“Fields of Blood”

By Dr. Abner Mality

2020 marks 40 years in business exactly for Germany’s GRAVE DIGGER. Quite an accomplishment for anybody, regardless of quality. The previous GRAVE DIGGER album “The Living Dead” sounded like a band on its last legs, with tired songs and a very subpar vocal performance from Chris Boltendahl. In my review of that one, I suggested it was time for the boys to maybe hang it up. Obviously they didn’t, but what’s the result?

I think GRAVE DIGGER themselves realized how second-rate “The Living Dead” was, because on “Fields of Blood” they’ve made a strong recovery. Although I wouldn’t say this new is an atom-smashing classic, it’s a much better listen. They’ve corrected almost all the problems with “The Living Dead”. But the main correction is, they put some friggin’ energy and life into “Fields of Blood”. You can hear more energy and enthusiasm right away in fast, crunching tunes like “All For the Kingdom”, “Freedom” and “Union of the Crown”. None of these songs brings anything new to the table, but they are enjoyable hard metal songs with thrust and drive.

The band has also returned to the more epic historical style here. It’s yet another album revolving around the subject of Scotland and bagpipes pop up frequently here. Bagpipes are touchy instruments both to play and listen to, but they integrate them very well into songs like “The Heart of Scotland”, “The Gathering of the Clans” and the epic 10 minute plus title track. Another improvement here is Chris Boltendahl’s gravelly vocals. Chris must have realized what a shit job he did on “The Living Dead”, because here the rough spots have been smoothed off and the vocal hooks for the most part are a lot catchier (although an occasional clinker pops up). There are some really massive choirs here in best power metal tradition. The album is pompous and overblown, but tolerably so and it’s a quantum improvement over “The Living Dead”.

“Fields of Blood” has pumped new life into a band that was sounding old and washed up. I’m glad to see it.