Steady as a clockwork, the german veterans Grave Digger release a new album pretty much every other year. Now it's soon time for their 14th full length outing Ballads Of A Hangman to hit the shelves, and for the first time with a second guitarist; Thilo Herrmann (ex. Running Wild, Risk, Faithful Breath among other bands).
The band served us a small appetizer recently in form of the four-track single Pray, which contained among others one great non-album song (My Blood Will Live Forever) and one average (Pray). That promised quite good for this album, but surprisingly they have not quite managed to top My Blood Will Live Forever here. So be sure to check out that single if you crave for more Grave Digger. Why they did not include My Blood Will Live Forever on this album is a mystery to me.
This album starts very good with the title track. It is uptempo with a good punch, albeit with a questionable chorus. This is, in a traditional and familiar mixture, followed by a more or less equal amount of uptempo (Sorrow Of The Dead, Into The War, Stormrider) and midtempo (Hell Of Disillusion, Grave Of The Addicted, The Shadow Of Your Soul) songs with the traditional couple of slower cuts (Lonely The Innocent Dies, Pray) thrown in.
Especially the ending of the album is very good with the brilliant Funeral For A Fallen Angel and above all Stormrider, which is another fast one somewhat in the same vein as old classics like (Enola Gay) Drop The Bomb and Shoot Her Down.
Despite my relatively high grade as you can see below, I have to say that Ballads Of A Hangman does not really fulfill my expectations. This is an adequate pack of solid Grave Digger songs but just as the case was with the previous albums Liberty Or Death and The Last Supper (which I admit to have overgraded at the time), it is nothing out of the ordinary. However, it has a bit more power and intensity than Liberty Or Death which I thought was a bit too laid back.
Chris Boltendahl sings as good as ever and Manni Schmidt behind the axe is steady as a rock on the riffs, but he does not exactly overdo his previous efforts here. There are some sharp ones to be found but he has been more on his toes before, I think. The addition of a second guitarist is not as noticable as you would think but is a very good move and especially live they should now be heavier than ever.
The lowest level for Grave Digger is however very high, so Grave Digger fans can rest assured that they will sit there with a smile on their face in the beginning of January. This is better than Liberty Or Death but not quite up there with The Grave Digger.