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Exhumation - The Early Years principally comprises re-recorded versions of songs off the band's 3 initial full length albums, Heavy Metal Breakdown, Witch Hunter and War Games. In addition it includes Stand Up And Rock, which originally was recorded for the album Stronger Than Ever during the short lived questionable Digger period, and Shoot Her Down, with roots from the time even before the debut album and finally also 2 brand new tracks, My Private Morning Hell and Young And Dangerous. I haven't heard the 2 new songs regrettably, but I would be kind of surprised if they weren't quite similar to most of what Grave Digger has put out recently.
Sometimes I wonder why metal bands choose to record and release albums containing remakes. It's like a trend that's been going on for a while now and even though the overall sound of course is much more perfected, fans of the band are used to having the songs coming out in a certain way with a rough and somewhat unpolished sound, and that original input specifically gave the individual songs their own identity, years and years earlier. I'm not saying that this record is crap, but each song has its own time that it belongs to and I think that people are basically satisfied with how the songs were once created in their natural environment. Some songs do turn out for the better though, yet a few suffers from losing their authentic feeling as well.
Each of the 3 records that the songs are mainly picked from, in my opinion, isn't really good enough to reach the top and find a prominent position in Grave Digger's now extensive back catalogue and therefore I believe that this record was a little bit on the downside already from the beginning. Although I'm very familiar with the original songs, I was thinking of listening to them right before I started to listen to the remakes, but in the end I decided to just listen to the new versions 5 times here and now instead, since comparing them side by side would probably be even less flattering.
Almost every song however reminds me of that the music contains a near constant riffing with a typical style and persistency and that this band really is and breathes heavy metal in its true form. Even if the end result maybe isn't technically flawless, they play with perseverance and don't leave many gaps to fill. Chris Boltendahl's voice never sprung out of perfection and to come out with beautiful singing parts has probably not been his main goal, yet is his input definitely suitable for these types of songs and the band's massive music. Harsh, raw and hoarse is a good description to his vocal efforts and I think that they reflect Grave Digger both then and now.
At the end of the day, this record is mostly set to life to let the band's core fans have an insight and an understanding of how Grave Digger, of 2015, today is tackling these approximately 3 decades old songs. It's a decent release after all, and the best songs are much to my liking, but as I have kind of already mentioned, it absolutely suffers a little bit from an insufficient overall song material too.