cats). They were a good band that sadly failed to generate the interest that was deserved. Clarke is also a strong Producer who has worked with both L.A. Guns and Crash Kelly. The material on the CD finds its strongest tunes in lead track “Cure Me Or Kill Me” which while one of the oldest inclusions is still a fresh dose of Rock. As one of the core creators of the music of RSN, you can see the developments offered here that come to fruition on the new vehicle. This is a great sampler of a very productive career.

Grave Digger: “Liberty Or Death” (Locomotive Records)

For over two decades Grave Digger has continued to dole out Heavy Metal that is still pure, solid and delivers exactly what you desire of this music. The premise of the release is all battle related themes and the band charges through every track like heroic warriors that are certain of victory against staggering odds. GD plays Metal that many of us grew up on and yet manage to remain consistently interesting and not “dated” in any manner. The blood pumps with the drumming and the riffs hand out the air guitars as the listener joins the band in glorious combat.
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“The Last Supper” by Grave Digger

Artist: Grave Digger
Title: “The Last Supper”
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Release Date: 01/17/2005
Genre: Heavy Metal
Rating: 4/5

For over twenty years Grave Digger has been giving the world interesting traditional sounding Heavy Metal and doing it by presenting each album as a particular focus. For instance with “Tales Of War” they focused on the history of battle from past to present and with “Knights Of The Cross” they delivered epics based upon the mysteries of the Knights Templar. With “The Last Supper” they continue the process and while there are a number of songs based around the life of Jesus Christ, the band maintains that this is not a concept album at all. Given the subject matter one might envision something along the lines of Stryper where the band is offering up praise with each and every lyric but instead Chris Boltendahl and company deliver more tales from the time as opposed to preachy messages and subtext. The album opens with the flourish of “Passion” before it hits you with a fist to the air track in “The Last Supper”, where Jesus is dealing with his betrayal by Judas. “Desert Rose” hits you like a train that cannot find the brakes and thunders steadily with the double bass drumming of Stefan Arnold and “Grave In The No Man’s Land” brings the pace down to a steady head banging crunch and each of these deal with topics outside of the main theme but there is a slight reference to faith and redemption tossed in. Musically this album shows itself to be strong as soon as it begins and Grave Digger are surely one of the best at keeping the sound of Metal true to its roots and many “Old School” fans will easily find that appealing in today’s rapidly shifting musical terrain. Melody and substance are the main focus with Grave Digger it seems and while everyone shows that they can play, there is no show boating or blistering speed duals going on as opposed to the delivery of a solid and memorable Metal tune. Chris’ voice is one of the more interesting in the genre because he is a bit of a gravelly voiced musician and does not hit soaring high notes, and yes with the riffing of guitarist Manni Schmidt (formerly of Rage) it seems to work out rather well. Fans of bands like Iron Maiden, Accept and old Judas Priest would definitely enjoy the output from Grave Digger.
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Grave Digger @ B.B. King Blues Club (3/2/2008)

Legendary German Metal icons Grave Digger were finally doing a NYC show. This would be it if you wanted to see them, as it was a one stop kind of thing and no expansive run of dates. We made sure to be on point for the gig and interested readers can click the logo below to be brought to our article on the main PiercingMetal.com site.

Logo - Grave Digger

Artist: Grave Digger
Venue: B.B. King Blues Club (New York, NY)
Opener: Arctic Flame
Date: 3/2/2008
Label: Locomotive Records

Grave Digger is one of those Metal bands who’ve been at the game for almost thirty years now and yet despite this there are regions of the globe that they just don’t get to as often as they would like for performances and to meet with their fans. Musically, they have a very pure Old School Power Metal feel to them and their style would appeal the demographic that leans primarily in that direction. For instance if you like old Accept and vintage Judas Priest, you would definitely be someone who got into the sounds and tunes of the guys in Grave Digger. When the band announced their first-ever New York show I went in expecting quite a bit of a crowd based on this being a rather historic appearance. To my knowledge they had never even been to the States in a true touring fashion and had only appeared at an event that was held by the folks over at BWBK magazine several years ago. The guys would present their wares at B.B. King Blues Club and Grill, a venue that some Metal fans know very well based on the amount of such shows they present, and they would bring with them some of the local boys in the as yet unsigned Arctic Flame. I would miss the opener tonight but I had seen them perform on a number of other opening slots and for tonight I was primarily interested in checking out Grave Digger for the very first time. I had to admit that while owning a few releases from their catalog, they remain a bit of a mystery to me in terms of total absorption of their stuff.
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“Liberty Or Death” by Grave Digger

Artist: Grave Digger
Title: “Liberty Or Death”
Label: Locomotive Records
Release Date: 1/30/2007
>Genre: Heavy Metal
Rating: 3.5/5

It has been over two decades now since Grave Digger had begun to dole out the brand of Heavy Metal that is still quite pure and true to its original roots. Keeping it this way allows the fans of the “Old School” or “Traditional” format to remain interested and not lost in the very confusing outlets that have launched from this original formula. “Liberty Or Death”, the bands newest studio release after their killer and all-encompassing “25 To Live” release offers the listener a premise that is all related to battle and on every song we find the band charging into the fray like heroic warriors certain of victory against staggering odds. You feel the spirit of the battles in the Scottish lands on “Highland Tears”, with its powerful riffs and skillfully placed bagpipes. Vocalist Chris Boltendahl has a very memorable tone to his singing and is not much the high-pitched performer but instead uses a gravely register that works well against the crunching guitars. It is safe to say that Grave Digger plays Heavy Metal that a lot of us grew up with and while regions like Sweden and Norway are masters of certain genre classifications it seems that Germany is the master of the Power realm.
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“Yesterday” (EP) by Grave Digger

Artist: Grave Digger
Title: “Yesterday” – EP
Label: Locomotive Music
Release Date: 10/10/2006
Genre: Heavy Metal
Rating: 3/5

Germany’s Grave Digger has returned hot on the heels of their Live DVD “25 To Live” which was a great way for Metal fans to enjoy the best songs from across their career. This time around the return finds the band delivering their favorite ballad of all time “Yesterday” that has been modified slightly and now bears the (2006) in its title. A second version with an Orchestra is provided for the listener to enjoy a different take on their classic tune and given the ballad nature I am leaning toward this version in particular. A Grave Diggerized version of the Led Zeppelin classic “No Quarter” is a nice touch but I would have preferred it be done a little more traditionally throughout than changed to a little heavier than the original. Why change what works in my opinion. There is also a standard Heavy Metal song “The Reapers Dance” which is ok at best and more along the lines of what the listener is expecting from Grave Digger. The entire piece runs at about 20 minutes and is aimed more for the die hard fan than the casual listener; still it was an enjoyable chance to listen to three Digger songs. The EP comes with a free DVD recorded in 2001 but since one was not provided for me in the promotional release I cannot comment on its worth or lack thereof.
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