Artist: Grave Digger
Album Title: Symbol Of Eternity
Label: Rock Of Angels Records
Date of Release: 26 August 2022
Where do I begin with this, my first ever review of one of the most well-known and longest-serving bands within the world of heavy metal? Although I have been a reviewer for various outlets over the past seventeen years, I have never had the opportunity to offer some words on a Grave Digger album. I was either overlooked in favour of other writers who had a better knowledge of the band, which is fair enough, or when flying solo, releases never made it into my busy schedule. That ends here, and it ends now. ‘Symbol Of Eternity’ is album number twenty-one if my maths is correct, an impressive body of work to say the very least released over a four-decade career to date.
Despite never reviewing the band, the German heavy/power metal band have always been a name well known to me, with several of their albums littering my collection, albeit nowhere near all of them. I have kids and a mortgage after all! With such a lengthy back catalogue, it’s almost inevitable that some will fall short, but it’s testament to the quartet that I’m struggling to think of any complete and utter turkeys amongst them all.
‘Symbol Of Eternity’ is no different either, as it once again delivers some excellent heavy/power metal songs against a familiar and fertile lyrical backdrop of the Crusades, that prove that the advancing years are seemingly having no negative effect on the evergreen quartet, comprised of vocalist Chris Boltendahl, guitarist Axel Ritt, bassist Jens Becker, and drummer Marcus Kniep. Indeed, after the short cinematic intro, ‘The Siege Of Akkon’, Grave Digger fly out of the blocks all guns blazing courtesy of ‘Battle Cry’. The pace is brisk led by a powerful rhythm section, the riffs are energetic and sharp, and Boltendahl sings with his usual gritty gusto. The chorus is a great blend of power and melody with a rallying, call to arms feel that will work well in the live arena just like it does flowing out of my headphones as I sit in the worst hotel ever, drinking red wine from the bottle due to an absence of cups or glasses. In a way, it feels very fitting and very metal, as ‘Symbol Of Eternity’ is arguably as metal as it’s possible to get.
The anthems continue to flow, with several catching my ear, getting me to bang my head energetically, enthusiastically air guitar, or sing along…or all three. ‘Hell Is My Purgatory’ takes over and again, the energy levels are impressive. The bass-led intro is superb, as is the ensuing riff and bounding rhythm that’s utterly infectious. Not as infectious as the chorus mind you; it’s a monster, having me throw the horns at myself in the mirror. I’m not coming off well in this review, but if it helps to convey the strengths of this record, then so be it, because that’s the most important thing here. Lead lines are dished out with gleeful abandon, solos wail, and the whole thing works excellently.
If you want a huge dollop of groove, look no further than the mid-tempo stomper that’s ‘King Of The Kings’, which offers a rousing, bombastic chorus as a counterpoint to the muscular guitar work and gravel-heavy vocals in the verses. Without doubt though, my favourite song on ‘Symbol Of Eternity’ is the title track. Beginning in darker and more ominous fashion, it introduces acoustic guitars for added atmosphere before unfolding into a killer chorus that contains a hook so large it could catch a blue whale. But not just that, the lyrics are strong, the atmosphere is powerful, and the whole thing has a properly epic, bombastic feel to it.
Other great cuts worthy of mention include the galloping ‘Heart Of A Warrior’ which benefits from an atmospheric and catchy chorus, cool lead guitar solo, double pedal power and a delightful, short-lived section that literally skips playfully and with a real swagger. And ‘Holy Warfare’ which is a short-lived, but potent track with prominent keys to create atmosphere alongside the exuberant, wailing lead guitar embellishments. Then there’s the longer, more brooding ‘The Last Crusade’, which ends things in suitably strong, no-nonsense fashion, with some excellently heavy riffing.
I think it is fair to say that long-term fans will not be left disappointed at all with ‘Symbol Of Eternity’, because it’s a more than solid release, full of all the things you’d want and expect from Grave Digger. The more I listen, the more I enjoy it, especially the riffing and many of the brash and catchy choruses. It might not cause many ripples of surprise amongst the metal community, but it does add very favourably to the ever-lengthening legacy that Grave Digger have created due to hard work, determination, and a unwavering love for their art. Well worth checking out.
The Score of Much Metal: 85%