Grave Digger at Metalcamp in 2007
|Genres||Heavy metal, power metal, speed metal (early)|
Grave Digger is a German heavy metal band, formed in 1980.
After various appearances at small festivals, the band recorded two songs for the compilation album Rock from Hell in 1983. A year later, Grave Digger, now comprising Chris Boltendahl (vocals), Peter Masson (guitar), Willi Lackmann (bass) and Albert Eckardt (drums), released their debut album Heavy Metal Breakdown.
In 1985, with Lackmann having left the band, they recorded and released their second album Witch Hunter. Only after the album was completed, a replacement on bass was found in the form of C.F. Brank. Further festival appearances followed, a tour with Helloween as special guest and, finally, their third album War Games in January 1986. To promote this album, a triple headline tour with Celtic Frost and Helloween followed. Thereafter, Peter Masson gave way to Uwe Lulis; in 1987 the band's name was changed to Digger, the name under which they released the album Stronger Than Ever. This album hardly had anything in common with the earlier music of Grave Digger. It was more an attempt to reach the masses with mainstream rock like that of Bon Jovi or Van Halen. The album flopped, as it was not accepted by fans or the masses. As a result, Boltendahl declared at the end of 1987, the breakup of the band.
In 1991, the band was partially reformed. Boltendahl and Lulis, along with two newcomers, Tomi Gttlich and Jrg Michael, who had been the drummer for Rage and Running Wild, released a comeback record called The Reaper in 1993. This album was a return to the true roots of Grave Digger. In the same year, the album The Best of the Eighties was released. It represented a quasi Best-of-Album of their earlier songs.
An EP titled Symphony of Death followed in 1994. In the interim, Grave Digger, now with a new drummer, Frank Ullrich, toured Germany, playing as the warm-up act for Manowar. In 1995, the album Heart of Darkness appeared. It was a very dark album with many influences from the early works of Annihilator.
In 1996, Stefan Arnold became the band's new drummer. This year also marked the release of the concept album Tunes of War, which dealt with the history of Scotland. This album was the first part of the Middle Ages Trilogy. The second album, Knights of the Cross, with Jens Becker as bass guitarist, was released in 1998 and was about the rise and fall of the Knights Templar. The final part of the trilogy finished in 1999 with Excalibur. This album explored the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Shortly after, a tour soon followed through with keyboardist Hans-Peter Katzenburg, who later became a permanent band member.
In 2000, Grave Digger celebrated their 20th anniversary. To mark the occasion, they performed at a sell-out concert at the Zeche in Bochum. Many of the band's most popular songs were played alongside other less well-known ones. There were also a number of different supporting acts appearing with Grave Digger. This concert also marked a defining chapter in the band's history, as Uwe Lulis left a short while before the concert because of personal and business reasons. Lulis finally called his new band Rebellion.
A replacement, in the form of the ex-Rage guitarist, Manni Schmidt, was found. Along with him and the new record label Nuclear Blast, the album The Grave Digger, appeared in 2001. The works of Edgar Allan Poe served as an inspiration for the lyrics of the new album. Their first live album, Tunes of Wacken, appeared in 2002. This was coupled with the release of their first DVD, Wacken Open Air. In 2003, a further concept album, Rheingold, was released on 26 May, which centered on the opera Der Ring des Nibelungen by Richard Wagner. They embarked on a tour supporting the album into early 2004.
After the successful Rheingold Tour, the band recorded another album, The Last Supper, which was released on 17 January 2005. The artwork was first revealed in November 2004 which received positive feedback. A number of fans were disappointed by the artwork because of the motive. The band issued a statement saying that the cover isn't a message of the Devil and not against Christians, but a representation of a depressive Jesus Christ at his last days before his death, "He was left by his followers and the artwork shows the loneliness of Jesus while death waiting behind him. Read the chorus lyrics of 'Crucified' and you know what's the meaning of the cover: Father tell me what went wrong, my whole life my faith was strong, father tell me why should I die, this screaming mob yells crucify, my curse comes true I have to die, why I am crucified." Unlike their previous albums, The Last Supper was not a concept album, despite several songs about the last days of Jesus. A few journalists described the album as the best since Tunes of War or Heavy Metal Breakdown. According to the band, it contains "more metal, more passion and more power" than the group's previous efforts. Less than a month later, the band began a tour with Stormhammer and Astral Doors in Andernach, the birthplace of Manni Schmidt.
In December 2006, a number of release parties was announced for the band's follow-up album, Liberty or Death, which was released on 12 January 2007. A Double-Headline Tour together with Therion followed, beginning 17 January 2007 in Essen.
In late February 2008, Grave Digger began writing new material. In mid-August, they entered Principal studios with additional guitarist Thilo Hermann to record their 13th studio album entitled Ballads of a Hangman, which was released on 9 January 2009 under their new label Napalm Records. It was their first album with twin guitars.
In February 2009, the band parted ways with Thilo Hermann due to the built up excitement of a second guitarist and with the free space on stage and musical aspects that was observed by every old band member independently. In early October, Manni Schmidt left the band due to ongoing disagreements with Chris Boltendahl. An old friend of the band, guitarist Axel Ritt from the band Domain, was chosen as a temporary replacement for Schmidt to play out the remaining tour dates. On 12 January 2010, it was officially announced that he was now an official full-time member of Grave Digger.
From mid-May to mid-July 2010, the band finished recording their new album The Clans Will Rise Again, which was released in Europe on 1 October with a North American release following soon after. The album is a loose sequel of the Tunes of War album, but this time it is not a concept album about the Scottish history. It's more of a work about Scotland, its mysticism and its people. On 11 September, Grave Digger released a video for "Highland Farewell", the fourth track appearing on the album.
On 27 July 2012, the band released a new EP entitled Home At Last  with Clash of the Gods following on 31 August 2012. They performed a handful of shows in the UK and Europe from early to late 2012 and then toured throughout 2013 in Europe and a few shows in Brazil in support of the album.
In February 2014, the band began recording their next album which would be titled Return of the Reaper. On 20 March, the band revealed the artwork followed by the track listing on 23 April. It was released on 11 July. In mid-November, keyboard player Hans Peter Katzenburg left the band in order to spend more time on outside projects. He was replaced by Marcus Kniep, who would continue performing as The Reaper.
In October 2015, Exhumation - The Early Years was released, which contains re-recorded versions of the band's "absolute classics with a dynamic and powerful sound of 2015," according to a press release.
In June 2016, Grave Digger entered the studio to begin working on their next album entitled Healed by Metal, which was released on 13 January 2017. They embarked on a tour with Blind Guardian as the support act on their second leg North American tour supporting the album Beyond the Red Mirror.
|1984||Heavy Metal Breakdown|
|1986||Stronger Than Ever (under name Digger)|
|1995||Heart of Darkness|
|1996||Tunes of War|
|1998||Knights of the Cross|
|2001||The Grave Digger|
|2005||The Last Supper|
|2007||Liberty or Death|
|2009||Ballads of a Hangman|
|2010||The Clans Will Rise Again|
|2012||Clash of the Gods|
|2014||Return of the Reaper|
|2017||Healed by Metal|