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Review: Grave Digger - Ballads of a Hangman
Grave Digger
Ballads of a Hangman

Label: Napalm Records
Year released: 2009
Duration: 41:36
Tracks: 11
Genre: Heavy Metal

Rating: 4/5

Review online: January 29, 2009
Reviewed by: Larry Griffin
Readers Rating
Ballads of a Hangman

Rated 4.23/5 (84.62%) (26 Votes)

Grave Digger are something of an institution, from what I can tell. I haven't listened to all of their albums, but these guys have been around since fucking 1980, and they've been churning out big, epic metal crunchers for more than twenty-five years now, and while they certainly make no claim to be innovative or breathtaking, they sure do seem to have a lot of fun and creativity behind them. Apparently their last two albums have been sort of weak, but their new album Ballads of a Hangman is a direct hit on my radar in every sense.

This isn't really original at all, and the guitar playing actually reminds me quite a bit of Running Wild, as opposed to the more stodgy, sledgehammer-esque riffing of the older material. The album as a whole is a lot more down-to-Earth, very meat-and-potatoes style metal, with little pomp or embellishments at all, just good, ballsy Heavy Metal. The songs are short and succinct, very much to the point, without most of the extra baggage and choirs that albums like Rheingold packed in spades, and as such, Ballads of a Hangman is very easy to listen to. It gets the job done quickly and without any bullshit, and that is extremely refreshing for me. This album is a lot of fun, and while some will scoff at the beautiful simplicity of this album, I embrace it.

None of the songs here really reach out and grab me, but that doesn't mean they aren't kick-ass anyway. The opening title track rocks mightily, and it's followed by the even better "Hell of Disillusion," and other great songs like "Sorrow of the Dead," the pummeling "Into the War," the epic smash of "Funeral for a Fallen Angel" and the catchy anthem "Pray." The songs here all follow a similar formula, opening up with a galloping riff and expanding into quick, snappy verses and a punchy, layered chorus that you'll be singing along with before the song ends.  It does have an oddity in the strange ballad "Lonely The Innocence Dies," which features the most warbly, wimpy clean vocals I've ever heard out of Chris Boltendahl (but they are strangely charming, anyway; think of him as the Heavy Metal Quorthon - he puts a lot of emotion into that raw, weak clean voice of his!), and also some very uncouth ideas that make for an interesting song at least.

So that's Ballads of a Hangman. It functions well as a compression of the old Grave Digger sound into something quite agreeable and fun. It might have taken them a couple of albums to get here, but I think we can all live with this. And if you are the one asshole who can't: Your standards are too high. Abort this mission while you still can.

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