Grave Digger – Fields of Blood (2020)

Review courtesy of: Metal Pilgrim.

There aren’t that many bands around the globe who can proudly state that they have been true to their fans and personal musical style for 40 years. Truth being said, there aren’t that many bands who have been around for that long, especially while being consistent with their album releases. And while for some this might come as a surprise, the band’s loyal fans know that Grave Digger releases albums roughly every two years, and that’s partially why their fan base is so loyal to them.

The release of Fields of Blood was bound to be a special one in the band’s long discography. First of all, Grave Digger celebrate 40 years on stage this year, secondly, this album is 20th in the band’s career, and thirdly, it is a closing one for the trilogy around the Scottish battle for independence started back in the 90s with Tunes of War.

The album opener The Clansman’s Journey is a traditional folk instrumental piece which sets the mood for the entire album, making sure every fan realises what this concept record will be about. This strong and powerful build up will be a great concert opener for any future shows, which will hopefully resume some time soon.

All for the Kingdom is a steady and rhythmic heavy metal track with a very catchy chorus which I expect to be a wonderful singalong. Arrhythmic voice bridge in the song’s middle which leads up to a classic guitar solo (Bach’s Toccata & Fugue in D Minor to be exact) add the necessary epics to this title. It is often said that metal and classical music go well together, and this masterfully executed guitar solo is a great example of such combination.

The following track Lions of the Sea which was released as a single is a simple and catchy title with a melodious 16th century-docks-tavern-like chorus. It is not the most complicated track, although quite enjoyable despite or due to its simplicity. It is followed by Freedom, a speedy and steady war chant with a short history lesson in the middle of it. Marcus Knap – who was at first the band’s keyboardist yet also took on the drumming parts back in 2018 does an excellent job on this one, with a rapid double bass providing a strong rhythm backbone for the track.

The war beat drums and traditional back pipes provide a powerful intro to the album’s cynosure The Heart of Scotland. Simple yet very catchy guitar riff goes through the entire title and a powerful folky build up in the song’s middle together with a rather melodious chorus unite together to create a monumental masterpiece. A very powerful track.

Some years ago Grave Digger have rather successfully cooperated with Doro on The Ballad of Mary, which introduced new generations of fans to the band’s material. This time the band invited Noora Louhimo from Battle Beast to create yet another ballad – Thousand Tears. Acoustic steal guitar and piercing vocals make this a wonderful and enchanting poem making you long to drift far away to a journey through your imagination travelling the battlefields of Middle Ages Scotland. It is worth pointing out that Noora’s voice sounds simple astonishing during the heavy break down towards the song’s end. Interestingly enough, Chris Boltendahl mentioned in the interview I did with him that they were first going to invite Alissa White-Gluz from Arch Enemy since she is a good friend of Axle Ritt, yet due to her tight schedule she wasn’t able to take part in this project. And then they remembered Noora and her vocals in Black Ninja who after a couple of conversation jumped on this train. I’m sure that every Grave Digger fan is happy with how this track came out, since it is definitely the most memorable one on the record.

Union of the Crown is a rapid thrashing track with simple melody and killer guitar riffs. Melodious chorus and epic chant make this one an example of a classic Grave Digger song. The following track My Final Fight starts with a joyous guitar riff and a dance-like tune which goes through the entire song. Honestly, too jumpy and happy for me, at least for this record, given its dark and mysterious atmosphere. Slightly unnecessary track for this album. Yet the band quickly returns to the album’s general sound with Gathering of the Clans. This one is a classical heavy metal tune, with a cherry on top. That cherry being the back pipe solo followed by a slow tempo chant. Once again Knap and Jens Becker work well together on creating a strong and powerful rhythm section for this track and Chris’ vocals sound both full and sterny.

Barbarian starts with a classic 80’s heavy metal guitar riff. Simple yet effective bass work does its job at adding to the fullness of this song. And while overall this album sounds very fresh and modern, this particular track resonates a lot with the earlier decades of heavy music and it is just perfect this way. A very strong title leading up to the records culmination. It is fair to say that the album tracks each are placed in a perfect order, creating a necessary atmosphere which leads up to the records’ self-titled centrepiece. Fields of Blood opens with an enchanting back pipe intro which quickly builds up into a heavy metal headbanger. Main guitar riffs and simple yet powerful drum job work in perfect synergy with Chris’ rusty vocals throughout the composition, yet are especially emphasised during the song’s chorus. Melodious acoustic bridge makes you want to close your eyes and imagine the deadly battlefields of Scotland, yet the short drum solo wakes you up from this conjuration only to fall back into it again with yet another masterfully written insert. Its piano melody is accompanied by a wonderful string backing tune which then grows into a speedy bass solo and a majestic heavy culmination. With so many layers to it the song got a perfect amount of epic and heavy metal intertwined with folk motifs, which truly makes it a masterpiece. The album’s closer Requiem for the Fallen is a sorrowful instrumental piece which perfectly concludes the epic trilogy and would be a great after-the-show closer for any future live concerts.

Overall this album has everything a Grave Digger fan would want to hear on the band’s record. With just perfect amount of epic culminations and thrashing guitar riffs which will make you bang your head at a band’s show. And with a little exception of one track it is very coherent and true to the band’s legacy. In addition it a perfect way to close the band’s Scottish history trilogy and paints a grand picture the crew intend to create.

Verdict: the strongest album Grave Digger produced for a very long time, 9/10.

Metal Pilgrim
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