Tunes Of War
Released: 1996, Gun Records
Editors Note: Metal-Rules.com was founded in 1995 as a forward thinking site. Our goal is, and always has been, to support Real Metal. The decision was made that very rarely do we ever go back and review an album from before 1995. Does the world really need another CD review of Master Of Puppets, Powerslave or Screaming For Vengeance? We don’t think so. We have always supported what is happening now.
Starting in January, 2014, as we head towards the 20th Anniversary of Metal-Rules.com, we are looking back and filling in a few gaps in the review database. We want to complete the post-1995 review catalogue of some of the bands that we have supported since 1995, when very few, if any websites were supporting real Metal. It’s fun to go back and revisit some of these albums that we did not review when they were first released. Enjoy!
When going back through our database of reviews to fill in some gaps in our catalogue if reviews I was surprised to see no one had reviewed TUNES OF WAR, widely considered one the bands best albums. Inspired by a trip to Scotland, the lyrical thrust and theme of the albums are songs based on the history of Scotland and TUNES OF WAR comprises the first part of the now iconic 'Medieval Trilogy', followed in 1998 by KNIGHTS OF THE CROSS (covering the Crusades) and rounded out in 1999 by EXCALIBUR, covering the Arthurian legends. TUNES OF WAR is not a proper concept album with a storyline but the lyrics span over 1000 years of history (685-1746) with each song covering a major historical event.
The album sees the return of the Reaper mascot expertly rendered by Andreas Marshall. My Gun Records copy has a write-up for every song, except the script is in German so unfortunately, I can't follow the back-story to each song but it all looks very detailed. By this point the band had nailed their signature sound and the production was much like the last few, perhaps a bit brighter and punchier.
Musically speaking, many people myself included, consider this to be the bands finest hour. TUNES OF WAR is so strong that they revisited the concept again in 2010 with the album THE CLANS WILL RISE AGAIN. That title refers to what is arguably Grave Diggers most famous song, 'Rebellion (The Clans Are Marching)' buried at track 11 of the 13-songs on TUNES OF WAR. Another example showing that this album was so well received is that they elected to play TUNES OF WAR in it's entirety, live at Wacken in 2010. They filmed the show for a DVD with the title THE CLANS ARE STILL MARCHING. In addition, when main composer, guitarist Uwe Lulis and drummer Tom Gottlich left Grave Digger around 2000 after the completion of the Medieval Trilogy, they formed a new band and named it... you guessed it...Rebellion.
All these inter-related points are understandable because the song is truly incredible. It is rare that a song is instantly memorable and 'Rebellion' is one of those, a mid-tempo grinder, crushingly heavy with a chorus that drills into your brain. If I had to pick only one Grave Digger song this would be it and many people agree it is a career highlight. It starts with the chorus which is very unusual for most songs. The punchy, simple song moves along and has the sound effects of marching army boots and it has a blazing bagpipe solo! Back in 1996 before the explosion of folk Metal, bagpipes in Metal were very uncommon.
The rest of the album is also superb, the only line-up change was the addition of the aforementioned Tom Gottlich replacing the short-lived Frank Ullrich. The band increased the speed and intensity on this record. Boltendahl really steps up on this record, just screaming his lungs out, one of his finest performances. The songs grind, pound and rage with a metal purity that many bands attempt to capture but few do. The riffs are thick and catchy and the whole album has an intensity and immediacy that is in your face from the opening notes. Well, actually the opening notes of the album are the classic strains of ‘Scotland The Brave’ likely the most famous piece of music associated with the bag-pipes. I’ve heard the two-and-half minute instrumental, intro track (complete with a underlying keyboard line, and pounding metal drums) countless times and I still get shivers up my spine as the little studio trick, artificially slows the cut down and the mighty opening scream of Boltendahl launches the album into ‘Scotland United’.
TUNES OF WAR, as I mentioned still ranks very highly, or at the top of the bands extremely deep and impressive catalogue and of that catalogue, it is the album is still visit most frequently. Let’s finish this review with a nice cliché. If you only buy one album by Grave Digger…well, you know the rest.